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Archive for the ‘Pain Management’ Category

We try out many different ways to manage our physical and mental stress, anxiety, pain, grief, loss, regrets. Some work, some don’t. Meditation is one of them–and all the different types of meditations. Mahasri Yoga offers free online shorter breathing tracks as meditation and longer Yoga Nidras. They have had a profound effect on many (and like any other type of meditation, done nothing for many!). A recent reminder is that of an old college friend who had juvenile arthritis that started in college. She now lives in Spain with debilitating arthritis as an adult and happened to try the Yoga Nidras on the website. A Christmas card announced that they had transformed her life, “They were fabulous.”

So this goes to anyone who may want to try it out!

 

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Here are three links to online forgiveness meditations:

Bhante Gunaratana:

Metta Meditation begins with an extensive forgiveness component and training the mind by reconditioning it through the practice of forgiveness. This website is a treasure trove of teachings and meditations. This is a much longer talk interwoven with practice–a live recording from a retreat. Bhante is an outstanding teacher and Bhavana Society is one of the last organizations offering the teachings freely to everyone in true spiritual tradition. Voluntary donations are so important to keep these authentic teachings alive for all of us.

Jack Kornfield:

The Ancient Heart of Forgiveness is a 56-minute talk with a 10-minute forgiveness meditation at the end.

Forgiveness Meditation is the 10-minute forgiveness meditation, for those who don’t want to hear the whole talk.

Gil Fronsdal:

Guided Meditation on Forgiveness is a short 15-minute meditation, very similar to Jack Kornfield’s. The recoding is not very good (which is understandable given the shoe-string budget many operate with) but what is different is the beautiful poem at the end.

 

 

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As I prepare for tomorrow’s meditation, here is a link to a very human and fresh meaning of forgiveness which is different from the article in the last post. I recommend that everyone coming to our meditations read this as it applies to all of us.

In “What is Forgiveness?“, also from the Greater Good blog at Berkeley, Fred Luskin (Director, Stanford University Forgiveness Projects) makes the case that before you can forgive, you have to grieve. Forgiveness is the resolution of grief. He explains the connection, grief, and its three stages.

Luskin’s definition of forgiveness “is the ability to make peace with the word ‘no'”.

He explains what he means:

It is so important to be able to understand the universal experience of this–of objecting to the way life is and trying to substitute the way you want it to be, then getting upset when your substitution doesn’t take. The science of forgiveness is being resilient when things don’t go the way you want to–to be at peace with “no”, be at peace with what is, be at peace with the vulnerability inherent in human life. Then you have to move forward without prejudice.

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Breathe Fully Live Free: Meditations to Release Anxiety and Fear is now available for downloads on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby.

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Thanks to Cindy for this post.

Western psychotherapy has hardly paid any attention to the experience and interpretation of disturbed physical sensations and action patterns. Yoga is one of the Asian traditions that clearly help reintegrate body and mind. For someone to heal from PTSD [post-traumatic stress syndrome], one must learn how to control bodily reflexes. PTSD causes memory to be stored at a sensory level—in the body. Yoga offers a way to reprogram automatic physical responses. Mindfulness, learning to become a careful observer of the ebb and flow of internal experience, and noticing whatever thoughts, feelings, body sensations and impulses emerge are important components in healing PTSD….

What most people do not realize is that trauma is not the story of something awful that happened in the past, but the residue of imprints left behind in people’s sensory and hormonal systems. Traumatized people often are terrified of the sensations in their own bodies. Most trauma-sensitive people need some form of body oriented psychotherapy or bodywork to regain a sense of safety in their bodies.

These excerpt are from the interview “Yoga and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” with Bessel van der Kolk, MD, Integral Yoga Magazine 2009 issue, pages 12-13, source http://www.traumacenter.org/clients/MagInside.Su09.p12-13.pdf.

Thanks to Cindy for introducing me to On Being and the podcast “Restoring the Body” which can be heard on  http://www.onbeing.org/program/restoring-the-body-bessel-van-der-kolk-on-yoga-emdr-and-treating-trauma/5801.

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Cancer patients receiving chemotherapy experience fatigue, sleep disturbances, anxiety, stress, and depression. Drugs to treat these symptoms can be expensive, ineffective, and have undesirable side-effects. A 2008 study approved by the University of California San Francisco tested the feasibility of the yogic breathing practices of pranayama and measured the effects on the quality of life (QOL) in patients. The study stated that yoga is inexpensive and has no side effects.

The study tracked the patients over one year beginning October 2008. Sixteen patients completed all the study measures. Participants were tracked over two consecutive chemotherapy cycles and the control group was given yoga training in just the second cycle. A trained yoga instructor gave a 60-minute class every week and then the participants had a home practice–twice a day for a total of 20-30 minutes daily.

Four specific techniques were taught: breath observation, ujjayi (victorious breath), kapalbhati (skull shining breath), and nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breath).

Conclusion:

This first study of a pure pranayama intervention in a population of patients with cancer successfully demonstrated that yoga breathing is feasible and can be safely recommended for patients with cancer receiving chemotherapy. Any increase in the yoga breathing practice was correlated with improvements in both cancer chemotherapy associated symptoms and QOL. Pranayama may be helpful for improving sleep disturbance, anxiety, and mental QOL among patients undergoing chemotherapy. Definitive conclusions on efficacy await further study.

