Guest Blogger: Trevor McDonald / https://trevormcdonald.me/
If you go to the doctor for pain, he’s likely to prescribe something. That’s just how our system works. Modern medicine may try to find and fix the root of the issue, but that’s always the case. Either way, prescription painkillers are likely to make an appearance in your treatment protocol.
And anyone who has television can turn on the nightly news for examples of why prescription painkillers are dangerous. Painkiller addiction is common, and it's a problem that's plaguing our nation.
If you’re sure you don’t want to follow that path, you’ll be happy to know that there are other options. We tend to think of pain as something that’s localized. If you break your leg, your leg is the problem, right?
Somewhat surprisingly, the answer isn’t that simple. Your leg is the root of the problem, for sure, but there are other things involved.
Your perception of pain has nothing to do with your leg.
Even opioid painkillers don’t work on the source of pain. They work by blocking pain signals in the brain. Short-term pain relief must focus on the brain while long-term relief typically must focus on the pain source.
Here’s how to adopt a holistic approach to pain management.
Learn how to meditate
Do you know how some lucky people just seem to have a higher tolerance to pain? We usually chalk it up to genetics and nothing more. And while genetics may play a role, there’s most definitely more.
A Frontiers in Human Neuroscience study suggests that mindfulness training, including meditation, can change a person’s subjective experience of pain.
When it comes to pain management, perception is everything. You cannot stop a bee from stinging you, but you apparently can alter the way you perceive the pain. Of course, we’re not talking about turning pain into pleasure like water to wine, but meditation may help alleviate the literal and figurative sting.
Researchers found that participants in the pain study showed significantly less pain after meditation, but they also showed an increase in brain activity in the area responsible for self-awareness and perception.
Find natural remedies to alleviate pain
Through meditation, you may be able to tolerate pain better, but it may not be enough when you're battling an extreme case. If you find yourself in a situation like this, experiment with various natural remedies to alleviate pain.
If you’re in a state where medical marijuana is legal, this may be an option. Research has shown that marijuana may be effective at treating some types of pain. Other natural remedies include turmeric, devil’s claw, capsicum, comfrey oil and glucosamine (specifically for joint pain).
Treat the source of your pain
Perception and mediation are great stop-gap solutions to help live your life while experiencing pain, but they will do nothing to help alleviate your pain in the long run. To accomplish lasting pain relief, you must find and address the root cause of the problem. This will be different for different people, but your doctor should be able to help you determine and address pain at the source.
With a holistic approach to pain management, you can get back to a state of good health without having to rely on dangerous prescription medications.
Yoga + Focused Concentration = Less Stress
Stress from work, school, and family can build throughout the day until, when it’s finally time to get some much needed rest, you have trouble closing your eyes. You need a full night’s sleep, that’s a solid seven to eight hours every night, to rejuvenate, energize, and refresh the body for a new day. Yoga and focused concentration both offer ways to help clear your mind, slow your heart rate, and prepare your mind and body for better sleep.
Yoga, especially those forms that use directed breathing, reduce the inflammation brought on by stress. Focusing your mind and body before bed has measurable benefits by reducing the activity of proteins that cause stress-related inflammation. Yoga Asana also helps relieve tension and tightness in muscles.
Focused concentration that centers on mindfulness is another way to help center your mind, putting stressful events and thoughts in the background for better sleep. Mindfulness concentration encourages practitioners to focus on the moment so that thoughts and emotions center in the present rather than dwelling on the past or speculating about the future. This type of concentration helps relieve symptoms of depression, chronic pain, and conditions like high blood pressure.
Yoga for Better Sleep
Yogic and concentration techniques can be performed before getting into bed or after you’ve laid down. When doing poses in bed, your mattress type may prevent you from getting a stretch with the same intensity you are used to on the floor, but that doesn’t reduce the relaxing benefits.
Standing Forward Bend
Stand with the feet hip-width apart, folding from your hips toward the ground. Reach your arms to the ground. You can grab your elbows with your hands and let your arms gently dangle for a better stretch. Slightly bend your knees to relieve any strain. Breathe deeply using your diaphragm.
Seated Spinal Twist
Start by sitting on a mat or your bed with both legs out straight in front of you. Bend your left knee, bringing your left foot over your right leg. Gently hold your left leg with your right hand, and twist your torso so you’re looking over your left shoulder. You can keep your right leg straight or bend it toward your left hip. Take up to eight deep breaths, release, and repeat on the other side.
On your knees, sit with your knees wider than your hips and bring your big toes together. Lengthen your torso between your legs. Extend your arms out in front or rest them beside your legs. Let your forehead drop toward the ground or your bed. Take up to eight long, deep breaths before releasing.
Focused Concentration works well once you’re lying in bed. Start by focusing on your breath. Breathe deeply using your diaphragm and listen to the sound of the air entering and leaving your lungs. Focus your mind on the calming sound of your breath. If it helps, focus on a calming word with each inhale and exhale. As you continue breathing, keep your mind focused by pulling it back to your breathing when it begins to wander. Continue until you feel calm, quiet, and relaxed. You may even drift off to sleep.
Special thanks to TUCK for their contribution of this blog and active work in the study of Mindfullness, Sleep and accessing Dhyana (Meditation).
Tuck Sleep Foundation is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NPR, Lifehacker, Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.
You are out of Balance
You night not notice it, but you have become so comfortable with how things are that you just accept that this is how you are supposed to feel. When was the last time you checked in with yourself? When was the last time you tried something new? When was the last time you felt uncomfortable? When was the last time you allowed yourself 15 minutes of time to allow your thoughts to run wild? When was the last time you allowed yourself 15 minutes to quiet those thoughts?
