226: Questions to Ask Someone in Pain with Shelly Prosko

Many people start practicing yoga because of pain, to get relief or to recover from an injury. As yoga teachers, we are sure to encounter students who have some pain in their bodies when they come to our yoga classes. What are some questions we can ask them to be better able to help them? Shelly Prosko shares some questions rooted in empowerment, pain science and self compassion we can ask.

Shelly Prosko is a Canadian physiotherapist, yoga therapist, educator, author and pioneer of PhysioYoga. With over 22 years of experience integrating yoga into physiotherapy within a variety of specialty areas including helping people with chronic or persistent pain, pelvic health issues and professional burnout, Shelly is an expert in this field. Her current focus is on continuing education for other professionals in this area. In addition to this, Shelly has authored book chapters in yoga therapy and integrative rehabilitation textbooks and is the co-editor/author of the textbook Yoga and Science in Pain Care: Treating the Person in Pain. She maintains a clinical practice in Sylvan Lake, Canada and believes compassion is the foundation of pain care, healthcare and overall well-being.

Shelly explains why the questions we ask people who have pain are so important, and how that can influence their healing journey. She also has some insights about how we perceive pain and rest, and why having compassion is essential. This episode is a must-listen for every yoga teacher looking to learn more about pain science, compassion and helping people in pain.

Key Takeaways:

[7:22] Shannon introduces her guest for this episode – Shelly Prosko.

[10:32] What is the work that Shelly does and who does she do it for?

[12:08] When Shannon was dealing with a herniated disc, Shelly asked her some questions about her pain. They discuss the conversation they had regarding Shannon’s injury.

[15:25] Many times, when someone tells us they are in pain, our immediate reaction may be to offer suggestions or advice, but this may not be helpful.

“There’s all sorts of things you can do that feel good, that feel easeful and peaceful and joyful. So do those instead of trying just to go straight to fixing.” ~ Shelly Prosko

[16:11] Shelly shares a bit more about what she has learned about pain care and working with people in pain.

[22:23] Shannon and Shelly discuss the concept of trusting your body to heal itself.

“The body is set up to always progress towards healing.” ~ Shelly Prosko

[28:48] Shelly highlights that calming the system can have a profound impact on healing and recovery.

“Calm the system down, and that in and of itself is really powerful for healing and for recovery.” ~ Shelly Prosko

[30:53] Regression is as much a part of progression in the healing journey, and it is important for people to know that, and not discount the progress they have made.

[34:22] Shannon and Shelly discuss having inquiry around movement, and how yoga ties into that.

[40:34] It can be helpful to reframe resting for people who struggle to rest, and encourage them to engage in self-inquiry and self-reflection about the healing process.

[44:42] Shelly shares a bit about using compassionate language and being kind to yourself and others.

“The more we check in and be aware, then the more insight we have into our needs.” ~ Shelly Prosko

[52:33] Shelly highlights the fact that pain is not necessarily bad.

[58:04] Shannon reflects on this interview with Shelly and shares her biggest takeaways.

Key Takeaways from Shelly:

  1. What positions or movements bring you ease, peace or joy?
  2. The body is set up to progress towards healing.
  3. Regression is a normal thing in recovery and healing.
  4. Be curious as you move. Increase your movements without forcing.
  5. Detach from your expectations as much as possible.
  6. Can you reduce your cognitive load as you heal?
  7. We are all so unique. Ask individuals, “what do you think?”
  8. Speak with compassion to self.
  9. Pain is a normal human condition.
  10. Pain is not necessarily “bad” – including in a yoga class.


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