Guest Post: How to Use Yoga and Meditation to Treat Chronic Pain

Please enjoy this post from guest blogger Jennifer McGregor !

despair-1235582_960_720For many chronic pain sufferers, the side effects of using prescription painkillers are just as difficult to manage as the pain itself. Many painkillers in the opiate family reduce people’s ability to react quickly and control their movements; these side effects make it particularly difficult to drive. It also is fairly easy to become addicted to painkillers because they cause a high. For these reasons, many chronic pain sufferers turn to alternative treatments like yoga and meditation to treat their pain.

Yoga Changes the Brain

New research shows that practicing yoga affects the brain and relieves chronic pain. While chronic pain sparks the parts of the brain associated with depression, anxiety, and impaired cognitive function, yoga has the opposite effect on the brain. Dr. Catherine Bushnell at the U.S. National Institutes of Health oversees a program on the ways in which the brain perceives, modifies, and manages pain.

Dr. Bushnell and her team have found that mind-body practices like yoga and meditation can prevent and even reverse chronic pain because they reduce pain perception and even benefit the brain, itself: as gray matter decreases and white matter integrity improves, the part of the brain associated with consciousness increases in size and connectivity and improves a person’s pain tolerance and thresholds. The major implication of Dr. Bushnell’s study is that yoga and meditation have a real pain-relieving effect on the brain and may be more effective treatments than prescription painkillers for relieving chronic pain.

Chronic Pain and the Mind-Body Relationship

Today, scientists and yoga experts understand that most chronic pain has a physical injury or illness at its root but is sustained because the initial trauma changes the body and the mind-body relationship. For most, chronic pain means the mind and body have learned how to detect even hints of a threat and mount a full protective response, causing intense discomfort; simply put, the pain people feel may be more about a protective mind-body response than about long-lasting pain. In fact, chronic pain is so complex that there are several ways to go about treating it.

Both modern science and yoga recognize that present pain and suffering are rooted in past pain, trauma, stress, loss, and illness: modern science refers to it as neuroplasty, and yoga refers to it as samskara. The mind and body have become accustomed to chronic pain, and through yoga, people can teach the mind and body new ways of dealing with it. That’s why, as a mind-body experience, chronic pain can be positively influenced by yoga’s healing practices including breathing exercises and restorative poses.

Yoga and meditation help a person relax and give the mind and body healthy responses to practice in the face of chronic pain. Transforming chronic pain and stress responses into chronic healing responses is how yoga and meditation relieve the pain. Meditation on positive feelings, relaxation poses, and breathing exercises strengthen the flow of energy in the body and re-center people to their natural sense of well-being.

Relaxation and Chronic Pain Relief

Relaxation especially has a healing effect on chronic pain because it turns off stress responses and directs the body toward repair, immune function, digestion, and other self-healing processes. Relaxation lessens the effects of the mind-body samskaras that add to the pain and serves as a foundation for healing. Consistent, well-practiced meditation and yoga teach the mind and body to rest safely rather than respond to stress and pain. Breathing practices associated with yoga and meditation especially help relax the body and enhance restorative, healing processes.

Recommended Yoga Poses and Meditation Practices for Treating Chronic Pain

There are many possible sequences for restorative yoga to rest the body and engage the mind. The following poses include breathing elements that help people focus on healing thoughts, sensations, and emotions to relieve their chronic pain:

  • Cobra
  • Nesting pose
  • Supported bound angle pose
  • Butterfly
  • Supported backbend pose
  • Supported warrior
  • Supported forward bend
  • Rear arm lift with strap
  • Wall plank

Chronic pain sufferers do not need to rely on prescription painkillers that can lead to addiction and are notorious for negative side effects. By practicing yoga and meditation, those who suffer from chronic pain will train their bodies and their minds to approach pain in a healing manner instead of a painful one with stress responses.

publichealthlibraryJennifer McGregor is a pre-med student, who loves providing reliable health and medical resources for PublicHealthLibrary.org users. She knows how difficult it can be to sift through the mountains of health-related information on the web. She co-created the site with a friend as a way to push reputable information on health topics to the forefront, making them easier and quicker to find.

Image via Pixabay by geralt

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Day 23: breathe in… “let”… breathe out… “go”… (again)

Well, it’s my 23rd day of writing… I am so proud to have made it this far in the challenge! It’s a lot of writing and for those of you that are following me… a lot of reading. I really appreciate all the wonderful support during this month. Thank you!

