Meditation and Pain Management: Five Yoga Exercises

Our brain circuit is a very complex subject involving a great deal of biological, cognitive and social functioning. Brain produces different chemicals that causes the feelings of pleasure and pain. When certain part of the brain is “turned on” or “turned off” , we fell pleasure or pain.  We feel pleasure when we we enjoy something like eating good food or being in love.  Our brain has its own reward system. When we do certain things, the brain rewards us by making us feel good. Reward is a great way to encourage us to do something repetitively. Similarly, there is a pain circuit in the brain. When certain things happen in our body or mind, the brain punishes us by developing bad feelings, so that we should not repeat that next time. Yoga and meditation helps people consciously control the perception of pain and pleasure.  The new understanding and perceptions relieves pain.  During pain the blood vessels serve as a radiator to cool the brain, overheating can cause neuron death.

Five Yoga Exercises Pain Management:

#1: Observe your normal breathing patterns

Try to observe your normal breathing patterns.  Do not try to control, remove or diminish your negative sensations or the private events of your life.  Try to accept the unpleasant sensations or thoughts while still persisting with your chosen tasks.

#2: Breathing Exercises:

You can breathe into the area around the pain sensation or around the belly. Yoga literature proposed several breathing techniques to overcome pain. The easiest one is;  place one hand on the chest and another on the belly.  Take a slow and deep breath, take as much air as possible. You can press the belly a little bit, with one hand. After holding the breath for a few seconds, exhale slowly.

#3: Present Moment Awareness

Present moment awareness is the most efficient and the most ancient meditation technique for pain management. Yoga literature is flooded with present moment awareness meditation techniques for pain management.  You can just bring your awareness to the activities you are doing.  Khechari mudra is a great way for pain management.  If  the khechari mudra is perfect, one can withdraw the mind from the body.

#4: Yoga Nidra for Pain Management

Yoga nidra is a very ancient meditation technique for pain management. In modern literature there are various forms of muscle relaxation techniques. This technique involves slowly tensing, briefly holding, and then releasing each muscle group in a systematic fashion. It starts  with the muscles in the toes and moving upward. During this exercise, the person should notice the differences between tension and relaxation.

#5: Meditation and Visualization for Pain management

Visualization involves imagining a scene in which you feel at peace, free to let go of all tension and anxiety. You may meditate with eyes open or closed.  Select a simple geometrical shape or symbols, with  some specific color. Think of something which may be symbolically meaningful for you in some way.  For example, you can select some green circles. You can chant any mantra of your choice during visualization meditation.

Meditation and prayers are the great ways to overcome pain. Acceptance is very important in pain management. Mentally, you may say, “It is unpleasant but I can accept it”. Pain is always unpleasant but mediation changes the nature of pain before it is perceived.

Sources:

1. “Meditation: Insights and Inspirations”  By Amit Ray

2. “Handbook of Pain Management: A Clinical Companion to Textbook of Pain”  By Ronald Melzack

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Yoga Nidra and Kriya Yoga Meditation

The term ‘Yoga Nidra’ is mentioned several times in Puranas in different context. Markandeya Purana, Vishnu Purana, Devi Bhagvat and other scriptures highlight the importance of Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is very well defined by Adya Sankaracharya in his text Yoga Tadavali. Yoga Nidra means Aware Yogic Sleep. It is a state of conscious Deep Sleep. In Yoga Nidra, you leave the Waking state, go beyond the Dreaming state, and go to Deep Sleep, yet remain awake. Yoga Nidra is a tool for attenuating, and eliminating habit patterns or samskaras, which are not useful. It prepares the mind for spiritual evolution.

Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra Kriya Yoga Meditation Technique is not in the traditional Kriya yoga as popularized by  Babaji and Paramhansa Yogandana. It is much different from traditional Kriya yoga. The word “Kriya” means “action or movement.’  These meditations that Yogananda’s Babaji did were mind movement exercises.

There are two kinds of meditations, “Passive and Active.” Most teach “passive” meditations. In true Kriya Yoga and Siddha Yoga and Daoism/Taoism one learns “active meditations”. The reason for this is that, “active meditations” create alot of Chi (qi) energy. It is this activating your body and mind and spirit with Chi (qi) that results in one becoming physically energetic and one having what are called the Siddha abilities. (Nirodhanada)

Eight Steps of Traditional Yoga Nidra:

1. Groundwork:

Yoga nidra should be done in a quiet place where no interruptions can take place. A meditation room is ideal. The practitioner lies down on the floor or a firm bed. The surface should be comfortable but not soft so that sleep comes easily.

Lie flat on your back (Savasana) with the body stretched out, the head in straight line with the body, feet apart, arms besides the body and palms of the hands facing up. Be relaxed and comfortable. Now close your eyes. There should be no movement during yoga nidra. Remember you should not sleep, but remain awake all through the session.

So say to yourself: “I will not sleep; I will remain awake.”

Please follow the voice with full awareness and feeling. If your mind is distracted during the practice, do not worry. Just continue the practice.

2. Physical and Mental Relaxation

Take a deep breath and as you breathe in, feel the coolness and calmness spreading throughout the body. As you breathe out, feel your cares and worries flowing out of you. Become aware of the body and relax completely. Relax your body mentally.