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3353818/ Yoga Breathing for Cancer Chemotherapy–Associated Symptoms and Quality of Life: Results of a Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial

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It is so difficult to let go of that which tortures us, to let go of our pain. Why do so many feed and nurture and grow the pain? Often, we do not even know the real cause of suffering in our lives as it is so deeply embedded. I see people clinging to the very things that drive them insane, unable to let it go, to free themselves. No space is allowed to live with joy, to live free. This is where numerous studies support meditation. There are so many meditation techniques and they all have varying effects so it is important to distinguish between methods instead of having the generic term “meditation” or “Yoga”.

One of the most effective practices is Satyananda Yoga Nidra–there are many who have “borrowed” this practice without giving the source due credit. We suggest going to the original source and reading Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda. There are several transcripts in the book.

Satyananda Yoga Nidra is a the modern adaptation of the tantric practice of nyasa which works at five levels or bodies–physical, energy body, emotional, mind, and spirit. Repressed emotions manifest themselves at all levels as they are an intricate web and not distinct. The practice is ingeniously simple on the surface and safely allows emotions to surface. They are witnessed with awareness, not judgment or reaction. This process saps the emotion of energy and it is free to dissipate. The emotion no longer has the powerful grip over the mind and no longer consumes the person.

Yoga Nidra is a pratyahara (sense withdrawal) method in the eight limbs of Patanjali Yoga (yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyhara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi--see What is Yoga). Disturbances from the mind, and by implication the unresolved issues of life, must be settled before dhyana can begin.

Experience beats theory and so readers are invited to try out the Yoga Nidras from Mahari Yoga–they are all free on-line tracks. Begin with the first one and then gradually work your way up. These are shared freely with all who seek peace within themselves.

Being a Witness

In this practice, we will learn to be a witness, a neutral spectator, without actively participating in the physical breathing or mental processes. Simply being, observing, has a significant effect in calming the body, mind, and emotions. You will feel it in this practice.

Who Am I?

This meditation reveals the perpetual and consequential programming, or the conditioning process, of the mind that began at birth. Think of the body and mind as hardware and software that are constantly growing, and being shaped and formed, by everything the body-mind is exposed to. This body-mind complex takes, absorbs, processes, and stores everything. As we witness it, is “I” the body-mind? Who is the silent witness? Who am “I”? Even if there is no burning desire to seek an answer, just being aware of the continuous, ongoing, cumulative process of conditioning can empower us to reprogram ourselves consciously in positive ways. Conscious thinking can lead to a deeper, compassionate understanding of relationships and less conflict. It does this by slowly breaking down identification of Self with the mind and the thinking process.

Up to the Summit

In this meditation, we begin shedding some of the conditioned programming. We learn to discard excess baggage that weighs us down and prevents us from getting where we need to go. The visualization of climbing to the summit, top of the mountain, and the inner guide part is based on a Yoga Nidra done 30 years ago during a course in Mumbai with Swami Buddhananda Saraswati of the Bihar School of Yoga. Over the course of the years, like an evolving recipe, our interpretation and wording of it has also evolved. This is our version, which too will change over the course of time.

Role of Purpose and Beyond

This fourth meditation is about looking at various roles each one of us plays. Some roles are easier and more comfortable than others. Do others see us the way we see ourselves? Who plays the roles? Who watches as the spectator? Exploring these questions is a critical step in self-transformation for a more peaceful life for ourselves and others.

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For years we were told that the “core muscle” was the ab and there was a great emphasis on working the muscle for a stronger back as well as a slimmer waistline. School gym teachers praised children who could do the most sit-ups and crunches in a minute. Many kids came home with painful backs. Now those routines are out-of-favor because they are harmful for the back.

The January 3, 2013 issue of Harvard HEALTHbeat, writes:

Sit-ups once ruled as the way to tighter abs and a slimmer waistline, while “planks” were merely flooring. Now planks — exercises in which you assume a position and hold it — are the gold standard for working out your core, while classic sit-ups and crunches have fallen out of favor. Why the shift?

One reason is that sit-ups are hard on your back — by pushing your curved spine against the floor and by working your hip flexors, the muscles that run from the thighs to the lumbar spine of the lower back. When hip flexors are too strong or too tight, they tug on the lower spine, which can be a source of lower back discomfort.

Second, planks recruit a better balance of muscles on the front, sides, and back of the body during exercise than sit-ups, which target just a few muscles. Remember, your core goes far beyond your abdominal muscles.

Finally, activities of daily living, as well as sports and recreational activities, call on your muscles to work together, not in isolation. Sit-ups or crunches strengthen just a few muscle groups. Through dynamic patterns of movement, a good core workout helps strengthen the entire set of core muscles — the muscles you rely on for daily activities as well as sports and recreational activities.

