Becoming Pain Free Through Yoga and the Egoscue Method
By Barbara Schuette on April 18, 2022
Yoga is a practice that began thousands of years ago. It’s not known what exact year yoga became a thing, but it’s been around for a long time! When yoga was invented, people didn’t sit in chairs looking at computer screens for hours upon hours each day. Yoga does not promote balance and strength from an imbalanced body. It promotes balance and strength from a balanced body. Yoga was invented when the human body was still relatively posturally balanced.
Maybe you’ve tried yoga and it caused you pain. Don’t blame it on yoga! We want to optimize your yoga practice by realigning the body. From my experience and that of many yogis before me, yoga can be transformational. It can change your life. But the body needs to be in balance before yoga can be effective and transformational.
Yoga wants for you to have freedom and ultimately to fully know yourself better. Freedom not only in the physical body, but the emotional and mental bodies, as well. Freedom from pain, stress, and anxiety. Freedom to be yourself. These three things–the head, the heart, and the body–need to be in balance in order for you to achieve this freedom.
From my personal journey, I have learned many things about the yoga practice that go beyond sequencing and the perfect Standing Bow Pose. I’ve learned from studying other forms of exercise, that things need to be aligned and balanced in the physical body in order to be pain free and have a successful yoga practice. I’ve learned a method of exercise that I’ve been incorporating into many of our yoga classes called the Egoscue Method to help achieve that balance.
Pete Egoscue is a Vietnam War veteran who returned home with a Purple Heart, combat wounds, and unbearable chronic nerve pain. His doctors told him there was nothing they could do for him. He was going to have to live in terrible pain for the rest of his life and take medications to mask the symptoms. Being a Marine, this was unacceptable to Pete. He set out to heal himself and developed a series of what he calls “E-cises” that can realign posture + balance the physical body.
In our daily classes, workshops, and video uploads we will be focusing on some E-cises to get the body realigned so that the stretching and movement we perform with our yoga practice can be more effective. Today we are talking specifically about the hips. Almost 70% of people who undergo hip replacement surgery have that surgery done on their dominant side. Right-handed people are far more likely to have their right hip replaced than their left. Upper-body imbalance affects shoulder position, which in turn affects hip position. We use our dominant hand far more often for repetitive tasks, creating imbalance and stress on the muscles, bones, and joints of the dominant side.
A strong spine, hamstrings, and glutes are important for the health of our hips and pelvis, allowing us to stretch without injury. Weak hamstrings can lead to overstretching which can result in a common yoga injury known as “Yoga Butt.” Properly warming up in any yoga practice can also prevent this injury as well as balancing the body.
Remember, there are 4 load joints in the body that need to be properly aligned in order to live without pain—our shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles. Here are some E-cises to help us get the load joints in balance and alleviate our joint and low back pain.
1. TRICEP HOLDS-1 minute each side.
2. IN LINE GLUTEAL CONTRACTIONS-10 reps; 3 sets. Promotes strength + stability in hips.
3. ARM CIRCLES–(with Golfer's grip) One set forward-40 reps; flip palms; one set backward-40 reps. Circles in direction of thumbs.
4. ELBOW CURLS–(with golfer’s grip at temples thumbs down; elbows chin level and touch in front) 25-30 reps.
5. ARMS EXTENDED OVERHEAD, PALMS PRESSED AWAY, LOOKING UP–Keep elbows locked with constant tension on forearms, no backbending here; hold for 1 minute.
6. TOE RAISES 3 WAYS–neutral, internal, and external rotation of feet (good for strength in arches)--1 set each, 10 reps.
7. HANDS ON BACK HINGED AT HIPS FORWARD FOLD; relax the belly, no rounding in the spine, sway back,send the hips back directly over knees + knees over ankles; constantly pulling elbows and scapula together on the back body like you’re holding a quarter between the 2 shoulder blades; thighs tight–hold 30-60 seconds.
8. CROSS CRAWLING–on back opposite arm + leg; realigning the spine and engaging the core; crawling on our backs!
9. OPPOSITE ARM/LEG–on stomach; 2 sets, 10 reps each
10. SUPERMAN–on stomach; 1-2sets, 10 reps each.
11. KNEE DROPS WITH HOLDS TO EACH SIDE-hold 30-60 seconds each side; keep toes pointed forward.
12. STATIC EXTENSION-on all 4s, hold 1-2 minutes. Keep elbows locked and wrists under the shoulders; hips slightly in front of the knees approx. 6 inches. Belly muscles are relaxed, sway back and looking down.
13. CAT & DOGS–10-20 reps quickly; this resets the spine from everything we’ve done
This is not an inclusive list of E-cises, but a great place to begin to get the body and load joints back in alignment. Give them a try and begin to live pain free. Then let’s do some Yoga and feel better together!