Now be aware of the sounds in the room. Allow your hearing to follow the sounds for a few seconds, going from sound to sound, without trying to identify them. Develop awareness of the room itself… the four walls, the ceiling and the floor, and your body lying on the floor or bed. Visualize your body lying down. Feel your body lying on the floor, feel the sensations of your whole body lying down, your whole body lying on the floor.

Say to yourself mentally, “I am going to practice yoga nidra. I will remain awake all through the session.”

3. Resolve

Now it is the time to make Sankalpa (resolve). State your affirmation mentally three times with feeling and awareness.

4. Rotation of Consciousness

During these steps, focus your mind on the parts of your body and not on your breath. Relax each part of the body in turn.

During this exercise it is helpful to see your body as an object and your mind as an instrument of your inner spirit directing the flow of prana into your body. As you go through the step of relaxing a specific part of your body, imagine that the prana, the essence of life, is flowing through this part relaxing and revitalizing the whole part, as you inhale and exhale freely.

We will now rotate our consciousness through different parts of the body. Repeat the part in your mind at the same time become aware of that part of the body. Do not concentrate, but remain alert. Become aware of the right hand.

Right side

Right hand thumb, second finger, third finger, fourth finger, fifth finger, palm of the hand, back of the hand, lower right arm, upper arm, the shoulder, the armpit, the right side of the torso, the right upper leg, the lower leg, the ankle, the right foot, the right toes.

Left side

Left hand thumb, second finger, third finger, fourth finger, fifth finger, palm of the hand, back of the hand, lower left arm, upper arm, the shoulder, the armpit, the left side of the torso, the left upper leg, the lower leg, the ankle, the left foot, the left toes.

Back

Become aware of the right shoulderblade, the left shoulderblade, the right buttock, the left buttock, the spine, the whole back.

Front

Now go the top of the head. Become aware of the top of the head, the forehead, the right eyebrow, the left eyebrow, the space between the eyebrows, the right eye, the left eye, the right ear, the left ear, the nose, the lips, the throat, the right chest, the left chest, the middle of the chest, the navel, the lower belly.

Major Parts

The right leg, the left leg; both legs together. The right arm, the left arm, both arms together. The back of the body, the front of the body, the head, whole body, the whole body, the whole body (repeat one more time).

Are you awake? Repeat to yourself: “I am awake.” Total awareness. Awareness of the whole body. The whole body lying down. See your body lying down. Visualize your body lying down.

Breathing

Become aware of your breath. Feel the natural rhythm of your breath, feel your natural, spontaneous breath. Do not force the breath; just awareness

5. Awareness of Sensations

Now awaken the feeling of lightness—as if the body is made of cotton.

Your body seems to be floating away from the floor.

Next, Feel the body getting heavy – so heavy, it’s sinking into the floor. Feel the head heavy, the arms, the torso… heavy. Feel the legs heavy and the feet heavy. The whole body is heavy… feel the whole body heavy…sinking into the floor… heavy… heaviness… the whole body is heavy.

Awaken the sensation of heat, the experience of heat.

The whole body is hot.

Now experience bitter cold in the body.

Now feel your body becoming alert… you are so alert. Feel yourself become alert… you are awake…you are awake…you are awake.

6. Visualization

Yoga nidra is also augmented by incorporating visualization and mediation

There are many different techniques you can use.

This is the final stage of yoga nidra relates to mental relaxation. Generally such images and symbols are chosen for the visualization that has universal significance. To quote a few: the mountain, river, ocean, temple, church, cross, saint, flower etc.

Use your feeling, awareness, emotion and imagination to develop images in your mind.

Vividly visualize yourself in your favorite place

Be relaxed.

Be relaxed.

Be relaxed.

Stay in that situation for few minuses. You mentally get more more and more relaxed.

Now move to next step.

7. Resolve

Once again the resolve or sankalpa is intently thought of or even visualized repeat your affirmation mentally 3 times with feeling and emphasis.

Thus, consciously one tries to direct the unconscious mind about the goal in life. This time the unconscious is very susceptible and therefore may accept the suggestion from the conscious mind with more intensity.

8. Return to Full Awareness

Now start taking normal natural breath, spontaneous breath. Now bring your awareness to your body lying stretched out and relaxed on the floor. Be aware of your physical existence. Become aware of the environment, room… the floor, the walls, the ceiling, and the noises in the room. Let your mind become completely external. Don’t make hurry to  open your eyes. Lie quietly until your mind is completely awake and externalized. Start moving yourself slowly, stretching yourself. When you are sure you are awaken, open your eyes.

Yoga Nidra and Kriya Yoga Meditation:

Steps of Kriya yoga Yoga Nidra is many way different from traditional yoga nidra.  I know, after doing 15 rounds of nada sanchalana, 50 rounds of pawan sanchalana, 60 rounds of shabda sanchalana and 60 rounds of chakra bhedan you will get tired.

These are not Kriya Yoga. These are to keep the mind busy. True kriya yoga is beyond these activities.

According to my yoga master Sri Amit Ray ji of Himalaya, Uttarkashi, “When Yoga nidra and Kriya yoga goes hand in hand you are in the hand of eternal bliss. Kriya yoga without yoga nidra is not effective. If you really want to transform your Samskars (habit patterns) and burn your bad karmas, you must practice Yoga Nidra and Kriya Yoga together in a systematic manner.”