Yoga for Chronic Pain: Samantha Parker Breaks it Down

Samantha Parker served as the first Chief Yoga Therapist for the DoD at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center treating U.S. and NATO Special Forces suffering from Polytruama, TBIs and PTDS. She developed, managed, and researched the first yoga program for addressing Kinesiophobia to reduce chronic pain, use of opioid medications and improvement of soldier function.

Parker is the CEO of NMS®, creator of YoMo® and bestselling author of Yoga for Chronic Pain…WTF?. She speaks, trains and develops programs to address Kinesiophobia, advises fitness, yoga and medical providers, as well as leading military and government officials on emerging yoga therapy and functional movement practices. She currently resides in Washington, D.C. still working for the U.S. government. Continue reading my interview with Samantha to learn more about her love and passion for yoga.

Samantha Parker

Samantha Parker

NMFIT: Has fitness always been a major part of your life or was there a catalyst/point in your life when you made it more of a focus and priority?

Samantha Parker (SP): All my life I have loved to move. Whether it was sports, working out or enjoying the outdoors. However, when I was in my mid 20’s I started getting migraines that become so unbearable they would take me out of commission for 24-48 hours. I ended up on medications and other modalities to help, but they were only treating the symptoms, not addressing the underlining issue of why I was getting them. My doctor recommended I start doing yoga, so I did. In 2 short months I started to notice my dress size going down, and even though I was still getting migraines, I was starting to like the way I looked in my clothes again. After about 8 months I realized that my migraines were longer apart. I thought it was a coincidence, but it wasn’t. I was starting to get back doing the physical activities I loved, and my migraines were becoming less frequent. Two years after starting yoga, I was able to come off of all my medications, and knew what my triggers were and haven’t looked back since. Yoga has become a constant in my life helping me to find balance both on and off the mat in my health and fitness journey as well as helping others find their balance. Fitness is a priority for me as I see it as preventative medicine for my physical, mental, and emotion wellbeing.


NMFIT: What are a few of your go-to healthy snacks/drinks that help keep you on the straight and narrow?

SP: My go-to dry healthy snacks are protein bars for when I travel, and I love plain Greek yogurt with honey and cottage cheese. When it comes to drinks, I really enjoy almond milk and protein powder. In the mornings, I’ll throw in some fresh fruit and always water, water and water.

NMFIT: How do you train your mind and stay motivated?
This can be tricky for everyone, but I have found doing Kirtan Kriya Yoga Chant. Research has shown this chant to help with emotional balance, improve mental clarity, reduce stress and change our neuropathways (brain patterns) to aid in changing addictive behavioral patterns by replacing them with new ones. Research has shown that practicing this chant for only 12 minutes a day is able to improve cognition, increase grey and white matter in the brain, as well as stimulate the parts of the brain that are central to memory.

NMFIT: How do you change your body?

SP: Mindfulness. People forget that beauty starts internally and reflects outwardly. Good nutrition and hydration, are a must, but more importantly emotional and mental wellbeing are key. Our brains have evolved to do one major thing. That is to create complex adaptable movement. This is the only way that we are able to change our environment and this includes our behaviors. Visualization and positive affirmations work. I have found that having a positive outlook on life, visualizing myself looking the way I would like then reflecting inwardly, I ask myself tough questions as to why I keep choosing behaviors that are getting in the way of achieving my fitness goals. This reflecting aids in understanding the root cause for the decisions I make. When I am able to understand the why, I am then mindful to make other choices.

NMFIT: What are your fitness favorites?

SP: In the gym….weights! I love the strength, physical and mentally, weight lifting gives me. This is also the best way for me to change my body composition to achieve the desired physic I am working towards. Along with yoga, biking and I enjoy hiking outdoors every opportunity I can.

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