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A woman standing near a river with her hands in prayer positionWondering how to relieve pain? Yoga may be an effective pain alternative. But which poses are the most beneficial?

A review of 20 years worth of studies conducted by researchers at Duke University Medical Center found that yoga is effective in the treatment of chronic pain, including osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and fibromyalgia.

In the studies reviewed, patients saw significant reductions in joint pain, muscle stiffness, and overall physical discomfort while greatly improving their flexibility, range of motion, and muscle strength.

Why Yoga?

Performed correctly, yoga’s fluid movements allow swollen or otherwise painful joints to glide smoothly over one another, increasing mobility and strength without excess wear and tear, says Cynthia Maltenfort, a yoga instructor at Sun and Moon Studios in Virginia.

“Yoga is a safe alternative to weight-bearing exercises that could worsen weak joints because it strengthens the muscles around them, which reduces tension and increases mobility,” she explains.

Of course, before performing any of the below pain-relieving poses, be sure to talk with your doctor first to make sure your pain isn’t due to a serious condition or injury, and use props such as blocks for support as needed.

Yoga Pose: Cobra

For: Back pain

Lie face-down, forehead resting on floor. Place hands on either side, at middle of ribcage. Draw legs together, pressing tops of feet into floor. Reach back through toes, lengthening legs, and press evenly through hands as you draw elbows close to ribcage. Using strength of back (not arms), lift head and chest, sliding shoulder blades down back. Take 5 to 10 deep breaths before gently releasing to floor, turning head to one side.

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