What we learnt at the very first Yoga for Pain Practitioner Training

What we learnt at the very first Yoga for Pain Practitioner Training

We have just run the very first Yoga for Pain Practitioner Training in Melbourne, Australia.  9 yoga teachers and health practitioners spent 2.5 days learning the principles for teaching yoga to people with persistent pain, and how yoga can be part of multi-disciplinary health care.

Central to the course was a method of inquiry for appreciating the complex needs of groups and individuals in order to enable their best health.

I’d love to share some of the things we learnt, and to say a big thank you to my co-facilitator, physiotherapist Nicole Moore.

People are really interested in this stuff
The first Yoga for Pain Practitioner Training (Y4PPT) sold out in 3 weeks and our August program is nearly full too.  Much of the interest has been from physiotherapists who have also trained as yoga teachers (or are closet yogis) but there was one (very brave!) yoga novice in this first group. Some yoga teachers arrived with a specific group in mind that they want to work with, others had experience with pain themselves, or see it regularly in their clients.

Sometimes there is work to get people to ‘GO’
Just as a school teacher may have students who arrive without breakfast or their hair combed, we can’t assume that people have the basics in place to be able to turn up, whether to yoga or a hospital appointment.  This must be taken into account if we are to create yoga for pain programs that help people where they are (rather than where we think they should be).

This was exemplified in the Yoga for Pain workshop we ran on day 2. People with pain were invited to join us, so that teachers, students and health practitioners could learn together.  Our Y4PPT trainees commented on the complexities that were evident before those with pain even began the class: many arrived very early or very late, emotions were evident, and many had to organise a driver to get them to the hospital.

Accreditation is important
We now have a set of criteria for teachers to be listed on a Yoga for Pain register. This includes submitting assignments, writing case studies and receiving mentoring.  We found that teachers wanted this, to know where they stand, and hospitals need it to feel confident about who they refer to. Health practitioners also want to see that yoga teachers are a member of a professional body, such as Yoga Australia.

Inquire – into your clients, your capacity and the health system
We use three levels of Yoga for Pain competencies plus one additional category:

  1. Pain-friendly yoga classes (general classes suitable for people with pain who can self-manage)
  2. Pain-specific classes (classes specifically for people with a particular pain issue)
  3. Yoga for pain programs (structured outcomes-based learning programs)
  4. Yoga for pain mentor and assessor (guidance for upcoming teachers and referrers)

All provide benefit to the community, and each requires competency at the prior stage.  We provide teachers with the skill to inquire into their own capacity and who they can best work with.  We equip them with principles, rather than rigid techniques. This enables each to create their own unique offering, to recognise the next steps for their own professional development, and to begin to see how what they do makes a contribution to the ecology that is our health care system.

Dates for future Yoga for Pain Practitioner Trainings here.

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