I am really tired today and I have started and stopped this post SIX times… I am a little frustrated to say the least. Instead of forcing myself to write something that I don’t feel is worthwhile, I thought I would share a post from when I first started blogging. Hopefully this will make you laugh as much as I did when I experienced this!

Enjoy!

breathe in… “let”… breathe out… “go”…

originally posted November, 2009

Warning: I strayed from the regularly scheduled blogging and went with a more childish topic… I couldn’t resist…

So… I went to my Restorative Yoga class tonight, as I do every Thursday evening. Yet somehow tonight was going to be different.

I went to class and met up with my friend, there was only the two of us tonight. Usually there are three of us. Was this why things were different? As we enter into the yoga room. Very quiet, serene, candles lit… the lights are dimmed and I feel relaxed the moment I enter the room. I love this place. I look forward to it every week. It’s the one place I go to that I know my body will actually cooperate. I love this hour of relief that I get from my fibromyalgia. I go to my spot and put my mat down and apologize for dropping it just a bit too loudly on the ground. I whisper as I talk to my friend. It’s really warm in the room tonight. Is this what is different? No… wait, there are two men in this class. That’s different.

As I start to put my second mat down on the ground, I hear from behind me, the man laying on his mat let one loose… I mean he seriously RIPS ONE. wow. THIS is what is different.

I just keep talking to my friend like nothing happened. I’m going to give that man a one time gas pass. The class has not started yet. We are all warming up and hey… stuff happens! I’m going to let that slide. We all have our slip ups… you know, we’ve all slipped up.

The instructor comes in and we start warming up. For the next 10-15 minutes we stretch and do the normal breathing exercises to prepare for the restorative poses. I am relaxed and focusing on my breathing. The gas man is no longer on the brain.

Instructor: “Let’s get ready for our first pose.”

We all take our mats towards the walls and I get in the first pose. I am so ready to meditate.

Instructor: “I want you to just relax and let all the…….”

Gas Man strikes again… PFFFFFFFFFGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!The Gas We Pass

and again… PFFFFFGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!

and again… PFFGGGGHHHH!!!!!

and again PFFFFFFFFFFGGGGHHHHFFFFFFFFF!!!!!!!

Instructor: “… stress of the week leave your mind… as you breathe in say “LET” and as you breathe out say “GO” …. “L…E….T………………G….O…..””

Seriously. SERIOUSLY??  Did he just say that? I mean I know he says that every week, but couldn’t he have come up with some new material JUST FOR TONIGHT? I was no longer relaxed. I was dying inside. I knew if I even whispered a laugh I was going to lose it. I would not be able to stop laughing. I would have to leave my favorite yoga place and never return. I would die of embarrassment for laughing like a 6-yr old at the gas man.

I couldn’t look at my friend, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t think about what happened. Here I was in my yoga class… NOT relaxing. I started to count… I started to think about funerals, arguments I’ve had, anything that would NOT make me laugh. I had another 45 minutes of class… this was going to be a long class…. this was a challenge. Thank goodness my other friend didn’t come, there is absolutely no way she would have been able to make it through that moment. That would have been  my last yoga class.

Needless to say… I did make it through and the rest of the class was quiet, thank goodness!

Well, it could have been worse. I could have been the one with gas!

Thanks for reading! Stay cool.

Integral Tai Chi is My New Depression/ Fibromyalgia Pain Drug of Choice!

“My body is healthy… My body is healthy… My body is healthy… My body is healthy…” I am chanting this in my head while next to me a lady is not so quietly snoring… interestingly it does not bother me, although there are moments when I want to laugh (but cross my heart…. I don’t). While I chant this over and over in my head, I scan my body for pain and if I find any, I mentally push it out of my body. You are wondering what I am talking about… I get it, I would be wondering too.

