Meditation is the practice of being present in the moment that is taking place right now. It is now popular thanks to a growing interest in alternative medicine and preventative care practices such as yoga. While it may conjure up images of monks seated on mountaintops, it is far more commonplace than that. There are numerous schools of thought around meditation. From seated and walking meditation to simple mindfulness meditation. Despite the differences in these schools of thought, the premise is the same for all of them: be present.
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In Psychosomatic Back Pain: Is it All in Your Head? we examined how much our brains influence how our body perceives pain. We know that the brain can defer psychological stress to the body. So instead of dealing with emotions or trauma, the brain triggers pain in the physical body. Psychosomatic back pain is very real and can have a detrimental effect on your health over time. Which is why meditation is such a useful practice when it comes to dealing with back pain.
WHAT TYPE OF MEDITATION SHOULD I TRY?
What is important with meditation is that it gives you the tools to effectively manage stress. If you are someone who can sit for periods of time, then a form of seated meditation will be worth a try. However, if you struggle to sit still, try walking meditation or another more dynamic practice. Some yoga studios incorporate meditation into their classes so yoga is another movement-based option. While it might feel a bit funny the first few times, it should be a relatively easy thing to grasp. Many people struggle in the beginning simply focusing on one activity is a challenge. The modern Western lifestyle is full of distractions; our brains have been rewired to think that multitasking is normal. Trying to do too many things at once causes stress levels to rise in the body. This, in turn, can trigger psychosomatic or chronic back pain.
Check out groups or classes in your community that will provide you with the tools you need to start your mindfulness practice. There is often a discussion afterward where you can ask the teacher questions about your experience. If meditation is still a big mystery to you, this might be a good place to start. If you want to try meditating on your own but still need guidance, there are numerous online options available. Headspace is a great subscription-based app with a user-friendly interface and countless ‘packs’ to choose from. Subscribers start out doing 10 minutes of guided meditation for 10 days. After the foundation pack is completed, users can then choose from a plethora of other pack options. Packs are a group of sessions that focus on everything from performance to health to pregnancy.
A SIMPLE BEGINNERS MEDITATION
Want to try meditating on your own? With a bit of discipline and a timer, you can start your meditation practice right now. If you are brand new to meditation, start by setting your timer for five to ten minutes. As you become more comfortable with meditating, you can extend your time limit.
- Begin seated or standing; you want to be comfortable and relatively still.
- Focus on your breath and start to slow it down and deepen it. Count the length of each breath to help keep you present in the activity. For example, inhale for a count of four and exhale for a count of four.
- Once you can maintain a deep, slow rhythm of breath, scan through your body starting at your feet. Notice how the body feels. You are just observing as you work your way up your body. Check in with your back and see if this calmer state helps to relieve the pain you are experiencing.
- When your mind wanders, acknowledge it and return your focus to your breath.
- Breathe and continue to scan up and down through your body until your timer sounds.
MEDITATION AS A QUICK FIX
“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day—unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” – Zen proverb
Starting is always the most challenging part of a meditation practice. Once you become more familiar with the act of slowing down your breath, body and mind, it becomes easier to access throughout your day. Over time you will find that you are able to tap into a sense of calm wherever you are. Before a presentation, in line at the grocery store, while stuck in traffic, in the middle of an argument with your spouse. Meditation becomes as instant calm quick-fix. You should also notice an improvement in your back pain. When the mind is calm, the body is calm and thus more able to heal and avoid stress induced flare-ups. So start small and start now. Your body, mind and back with thank you.