The yogic tools of breathwork and meditation can help ease the burden of chronic pain.
By Timothy McCall, M.D.
This is Part 2 of a three-part series offering yogic tools for chronic pain. Explore the use of asana practice for pain relief in Yoga for Chronic Pain: Part 1 and learn how chanting and breathing practices can help lessen pain in Yoga for Chronic Pain: Part 3.
In Part 1, we discussed how stress reduction and greater postural awareness—especially as aided by asana practice—can be part of the yogic approach to managing and alleviating chronic pain. In Part 2, we'll discuss the role of breathwork and meditation in pain management.
Breathing for Relaxation
Pranayama can be a powerful way to quickly relax the nervous system, shifting the balance from the fight-or-flight sympathetic side to the more restorative parasympathetic division. Such practices as simply slowing the breath, lengthening the exhalation relative to the inhalation, and pausing briefly after the exhalation, all tend to shift the balance of the nervous system to the parasympathetic side. Better still, these simple pranayama techniques can be done almost anywhere, without others even necessarily being aware of what you are doing—and the relaxing effects begin almost immediately.
Students can do these breathing exercises sitting up on the floor if their alignment is reasonably good and they're comfortable. If not, don't hesitate to use props liberally, or encourage them to use a chair. If they're uncomfortable for any reason, it will interfere with relaxation and defeat the purpose of the exercises. It's also quite useful to do pranayama lying down in a supported position on the floor. Try placing narrowly folded blankets (or a specially designed pranayama bolster) lengthwise along the spine, and support the head and neck as necessary to keep the chin lower than the forehead. An eye bag can facilitate pratyahara, the turning of the senses inward, deepening the relaxation.
Meditation may be the most powerful yogic tool of all for managing chronic pain. And breathwork—particularly alternate-nostril breathing, or Nadi Shodhana—is a wonderful way to prepare students to meditate. Encourage students who feel like they "can't" meditate due to their busy minds to try a minute or two of Nadi Shodhana before they attempt to meditate. Doing so may allow them to slip into the practice more easily than would otherwise be possible. While both alternate-nostril breathing and meditation can be done while supine, yogis believe that it's generally preferable to do them in a seated position.
The practice of meditation can also become a powerful method of self-study, or svadhyaya. When you sit down to meditate, you observe the recurrent thoughts that crop up, and you begin to see how these thoughts—the story you tell yourself about your life—can have a profound effect on your experience.
Yoga differentiates pain and suffering. Pain can't be avoided entirely, but how much it affects you—how much you suffer, in other words—is largely a matter of the mind. Crucial to the yogic approach to pain is the ability to differentiate your pain itself from your thoughts about it and your emotional reactions to it. Often people with chronic pain fuel the fires of their suffering with negative thinking: This is never going to get better. I'm not going to be able to work. I won't be able to pay my rent. Such recurring thoughts are distressing and tend to activate the sympathetic nervous system, making matters worse.
Long-term mediation appears to change the wiring of the brain in a beneficial way. Meditation seems to increase the activation of the left prefrontal cortex, a finding that has been associated with greater levels of happiness and equanimity. There is also evidence that meditation can reduce the transmission of pain signals from the thalamus, a major relay center in the brain, to the higher brain centers, where pain signals are interpreted.
I found the second part to be excellent. One can do paranayam while sitting, reclining, lying down and even while walking. One can do it while waithing red traffic light to change to green. Even in a couch it can be done...... we may call it couch pranayam.One can do it to while away one's time while waiting for a bus.Apart from pain, it will help you to solve any of your problem.When you do pranayam, you are well balance and your mind works most efficiently to solve your difficult problems Try for a month and see how much it helps.After reading the third part, i will post the third one. These three-part articles give you overall idea of yoga and how it can help you.Once you begin, you will find further benefits.Wish you all best of luck. .
i agree dalubaba---this second part is excellent. I can not tell all of you---hello group where are you?---how much doing even a little of this practice can benefit all aspects of your life. The breath-work and meditation are the most important tools you can use to help with Pain.
Dalubaba--- this can change the lives of all who read it---thank you! I am very pleased that we are osho gurubai. We have weathered our storm and it is all clear sailing now to the harbor!
i would add that i would be very happy to answer any questions about how and what to do concerning techniques you might like to try. I am sure dalubaba will do the same if you guys want to change your lives in positive ways!~!! And if you don't-----ask yourself why?----it is free and easy to start and the benefits are immediate---so-----what's stopping you----i really want to know.
As you know shiva was the greatest mediator of the world. No one else can reach his height. His Bhairav Tantra discusses 108 types of meditations. Osho has beautifully narrated these methods. Any one who reads these articles will definitely do yoga and harvest the benefits of panayam an meditation.
i have osho's book of the 108 meditations and it is the very best of the best books about Life! Not just yoga---but your Life----your Light! I have given it to my daughters and recommend it to all----
Dalubaba! We are all Shiva! We are all capable of the same height-----not a matter of learning------a matter of remembering. Of realizing. The Self. This is why Yogananda calls his group Self-Realization Fellowship. Not Self-Learning. What we learn is to Be rather than to Do. We do not do and then be we be and then do. Yes!. We do be do be do be do! It's what we are.
will wonders never cease dalubaba! is it just another coincidence? What are the odds that i would know the person you post and then he shows up again at the farm certifying people in yoga medicine. I wonder.
Timothy is going to be at the yoga farm----grass valley-----teaching "yoga as medicine" on june 9--june 14th i think. You can see his bio and a picture just go to the calendar at" sivananda yoga farm grass valley"---google should get you there if you guys are curious. Look around the site---it's pretty cool.
So yes----can't wait to see what happens next big post?
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