Can Yoga help relieve pain?

Sep 12th, 2018

Interview with Dr. Peyman Gravori, Doctor to the Top Stars and Athletes

Dr. Peyman Gravori is one of the world’s top spine & pain manage ment doctors working out of ProMedSPINE ( in Beverly Hills, California. Being in the top of his field, Dr. Gravori works with a lot of professional athletes and celebrities on their various spinal / pain management issues. Cue in: yoga and meditation. Dr. Gravori fully believes that yoga and meditation can help play a huge role to those who suffer from back pain, and Asana Journal sat down exclusively to find out more and why he believes “a healthy spine equals a healthy mind”…

1 How were you first introduced to pain management and what were your original thoughts on that area of medicine/healing?

During residency training, my chief resident suggested I follow a pain management physician for one month because he sensed it would perfectly suit my skill, personality and style of practicing medicine. You can say he knew me very well, because after just a couple of days, I found my calling. My original thoughts can be described as fascination with the science of healing — and gratitude. I would have the knowledge and opportunity to help free people from pain and reclaim their lives. It’s a privilege I remain thankful for.

2 What is the biggest misperception about pain management you find when people walk in your doors at ProMedSpine?

Most people assume their pain can only be treated with opiates or surgery. The reality is that we’ll often start with physical therapy, yoga, weight loss, acupuncture, over-the- counter medication or other conservative options. If those fail to provide relief, then the patient and I will explore additional treatments.

3 How important is an active, healthy lifestyle to you overall?

Incredibly important. People always say “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”… I believe that oversimplifies a complex matter. True health and wellness is a lifestyle, and I try to lead by example. I’m mindful about the food I eat and work out four to five times per week. I’m not perfect, but health is a habit for me.

4 We all at some point experience lowback pain and other forms of back pain… are there any specific types of stretches or yoga forms you can recommend for a quick heal? If so, why are these types important to either maintaining good health or recovery?

Yoga is great for those that suffer from lower back pain and in general to support a healthy spine. It helps to both strengthen and stretch the muscles that support the spine, which is important for whole-body health and longevity. There are several yoga postures that are simple and effective in relieving lower back pain. Here are some of my favorite that can easily be incorporated into your day:

• Child’s pose
• Cat-Cow
• Supine twist
• Downward facing dog
• Ragdoll
• Bridge pose

5 How important is posture overall to making sure your body stays healthy?

A healthy spine equals a healthy mind, and a big part of spinal health is posture. Most people have poor daily posture, whether walking, sitting, working or driving. It’s important to actively self-correct so that the spine endures less stress and strain. And the benefits go far beyond having a straighter back. The spine houses the central nervous system, which drives proper communication from the brain to the body and vice versa. If our spine is aligned, our system can work more efficiently. That can mean less anxiety and depression, headaches, infections, digestive issues and so much more. Here are some of my favorite yoga poses for posture:

• Mountain pose
• Sphinx
• Cat-Cow
• Bow pose
• Locust Pose
• Fish Pose

Another simple exercise is to roll the shoulders back and down, lift through the top of your head, think about the chest shining forward and pulling the belly in (imagining the belly button pulling back toward the spin). These steps can be applied daily in all the things you do.

6 Do you believe our bodies can heal them- selves without prescription drugs?

Yes! I believe weight loss, consuming anti-inflammatory foods, portion control, yoga and decreasing stress overall gives the body an opportunity to heal. I would rank stress as the number one culprit that prevents the body from self-healing.

7 Why do you believe yoga is crucial to pain management and helping your patients deal with their injuries/pain?

Yoga is a vital way to strengthen your core and reduce stress. Stress is a pro-inflammatory phenomenon. Pain management is mainly about eliminating inflammation. When you constantly perform yoga, your body is able to stretch and adapt to the daily physical stresses we face.

8 What types of yoga are you personally into?

I really enjoy vinyasa and restorative yoga practices, as I feel they are a good complement to my already active lifestyle. Vinyasa yoga is a power yoga practice that allows me to connect my breath to movement, offering the perfect mix of meditation and a good sweat. My vinyasa practice has also helped me to work on my flexibility and balance, important counters to my strength training. The combination of strength and flexibility helps support a balanced body and especially a strong spine. My other favorite is restorative yoga, which is focused on relaxation of both mind and body, through the use of props and long holds in postures. It’s essential for me to take the time for this conscious unwinding, especially living in Los Angeles where there is constant stimulation. I always leave feeling clear-minded and refreshed.

9 Is it hard to find time to do yoga and/or meditate with your busy schedule as a doctor?

No, because I’ve built it into my schedule and don’t disrupt it unless there is an emergency. If I’m not healthy, I can’t be there for my patients.

10 Do you feel that participating in yoga and/or meditation has helped you as a person?

Absolutely. As a moving meditation, my vinyasa practice has shown me how to find peace and calm even in moments of stress and chaos in my daily life. The restorative practice has been key to my relaxation and ability to get great sleep at night. I find I am much more refreshed and ready to tackle each day. It’s amazing when you begin to see the difference in your attitude, mood and life from yoga.

11 What advice would you like to share with other practitioners based on your personal experience or others looking at getting into the same routines on the health-front as you?

My advice is simple: Acknowledge that proper nutrition, regular exercise, stress reduction and leading a healthy lifestyle form the foundation of wellness. From there, you can then apply your medical expertise to best treat the patient.

12 Do you also follow a strict diet at all? Or what are some of your favorite health foods?

Not strict, but conscientious. I aim to maintain a plant-based diet, with grilled chicken, fish and other simple foods. If the ingredients consist of words I can’t pronounce, I tend to stay away. Of course, I’ll still enjoy my chocolate and other treats in moderation. I don’t think deprivation is healthy. My favorite health foods are all fruits and gourmet soups. My refrigerator is always stocked with fresh goods from the farmers’ market. Truth be told, that’s usually all I have, as my culinary skills are still in development.

13 What are your future dreams and goals both professionally and personally?

Professionally, I constantly strive to introduce the latest, safest and least invasive therapies to treat patients so they can lead a life without limits. We are in the early stages of developing a foundation to provide medical services to people from around the world and around the block. Personally, I plan to start a family one day and continue living a life of possibility.

14 If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

Wow, only one?! I would get rid of fast food restaurants, giving people more opportunities to eat healthier meals at home. As I noted before, good nutrition is a cornerstone of health.

15 Anything else yoga-related to you and your work you’d like to include and say?

I would just simply like to encourage people to challenge themselves when practicing yoga as often as they can. It is when we challenge ourselves that we grow!

Asana Journal

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