This is the relaxation segment of my Integral Tai Chi class. It is the last 30 minutes of the 2-hour class I have been taking… my new favorite depression/ pain drug of choice. As I am laying in the dark on my mat in the “corpse” position and the instructor has directed us to relax every part of our body and told us when we awaken our bodies will be healthy. It becomes my chant while I lie there for the next ten minutes. I feel like this class has changed my life. Sounds pretty crazy, right? Well, take me seriously and find a class and give it a try. Here’s the class description:

Integral Tai Chi is a self-healing system that integrates tai chi, yoga, relaxation and meditation to heal the mind, body and spirit. This comprehensive approach involves a series of 10 body movement postures each designed to increase balance, awareness, endurance, flexibility, flow, concentration, energy and spiritual transformation. Integral Tai Chi can be easily learned and practiced by all ages and body types.

I have been able to do things that have caught me completely by surprise… okay, for example… remember in Karate Kid that crane move that all your friends growing up have done and said “I’m the Karate Kid!!”…. I CAN DO THAT!!! SHUT UP!! I CAN!!! Unbelievable… I can actually balance on one foot!! I almost fainted with surprise the first time I did it… I started to giggle. I really did. No one can even understand the gravity of the situation. balancing on one foot, WHILE lifting my arms UP IN THE AIR like that is just CRAZY!! LOL!! For all you modern folk that do not remember Karate Kid (the original… God forbid…) it’s the Crane pose in Kung Fu Panda!

I can’t explain it, I don’t get it myself, but the stretches that are done… although they definitely are challenging for me, feel soooooo good! I feel really good both mentally and physically when I finish this class. I have felt like a totally different person the last three weeks. My husband tells me he is afraid to break the spell… he wishes I could take this class every day. I think that might be a bit much. :) I mean, what is the message he is sending to me?? LOL!

For me personally, I think I said it in a prior posting, the mental effect that this has had on me is so significant… the healing of the mind and spirit and the pure focus on positivity and exiting frustration, stress, negativity from the body/ mind… this is just what I need. I sleep better on the nights that I go… although this time, my beautiful dog decided to wake me up at 4:00 in the morning to go outside and I decided to write this blog posting instead of going back to bed. I also have been able to relax enough to read an actual book… this is amazing. I haven’t read a book from beginning to end in so long I can’t remember when. I have finished three books in the last two weeks. I usually start a book and then after the first couple pages or chapters, put it down and never pick it up again.

I know a lot of you are in pain. If you are in the bay area (San Francisco to San Jose on both sides of the bay), these classes are FREE, take advantage and give it a try… “listen to you body” and do what you can, but stay for the last 30 minutes. If you are not in the bay area, find a local class and it is very possible that you may have free classes as well. I understand this ITC organization is in Southern California offering free classes (this is a non-profit organization). This particular group is AWESOME! I think you can tell, I am pretty jazzed about this… just a little bit… :) I’ve been in pain a very long time… This is the first time I have found something that is FREE and works and not a drug! nice… it’s a blessing.

http://www.css-sanjose.org/eng/itc.html

  • 30 minutes of warm up
  • 60 minutes of 10 body movements
  • 30 minutes of relaxation and meditation

I could barely walk when I went to the first class… I am walking significantly better… ask my dog! :)

Thanks for reading! Stay cool (literally! It’s been pretty hot out there!)

Hugs….

Tamiko

Fibromyalgia and Creatively Finding Your True YOU…

Topsy Turvy (album)

Image via Wikipedia

Post #500 My Foggy Brain… take 5… annnnnnndddd ACTION!

Yeah right! It’s not really my 500th post, but it is about the 5th time I have tried to write a post for my blog. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, every time I start/stop, start again or even finish… something doesn’t feel right. I’m just not feelin’ it. The vibe is not all good. You get what I’m sayin’… it has to be right, to actually push the “Publish” button! Once the content is out there, I need to feel good about what I’m sharing. I am always honest and give my best when I write and I don’t want to start half assin’ things now…

My world has been topsy-turvy, I always wanted to say that… topsy-turvy… Seriously, my life as a medically disabled on-leave full-time person is very different. It took three weeks just to realize I actually wasn’t working. One week to transition my work away, the second week to recover from the prior week of transitioning and the third week was the last week of the summer before school started, in addition, we had some getting ready to do for a family wedding. Let me just say this past week was the fourth week and I experienced a full-on flare for a few days and then recovery mode. Life definitely does not stop for anything.

