Yoga & Meditation: Complementary Therapies for Chronic Pain & Inflammation

thepositivepear_meditation_yoga.pngOn November 11, 2016 at 11:11am, so 11-11-16 at 11:11am this blog will be four years old! All I can think is WOW!  In spite of my long hiatus from posting any updates, this blog continues to be a wonderful resources for “Spondys & Spoonies,” I still receive emails and FB messages from people thanking me for information that I’ve shared here, which is so very touching, quite amazing and extremely rewarding.  Anyone who continues to follow the blog, or checks back periodically to read posts, can probably gather that I’m a big advocate for holistic health and I’ve shared on a variety of topics relating to complementary therapies and alternative treatments and one of my absolute favorite posts, were those where I shared information on the wonderful benefits of yoga and meditation for Ankylosing Spondylitis, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I posted in those days as a lover of yoga and an avid practitioner, now I have the wonderful privilege of sharing information from the perspective of not only someone who practices yoga, but also as someone who teaches both yoga & meditation. Since starting this blog, I’ve become a Registered Yoga Teacher & Meditation Teacher. Though I’ve been in the Health, Wellness & Fitness industry for a very long time and have always helped people achieve their health, wellness and fitness goals in one capacity or another, I’m very excited to travel this new path. I’m even more excited to have the opportunity to work with “Spondys & Spoonies” in person as I help them to incorporate yoga & meditation as a means of helping to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. This a huge milestone towards the vision that I had for this project when starting it fours years ago.

I referred to yoga & meditation as complementary therapies, which speaks to the traction that yoga is gaining in the health industry, as providers incorporate “yoga as a therapy” into their practices.  While acupuncture, chiropractic treatment and nutritional counseling are some of the more common “complementary” therapies, yoga is quickly joining the ranks. Especially when considering the fact that Rehab Hospitals and clinics that provide occupational therapy, commonly incorporate Iyengar yoga into their patients health care regimens, as a means of helping them to build strength through proper alignment.  This is because yoga poses are isometric movements, which make it much easier for patients to achieve, in spite of inflamed tissues.  As opposed to the repetitive movements used in traditional physical therapy, that tend to exacerbate inflammation.  Iyengar and true Hatha yoga not only encourages proper alignment, but builds strength from holding the poses a lot longer than you would in a Vinyasa yoga and the use of breath helps patients to endure the temporary discomfort.  Incorporating yoga helps patients to achieve alignment awareness, which makes it easier for them practice the postures at home, thus contributing to a more successful recovery. 

Cancer Centers have been incorporating yoga into their cancer treatment programs for more than 10 years. Studies have shown that yoga helps to reduce anxiety, depression, fatigue and stress for some patients. Combined with meditation, the results have been improvements in sleep quality and a boost in patient mood and overall well-being.

Some medical centers are also incorporating yoga, along with other complementary therapies into their primary care. Doctors are actually referring patients to the on staff clinical yoga specialists, who works with patients to help develop a yoga sequence specifically for their particular ailment. This is exactly what I envisioned two years ago when posting an article on how yoga and alternative therapies were beginning to show up as elective courses at many medical schools across the country. This is so much better than a prescription for yoga that I spoke about in that post, because doctors and yoga therapists are now collaborating in medical centers to develop comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to healing. As someone living with chronic pain, who advocates for holistic health and appreciates the value of yoga as a practitioner and teacher, seeing western medicine incorporating so many aspects of eastern medicine and philosophy makes me very happy.

Always Rely On a Happy Mind Alone

“Always rely on a happy mind alone…. A controlled mind will remain calm and happy no matter what the conditions.”  This quote comes from the book Universal Happiness by Geche Kelsang Gyatso also known as Geshe Chekhawa

Always-rely-on-a-happy-mind-the-positive-pear

A portion of this quote came to me yesterday during a conversation with a sweet friend who not only sufferers from Ankylosing Spondylitis, but who is also a practicing Buddhist. She mentioned  that her Buddhist guru often repeated this quote “Always rely on a happy mind alone”  This quote stuck with me forcing me to investigate it a bit further and upon doing so I discovered the other half of the quote  “A controlled mind will remain calm and happy no matter what the conditions.”  This helped me to put the entire thought into better context. At first glance it can seem somewhat insipid, but I found myself holding on to it and truly working to determine if I’d grasped its full meaning and further, how I could incorporate this thought into my day and perhaps even my life.