How well do you know your Self?
In the movie Anger Management, the main character is asked to explain who he is. Can you do this? Without describing yourself as what you do, who you know, where you live, what you enjoy? Can you describe your Self?
Try this: write down that which you do, where you live, what you enjoy, who you know, who you are in relation to others, etc. Now, describe what you look like, what you love and what you dislike about yourself.
Now, read what you have written. Is this you?
You are not your self.
Through the practice of yoga asana we develop an understanding of our habits. We learn that we have, over time, developed practices that protect us, that compensate, that hide the imabalances.
When we direct our breath, we identify the limitations we place upon ourselves and the ways in which we cheat ourselves from accepting who we are and what we need.
When we sit or rest in silence we learn to listen to the chattering within us. We begin to hear our body and breath. We notice the useless thoughts buzzing around in our heads.
Movement, breath and silence help us to identify all of the imbalances to which we are blind; it sheds light upon that which we have allowed to hide in the darkness.
You are your Self
We are not here to direct you through a workout or fix your ailments. We are here to help you to identify your imbalances. We are here to guide you through asana sequences that address physical and energetic change. We are here to guide you through breathing practices that shift your awareness and spark emotion. We are here to encourage you to be silent so that you can hear the chatter of your mind.
It's time to show up. To be here. It's time to seek synchronicity.
Yoga's sister science, Auyrveda, brings balance to our body, breath and mindful practices. By evaluating our lifestyle, eating, sleeping and working habits, we begin to paint a picture of who we are. We begin to see the difference between the self and the Self! We become whole only by breaking apart the pieces of our own individual puzzling selves. Each of us is like a puzzle that appears to be put together, but when you look closely, you see that there are pieces added or misplaced. As we practice, as we shed light upon the darkness, we begin to identify the pieces that need to be removed or replaced.
Book a Synchronicity Session today.
Identify imbalances. Learn how to return to your true nature. Return to synchronicity through specified practices.
We all know that the only way to truly prepare for Winter sports is to get out there and do them. Whether you are heading to Heavenly or Kirkwood, Squaw or Sierra at Tahoe, yoga asana and breath work as well as mindful practices can help you to feel strong, safe and aware while out on the snow. Try out these simple practices in order to prepare for this year's season. You won't regret it.
There are many yoga asana (poses) that can help you to strengthen as well as recover from your day out on the slopes. An experienced and knowledgeable instructor will be able to guide you through theses poses and teach you how to use them in a way that helps you prepare for your day out, then release afterward.
Yudrasana (Lunge) - raising and lowering between high and low lunges.
Deviasana (Goddess) - holding, and also shifting your upper body from side-to-side.
Virabhadrasana Dvi (Warrior Two) - holding, as well as rotating.
Parsvottanasana - intense side stretch.
Supta Virasana - reclined hero
Svastikasana - auspicious pose/reclined twist variation
Join any of our practices or book a private session to focus on your specific needs. Ask us to demonstrate and explain the poses above.
Have a practice that you enjoy doing before and/or after your day on the slopes?
Share the postures or practices that you have found make a difference during your Winter days.
In order to move beyond Manomayakosha, we must practice the eight limbs of Yoga. The final four: withdrawing inward, concentration, meditation and divine consciousness are the paths which move us beyond our mind body.
Pratyahara is the practice of moving inward. Our skills of asana and pranayama lead us toward a more quiet body and mind thus preparing us to release from the bondage of the physical.
Dharana is that one-pointed concentration developed through consistent practice and dedication. When we release the physical, we are better able to look within in our own Self and focus.
Dhyana is meditation; the practice of being in stillness on every level. Meditation can occur while seated or moving. The key aspect of this practice is that you are one-pointed and still within.
Samadhi is the ultimate state we work to reach. It is similar to dhyana with the exception that you are not effected by emotions, attachments, etc. You are still and peaceful on all levels and move through life in this way at all times.
Take a Vacation for an Hour
Th practice of Yoga is designed to increase inner awareness and decrease your concern over all that is gong on around you. The challenge if the movements and direction of inhales and exhales is intentially expressed in order to draw your focus. Everything from the lighting of the room, music chosen to the scents used during the practice are intended to shift your perspective.
Take advantage of these conscious efforts by joining class at a Yoga studio. A well trained instructor should be able to guide you away from your day and into an hour long vacation.
Quiet Your Mind with Sound
How many times have you found yourself listening to something and being distracted by another sound?
I think back to my grade school years and how, although I was interested in what was being taught, I was so easily distracted by the sound of a tapping pencil, creaking chair or bird singing outside. As we know, our minds are constantly drawn into many directions. We are being hit with millions if not billions of pieces of information at any minute and focusing on just one can seem like an impossibility.
Find Quiet In Everything You Do
Consider the last time you were in silence. What did you hear? One would hope the answer is "nothing," but it's most likely that you heard something. Perhaps a buzzing or high pitched ringing or maybe, just maybe your own internal "Aum."
Using sounds as part of our practice to find one-pointedness and concentration can be very helpful. Sounds can help us to become centered and to draw us inward. Of course, they can do the opposite, as well. The sound of screeching tires or an alarm can certainly draw you outside of yourself. In opposition, the sound of your own voice in a hum can draw you inward. A deep bass can connect you to your belly and your favorite song can rush in memories of old.
Focus on finding stillness in your asana practice, use the sounds around you to help you turn inward. Even the pounding of the dancer's feet on the floor offers the opportunity of practice to bring our attention inward. As your physical practice becomes more still, so shall your mind, breath and spirit.