I will say this… and this is not easy to say. I have chronic depression and I have had it for a very long time. Shortly after going on this medical leave I fell into a major depression. I have been doing a lot of creative journaling and prayer and listening to my Joyce Meyer podcasts everyday. I can feel myself coming out of it, it’s been almost a month. With the journaling to get clarity about some things about myself and my faith exercises along with my physical exercises and the support of my family it has helped to bring me to a better place.

The reason I shared that with you is to show you that it is possible to go from the crappiest place to a better place … but it definitely takes work. As I sit here and type I realize I actually did do some work to get here. As I smile I CAN say, “I didn’t just sit on my ass for the last 30 days.”. Not that I really did believe I sat on my ass for the last 30 days, but it is so far removed from working 12 hours a day that I didn’t actually realize what I had accomplished until right now.

In “finding” myself (I just laughed when I typed that because a girlfriend and I just discussed this phrase last month and “finding myself” in our discussion meant having an affair to a lot of other people…. so if that’s your definition… let me interject… NOT my definition!!)… okay pay attention, back to what I was saying. In my creative journaling to get to know myself better and find out what I really want out of life I bought a blank journal book and a whole lot of color pencils and asked myself some questions… in case any of you are going through this, I thought I’d share some of them with you, as well as a cool website I am using:

  • I just started with blank pages and wrote out “I Am…” on one page filling in the page with colorful descriptive words that I kept to less than 15 and all positive, on two pages I drew out a big heart and wrote out “I Love…” at the top and listed everything inside the heart… you get where I’m going with this – you can make your own lists to get to clearly define your own YOU.
  • creativity 101: discover, explore+empower your creative genius. This e-course is free and it’s pretty cool so far. Check it out, for all you creative types, there are weekly courses, meditations and you work at your own pace. for a free course, it’s pretty well done. http://www.abccreativity.com/creativity-e-course/
  • My big winner this week was finally, after a year of procrastinating, taking the integral tai-chi class! Why did I wait?? I loved it! It was two hours and it was relaxing, challenging, spiritually uplifting, mentally uplifting, physically I felt better when I left and I’m looking forward to the next class… oh and did I mention it was FREE?? These classes are offered through the local libraries so they are always free. With all the hype about Tai-Chi and Fibromyalgia, now is the time to try it out… you won’t regret it!

To finish my post, I went for a walk tonight with my two beautiful children and my crazy dog. It’s the first time I have done this in a very very long time. In fact, I cannot remember the last time I have gone for a walk like this. I really have to cherish these moments, in a few weeks my son goes off to college and soon I fear I will be “invisible” to my daughter. I can feel it coming… It was really nice to get out of the house and be able to walk for 30 minutes. My crazy, funny dog loved every minute and she kept us all entertained (as usual). I really need to give that Caesar Milan a call… I love my dog, but she has that psycho thing goin’ on whenever she sees another dog on a leash…. off leash she is pretty awesome… well… she has her moments… as long as everyone is off leash she is really awesome… honest, she is. look at her pictures, you know she is! she is totally submissive when she goes psycho… she just has this crazy bark that sounds like she is kujo-dog… all the while wagging her tail and as soon as she gets close to the dog, she rolls over to her back… but how would the other owner KNOW that?? They have to be a true dog lover to know that…. and not everyone is, sooooo anyway… how did I get on this?? oh yeah, I am easily distracted…. anyway… I love my dog and you would too if you met her! :)

Hey, thanks for stopping by and please let me know how you are doing today!

Stay cool

Tamiko

PS. The links and that picture are brought to you by this new fancy function in WordPress that I’m trying out… so I may have gone a little crazy with it… what do you think?

PPS. I am having a difficult time finding a theme that I like… hence the constant changing of the themes… still not loving this one… waiting for one to get published that makes me go WOW!

breathe in… “let”… breathe out… “go”…

Warning: I strayed from the regularly scheduled blogging and went with a more childish topic… I couldn’t resist…

So… I went to my Restorative Yoga class tonight, as I do every Thursday evening. Yet somehow tonight was going to be different.

I went to class and met up with my friend, there was only the two of us tonight. Usually there are three of us. Was this why things were different? As we enter into the yoga room. Very quiet, serene, candles lit… the lights are dimmed and I feel relaxed the moment I enter the room. I love this place. I look forward to it every week. It’s the one place I go to that I know my body will actually cooperate. I love this hour of relief that I get from my fibromyalgia. I go to my spot and put my mat down and apologize for dropping it just a bit too loudly on the ground. I whisper as I talk to my friend. It’s really warm in the room tonight. Is this what is different? No… wait, there are two men in this class. That’s different.

