Remotely delivered yoga therapy to ease pain

By Patience Kaltenbach

A lack of mobility is often a barrier to receiving healthcare. Decreased mobility may be caused by aging, injury, or chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia. Especially when accompanied by pain and fatigue, a decrease in mobility may make it difficult for people to leave their homes to keep appointments.

Research has shown that internet-delivered therapy is not only cost-effective but can help with conditions such as anxiety and depression, eating disorders, and ADHD—and it may even have advantages over conventionally delivered care.

Yoga therapy is well-suited to remote delivery via video conferencing or chat. The practices of asana, pranayama, mindfulness, and consideration of the yamas and niyamas (yoga’s ethical tenets) form the framework for yoga therapy. These practices can all be offered from anywhere in the world when tailored to a client’s particular needs by a well-trained yoga therapist.

  • Asana, or postures and movement, may be practiced in a chair or reclined position. For those with limited mobility and pain, small movements that provide gentle stretching and strengthening may be appropriate and sufficient to provide benefit.
  • Pranayama, or breathing practices, may be coordinated with the movements or used alone. Breathing practices help to calm the nervous system, shifting it from the “fight or flight” response associated with pain conditions to the “rest and digest” response of calm and ease.
  • Meditations, including Yoga Nidra, a form of guided deep relaxation, can be successfully delivered over internet applications and may be effective for pain relief. (Yoga Nidra for Chronic Pain offers more information about this practice, and this article from the Mayo Clinic highlights the benefits of mindfulness, which is one type of meditation.)
  • Considering the yamas and niyamas, part of the philosophy that underlies yoga, may lead to beneficial lifestyle changes. For example, santosha, the practice of finding contentment, may be helpful in a client’s understanding of what they can do—as opposed to what they are unable to do because of pain or limited mobility.

One client I’ve worked with remotely—I’ll call her Maria*—has found this way of accessing yoga therapy to be very beneficial. Symptoms of fibromyalgia left her unable to keep face-to-face appointments, but in the past year we have been able to have sessions nearly every week because she does not have to leave her home. As Maria says, she’s experienced meaningful effects from her yoga therapy practice:

“When I was offered the opportunity to explore yoga therapy I was optimistic it would improve my range of motion, if nothing else. What I hadn’t anticipated was how much this yoga practice has improved my emotional, mental, and spiritual world as well as physically. It eliminates my stress level instantly, which allows me to think more clearly and to move with less pain and more intention. My issues still require some of what Western medicine offers, but I am thrilled to also have this practice to enhance the quality of my life and help me feel better by being an active participant in my healthcare. Tuesday afternoons are the highlight of my week.”

Patience Kaltenbach, MEd, MS, C-IAYT, RYT 500, has a Master of Science in Yoga Therapy and a long career in education. She works remotely and in person with clients with pain conditions. Find her on Instagram and Facebook.


*The client has given permission for her words to be used.