This information echoes what Dr. Stuart McGill has been advising for many years. Dr. McGill is a professor of biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, Canada. Dr. McGill is a highly regarded back-pain expert in the sports world. In an informative New York Times article of June 17, 2009, “Is Your Ab Workout Hurting Your Back” by Gretchen Reynolds, it appears that the isolation of the abs (transversus abdominis) for a core workout began with an Australian study in the 1990s. Reynolds writes:

The lab worked with patients in pain to isolate and strengthen that particular deep muscle, in part by sucking in their guts during exercises. The results, though mixed, showed some promise against sore backs.

Perhaps that is how the trend of working the abs started. Dr. McGill says that this thinking spread to trainers and through them to the public. According to him, the core is not just one muscle but a “corset” of muscles that circle the spine and hold it in place. By working on just one muscle the spine is destabilized and it loses its alignment. All the muscles must be balanced in order for the spine to bear large loads. The analogy used is that of a fishing rod. Think of the spine as a fishing rod that is held in place by muscular wires.

“If you pull the wires closer to the spine,” McGill says, as you do when you pull in your stomach while trying to isolate the transversus abdominis, “what happens?” The rod buckles. So, too, he said, can your spine if you overly focus on the deep abdominal muscles. “In research at our lab,” he went on to say, “the amount of load that the spine can bear without injury was greatly reduced when subjects pulled in their belly buttons” during crunches and other exercises.

Hollowing the belly and pressing the spine against the floor is a bad idea that has made its way into yoga studios and routines as well due to cross-pollination with trainers and fitness routines. Dr. McGill says sit-ups put a “devastating” load on the spinal disks. Instead, he suggests a side plank and a “bird dog” (in yoga it is the tiger pose or vyagharasana).

For more, please read The New York Times article, see the short video Core Values that accompanies the article, and visit Dr. McGill’s website www.backfitpro.com for his articles and more information. Readers may also want to visit a previous blog post Do Yoga Classes Hurt Your Back?

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Happy New Year to Everyone!

Current Issue

Each year we find there is more yoga and meditation content freely available. We begin this year with the first digital issue, Winter 2012,  of Yoga International.  This is an excellent publication from the Himalayan Institute based in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Now anyone with Internet access can read its content.

This issue features a healthy heart guide, breathing techniques to curb emotions, yoga in the Middle East, upward dog and the back, and the story of four women changing the destiny of yoga.

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The Ridgewood, NJ, Whole Body Whole Foods has fully endorsed and backed the guided meditation CD, Being in Flow: Meditations for Peace, Insight, Clarity, and Focus. It is available in the yoga section of Whole Body. All profits go to Sivananda Math, the charitable trust associated with the Bihar School of Yoga. The trust feeds, educates, and provides medical care to some of the poorest and most neglected children in the world. It also has many outreach programs for several villages.

Here are some of the ways in which the CD has been helpful to people who have used the meditations:

Benefits to Creativity

Numerous studies have highlighted the benefits of meditation in terms of fostering creativity; a group of Dutch researchers, for instance, found that the practice promoted “divergent thinking”, in which many new ideas are generated. After listening to this CD, I definitely agree: while my mind often feels freighted with clutter, these tracks have brought a sense of calm and awareness, which in turn bring about heightened perception and creative abilities. I can see why Disney’s creative team has hired a meditation teacher! 

There are a couple of features that set this CD apart from the other meditation offerings. For one, the narrator has a wonderfully soothing voice that allows me to instantly relax and achieve the desired mental calmness. With other meditation tracks, I feel that this relaxation often spirals into a deep stupor and leads me to eventually fall asleep; here, however, the relaxation does indeed promote Insight into Problems and convert Stress to Rest.

Furthermore, each track has clearly been carefully considered, with a clear and logical progression guiding the individual through the practice. I have given this CD to a couple of friends, who have similarly spoken of a clear mind and enhanced creativity after going through the tracks. There is something very peaceful, almost addictive, about the ability to redirect your mind away from endless distractions and toward a more useful goal.

Barry J.

Improve productivity

When I first read about flow in a paper by the Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the idea of complete immersion in a single, well-defined task sounded great. I had even experienced being in flow at times — it felt like the distinction between a task and my performing that task completely disappeared. The only problem was that I couldn’t get myself into this state whenever I wanted: sometimes I happened to fall into it, but most of the time I didn’t and wasted a lot of time trying to force it.

This CD actually helps me get into flow whenever I want. Different tracks work well for different types of tasks. For example, if I’m about to practice the piano, I will listen to Still Body Clear Mind, whereas if I’m about to work on a math problem, I will listen to Insight into Problems. Now, I’m finding that I don’t always need to listen to those two tracks whenever I want to get into flow since the CD effectively trained me to get into flow on my own. So while I do continue to listen to both of those tracks, now I’m listening more to Stress to Rest and Sound of Silence to get into flow for tasks that are less well-defined than music practice or math problem sets.

If you’re looking for something that’s relaxing, this CD works very well, but its real benefit comes from improving productivity. Once you’re in that state of flow in which you get things done so much faster than before, stress goes away on its own.

Max W.

The CD is also available from:
select Whole Foods Whole Body stores on the East Coast
select yoga studios in New York
iTunes
Amazon
Namaste Books (Union Square, NY)

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