As I start to put my second mat down on the ground, I hear from behind me, the man laying on his mat let one loose… I mean he seriously RIPS ONE. wow. THIS is what is different.

I just keep talking to my friend like nothing happened. I’m going to give that man a one time gas pass. The class has not started yet. We are all warming up and hey… stuff happens! I’m going to let that slide. We all have our slip ups… you know, we’ve all slipped up.

The instructor comes in and we start warming up. For the next 10-15 minutes we stretch and do the normal breathing exercises to prepare for the restorative poses. I am relaxed and focusing on my breathing. The gas man is no longer on the brain.

Instructor: “Let’s get ready for our first pose.”

We all take our mats towards the walls and I get in the first pose. I am so ready to meditate.

Instructor: “I want you to just relax and let all the…….”

Gas Man strikes again… PFFFFFFFFFGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!The Gas We Pass

and again… PFFFFFGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!

and again… PFFGGGGHHHH!!!!!

and again PFFFFFFFFFFGGGGHHHHFFFFFFFFF!!!!!!!

Instructor: “… stress of the week leave your mind… as you breathe in say “LET” and as you breathe out say “GO” …. “L…E….T………………G….O…..””

Seriously. SERIOUSLY??  Did he just say that? I mean I know he says that every week, but couldn’t he have come up with some new material JUST FOR TONIGHT? I was no longer relaxed. I was dying inside. I knew if I even whispered a laugh I was going to lose it. I would not be able to stop laughing. I would have to leave my favorite yoga place and never return. I would die of embarrassment for laughing like a 6-yr old at the gas man.

I couldn’t look at my friend, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t think about what happened. Here I was in my yoga class… NOT relaxing. I started to count… I started to think about funerals, arguments I’ve had, anything that would NOT make me laugh. I had another 45 minutes of class… this was going to be a long class…. this was a challenge. Thank goodness my other friend didn’t come, there is absolutely no way she would have been able to make it through that moment. That would have been  my last yoga class.

Needless to say… I did make it through and the rest of the class was quiet, thank goodness!

Well, it could have been worse. I could have been the one with gas!

Thanks for reading! Stay cool.

Yo-ga! Yo-ga! Yo-ga!

Fibromyalgia is a real downer… there’s no doubt there are a lot of things about this condition that can bring a person down. I experience them on a regular basis, and on most occasions, for me, the worst of it hits on the week-end for some crazy reason.

I can be “Debbie Downer” with the best of them, but I created my Twitter account and this blog to try and bring myself up (and those who I hope read this). I want to share my experience and hopefully give folks ideas on how to improve and live better lives. Selfishly, I hope folks give me ideas back so I can continue to learn. This week I thought I’d talk about my experience with yoga.

After dragging my feet for years, Restorative Yoga is really the getting me out of the house. I have been a hermit for months and finally my girlfriends convinced me to try yoga. Restorative Yoga, or I believe it is also referred to as Yin, is extremely gentle. I haven’t been able to get out of bed for months. This Yoga class has 15 minutes of gentle yoga to warm up… I’ll be honest, I generally only do about 50% of this as I can’t handle all of it, but I either modify or just relax during this part. This warm up part is where you do a lot of stretching exercises. I can’t bend over while standing so you can just forget that stuff!

The restorative part is where I am diggin’ this yoga stuff. Lights out, candles lit, soft relaxing music… all of these poses are done on the floor… EXTREMELY gentle. Each pose is held for 5 minutes. This is very relaxing…

I get two mats for the poses where you are on your knees, otherwise I am in pain. For the second mat, I fold it over twice and put it on top of the first mat so I have triple padding. It’s perfect!

I am a pretty anxious person… the first time I went I wasn’t quite sure about the class…. the second time I was starting to like it… now I love it! I look forward to it!! Honestly, this is ME time. Time to just relax and clear my mind for an hour. I don’t have to think about my pain, work, stress, or what words I need to use to finish my sentence! I can finally shut my foggy brain OFF! Woohoo!!

My girlfriends are the best, they go with me… grab your friends and go. I hope you find it as restorative as I do!

What do you do that takes your mind completely off your pain??