Yoga for Pain Relief: a Testimonial

A few years ago I had the pleasure to meet Karen Whittier, a yoga instructor from Seattle, WA  who truly lives a life with passion and purpose.     

I asked Karen to share in her own words how yoga has impacted her life.   If you are new to  yoga, or have pain and stiffness and are interested in yoga for pain relief as well as for overall wellness, you will want to read Karen’s story.

Yoga for Pain Relief:  A Testimonial

by Karen Whittier

I’ve been asked many times what got me interested in yoga.   Actually the answer is really simple:  Pain Relief.

I recently read the book We Are All Alike, We Are All Different to a group of preschool children.  The book and our following discussion pointed out that there are similarities in all of us AND differences.  We all have bodies.  Some bodies are more flexible than others; I would be in the others category.  I think I was just born with a more snug musculo-skeletal arrangement.

Years and years of running with no thought to stretching or really incorporating any cross-training activity created the perfect storm: shortened, over-worked muscles and weak, under-used muscles with hip mobility severely restricted.  Once in this situation it was a spiral downward for me into constant pain, greater inflexibility and less mobility.  I hurt essentially all the time which made sleeping…a time for rejuvenation…almost impossible.

I had tried yoga over the years.  I even liked it, but I was wedded to the No Pain, No Gain mentality.  So with limited time for workouts I went all out….eventually to a crash & burn.  With anti-inflammatories not giving relief I decided to give yoga a try.  I committed to practice twice a week.


I whole-heartedly embraced props!  Out of necessity really as, at first, I could not touch my toes. In fact, I needed to bend my knees to even reach the blocks I’d placed in front of my feet for Uttanasana.  I couldn’t take my arms behind me and clasp my hands together…thank goodness for straps!


I couldn’t for the life of me sit up on my ‘sit bones’ in Sukhasana and needed blocks (yes that would be more than one) to sit on so my knees could be below my waist.

My first goal was to bring some movement back into my hips.  The hips, theoretically, are able to move in all 3 planes.  The poses that seemed to ease my hips into releasing initially:

utkatasana (chair pose)
Utkatsana (Chair pose) to release my hamstrings and lengthen my calves
Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior 1)
Crescent,modified Virabhadrasana I (Warrior 1) opened up my hip flexors and lengthened my quads
Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2)
Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2) to open up the hips
supta baddha konasana
Supported Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle pose) to lengthen my adductors and encourage external rotation of the legs. I used blocks under my legs–at first fairly closeto the hips to prop my legs. I needed that support because my adductors would ‘grip’ and resist releasing without it.

Changes didn’t come instantly, but within a couple months I noticed I could move more freely.  As important, I could sit more comfortably.  Sitting had been so painful with anything requiring more than 10 minutes usually bringing me to tears.  I remember unbuckling my seatbelt as soon as the Buckle Your Seatbelt sign went out and standing for most of a flight to California.  Once I realized I was feeling and moving better, I wanted to feel and move even better!

And so I got hooked on yoga…and why wouldn’t I?  I credit yoga for giving me my physical freedom back and freeing me of chronic pain.  I’ll never be so flexible to be confused with a Cirque du Soleil performer, but at least now I’m not the Tin Man’s double!

Health, Wellness & CURES!!
Karen Whittier

Karen Whittier:
Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT)
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