I have been exploring the benefits of meditation for those with chronic illnesses recently. I am curious because Yoga Nidra, a guided meditation, makes a real difference to my day. After a 20 minute session my pain levels can drop to as low as 4/10 and decrease my fatigue levels to a similar place. The effects help me get through the busy evening period with my toddler.
It’s not easy to carve out 20 uninterrupted minutes between work and the toddler. But when I see a gap, I snatch it up.
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Yoga for Fibromyalgia
A theory about Fibromyalgia, is that the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) may be stuck in overdrive. Meditation promotes a calming of this system, allowing the parasympathetic nervous system to activate.
The benefits of meditation are probably due to 20 minutes of:
- Lying down
- Using my heatpack on my neck
- A break from noise
- Time alone
- Complete focus on my body, accepting it as it is
- Not struggling to nap, which I can’t, so using the time calmly and effectively
- The body’s response to complete relaxation, allowing the sympathetic nervous system to slow down
It is a tool for well being that I keep close, it is something that transcends simple pain/fatigue relief and gives me time to focus on myself as a whole – my san culpa (mantra/goal of practice) is, “I am well; physically, spiritually and emotionally.”
Elaine R. Ferguson, in her book on holistic healing agrees: “Practicing this [mindfulness] meditation affects your mind, brain, body and behavior in ways that promote whole-person health.” P83 Super Healing: Engaging our Mind, Body and Spirit to Create Optimal Health and Well-Being.
And it’s vital that we don’t neglect our spiritual and emotional components of self in the quest for relief from physical issues. I feel there’s a close tie between my emotions and my pain/fatigue levels – fear or sadness have an effect on my sympathetic nervous system, which affects the body physically. So I am researching both body and mind effects on Fibromyalgia.
Journaling Your Mindfulness Practice
You never know what is going to come up, so it might be a good idea to keep a journal handy when you are practicing so you can work through the ideas at a later stage. Simply write them down, let them go and return to your practice.
Would you like some ideas for how to journal about your mindfulness practice? Check out this ultimate guide to journaling your mindfulness practice at Relax Like a Boss.
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Meditation and Me
It took me a while to appreciate meditation, years, in fact, for me to consider giving up precious reading time for it.
Suddenly, in 2014, I read a book about mindfulness meditation, found a YouTube video of a Yoga Nidra session that I particularly liked (avoiding the spiritual/religious aspects of it) and then I was away running.
I have meditations, body scans and Yoga Nidra of varying lengths that I switch between as I like. I also use the body scan technique most nights to relax into sleep. The focus on the breath is like second nature to fall into.
Funnily enough, when I am more fatigued, I need the short and sweet practices – to avoid falling asleep and feeling groggy and gross when I wake. When I have slightly more energy (and time), I opt for longer ones. My usual best length is 20 minutes.
20 minutes seems to be a good number for me, I respond well to 20 minutes of yoga or Pilates, 20 minutes of walking and 20 minutes of meditation.
Meditation provides true rest for body and mind and I think that is what I so desperately need in my day.
Free workshop on Mindfulness for the Chronic Life
Would you like to check out my free mindfulness workshop to learn the benefits of practice, how we can get started and a breathing practice we can try immediately? Sign up here!