In May, walking past a Little Free Library in Kitsilano, a book title caught my eye: 3 Minutes to a Pain-Free Life. That very day, I was finalizing a blog post on chronic pain. What a coincidence. The book was “like new” and I couldn’t resist taking it.
Written by Joseph Weisberg, a physical therapist, the book contains useful information on pain etiology and management. He believes that joint and muscle dysfunction causes pain that, if unaddressed, can affect the nervous system and become chronic. His recommendation? Movement. Only via movement are joints flushed with synovial fluid and repaired. Likewise, movement forces muscles to lengthen and to contract, both which keep them functional.
Weisberg provides dozens of exercises, which he calls “therapeutic movements,” targeting body parts from head to toe. In this post, I’ll focus on his basic, daily, three-minute sequence to prevent chronic pain.
The sequence comprises six movements that resemble yoga poses. They take major joints through full range of motion and major muscles toward full elongation.
The hook is the time frame. Remember the title? Three minutes. Each movement is held only for thirty seconds.
Here’s the sequence, which should be done as ordered. In parentheses I include names of similar yoga poses.
- Bow (Adho Mukha Virasana, Child’s pose)
- Arch (Cat-Cow pose) Ten repeats.
- Lizard (Bhujangasana, Cobra pose) Feet apart.
- Natural Squat (Malasana, Garland pose) Feet apart.
- Split (Prasarita Padottanasana, wide-legged forward bend) Hold upright stance before bending forward.
- Sky Reach (Sukhasana, cross-legged sitting, with Parvatasana, arms overhead with clasped hands)
I scrutinized the photos of people demonstrating each movement. I must admit to looking askance at the models’ form in Lizard and Split; I had an urge to take my hands and adjust their bodies! But Weisberg’s instructions are sound and clear—and I appreciate that he explains why each movement is beneficial.
Out of curiosity, I tried the sequence a couple of times. It was easy—in the best sense of the word. I liked the variety of movements. I loved the utterly doable time frame. Even when I have absolutely no time, I can squeeze in this mini sequence.
It became my daily starter, tweaked here and there, from day to day. I typically do much longer holds, multiple repeats, additional poses, substitute poses. Examples:
- Do Cat-Cow pose in dramatically slow motion.
- Substitute Sphinx (elbows grounded) and Seal (straight arms, but hands farther forward) poses for classic Cobra pose.
- Do Tadasana with Urdhva Hastasana and Utkatasana before Malasana.
- Look down and then up in Sukhasana with Parvatasana.
For me, the sequence takes at least 20 minutes, not three. But I always have the option to cut back. What a relief to have a doable daily task.
This book is worth a read as an introduction to pain medicine and for physical therapy exercises. In addition to his basic three-minute sequence, he presents those specialized for athletes, for pregnant women, for seniors, and for children.
You might quibble with Weisberg’s chosen six movements and have your own preferred lineup. But the nitty-gritty sequence is not the key idea.
The takeaway is minimalism. A daily task sounds daunting until you know that it can be done in three minutes. Then it’s doable. It’s minimal and infallible. It’s an excellent starting point.
Atomic Habits, James Clear
One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, Robert Maurer
Images: Little Free Library, W 6th Ave at Dunbar St, Kitsilano, Vancouver, May 2022.
Struggling with specific aches and pains at 88, the short, repeated physio-yoga daily exercise approach pays physical-mental-spiritual dividends. (Guess your dog lost interest.)
Thanks for your feedback, Jim. I’m curious to know your particular routine. I, too, am a big fan of short, repeated, and daily practices. As for my dog, this approach actually works for her, too—in terms of walks, training tricks and drills, meals, naps, bedtime, toothbrushing, etc. She’s not into books or yoga poses, however, except for Downward Dog.
And as we grow older, I’ve noticed that I’m always looking for ways to minimize tasks, unnecessary thoughts, and especially pain. So bull’s eye on this post. As you know, my minimalist go-to sequence is Surya Namaskar B, at least 36 of them every day, which takes about 20 minutes as well. But I like the idea of tinkering and mixing it up with some of these alternatives. Aloha and mahalo from Mililani Mauka.
I can always count on you for an interesting, personal comment, Keith. Recalling your daily practice of 108 Sun Salutations during the pandemic, I had to smile at my writing about minimal practice. Maybe sometimes more is more, and other times less is more. Aloha and mahalo to you, too!
Every morning I do a specific sequence that includes all the major muscles group in about 15 min. It is like a car tune-up checklist before a road trip to make sure all the parts are working for a new day. I tweak my sequence every now and then. My latest modification is replacing one pose with reverse namaste from one of your recent classes – now that I know how to do it correctly I can literally feel my trapezius being stretched. Nice!
I like the car tune-up checklist idea. If you check all parts daily, you don’t let problems get out of hand. Paschima Namaskar is great for shoulders, upper back and chest, wrists; your trapezius is targeted, but its contracting, not stretching. Thanks for sharing, Sin!
Thank you Luci for this great article and excellent substitutions for those of us with acute injuries. I truly appreciate your dedication and support!