These words really appealed to me as someone who practices mediation & yoga, as many Buddhist principles are intertwined. It reminded me of the importance of daily practice, which is one way that we can train our minds to withstand even the most difficult challenges in life, including physical and emotional pain.  Meditation would allow one to focus on the tools needed to work through our pain and yoga would allow us to release and let go of any mental, emotional or physical agony. Being happy doesn’t mean that we ignore our pain or turn our backs on suffering, but rather we embrace it with an open and loving heart. It’s not a denial of what is going on, but an embracing of our pain, sadness or fears and touching it with a loving hand and sending it on its way. This teaches us to better rely on the happiness that is cultivated from a heart of compassion.  This is incredibly powerful, as it teaches me that I have to work at letting go, so that I might better focus on the happiness that I’ve cultivated from compassion. I hope these words have just as much of a profound impact on your day as they did mine.  Be well! Peace, light & love to you.

Exercise Reduces Stress, Anxiety & Depression…Even When You Hate it!

Excerise-Reduces-Stress-Anxiety-Depression-The-Positive-PearA new study performed by the University of Colorado Boulder and published April 2013 in the European Journal of Neuroscience, shows that even when you dislike exercise, or you’re forced to engage in it by a doctor or fitness instructor that you will still reap the amazing benefits. Many past studies have shown that people who engage in regular exercise are protected against stress related disorders, but scientist wanted to know if the same results were present when the perception of control was removed. Why this study was needed I have no idea, but it’s nice to have additional scientific proof as to the benefits of exercise. In the study performed by researches to attain these results, it was noted that the sedentary rats, the rats who sat on the sofa and watched TV or surfed the web all day, froze when faced with stress. The longer they remained embolized by fear, the more residual anxiety they experienced. Those rats who ran on mechanized wheels, on a regular, predetermined schedule for a period of 6 weeks, never experienced the “deer in headlights” syndrome and managed their exposure to stress much better. What does the study prove? Well, if you are a healthy person who is exposed to high amounts of stress in your daily life, or you are prone to anxiety and depression as with those who battle Fibromyaglia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Ankylosing Spondylitis and many other invisible chronic illnesses, you will find that you are better equipped to manage daily stress and symptoms such as anxiety and depression with regular & consistent forms of exercise. So Let’s Get Moving & keep it moving for a minimum of 6 weeks!!

Examples of exercises that are beneficial for various conditions

A Little Exercise Motivation

EXERCISE MOTIVATION:

Exercise offers amazing healing benefits. A good workout improves our mental attitude, strengthens our cardiovascular systems, reduces stress, improves our overall quality of life and helps to slow down the effects of aging. Sometimes the last thing we want to do when we’re in pain pain, tired or overwhelmed is to MOVE, but we have to keep going! On non-flare, non-pain days be sure to MOVE & keep moving!!!

More on Exercise & the types of exercise that work well for Spondys & Spoonies

The Human Spirit Needs Nature Which Heals Our Mind & Body

“The Human Spirit Needs Places Where Nature Has not Been Rearranged By the Hand of Man” ~Unknown~

Yay, warm weather is here, as we’re quickly approach the official first day of Summer. Like many of you, I long for this time of year when I can spend time outdoors and I also look forward to taking advantage of the many opportunities to reconnect with nature.  This longing for fun in the sun and fresh air is not only rejuvenating both physically and mentally, the great outdoors also offers us incredible healing benefits. Scientists have discovered that by spending time outside we increase our exposure to phytoncides which naturally reduce stress.  People who take walks in the park where they encounter many plants and trees, versus walks in the city where they are surrounded by buildings and cement sidewalks, had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as a lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure readings.  In several other studies, specifically one that took place in April 2007, showed an increase in white blood cells within a group of 12 healthy men ranging in ages 37-55 , who took two-hour walks in a forest over a two-day period.  In January 2008, a group of women who also participated in a very similar experiment entitled “forest bathing” had an increase in white blood cells and a reduction in anti-cancer proteins, which lasted up to one week due to their exposure of phytoncides which are found in forest air.

The beach is another place to go for wonderful healing benefits. Salt water is high in minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium and bromide which not only accelerates the healing of cuts, it also helps to fight infections, reduces inflammation of joints and relieves muscle pain and soreness. Salt water also stimulates blood circulation, increases moisture retention, detoxifies and promotes cellular regeneration.  As a result it offers beautifying and anti-aging benefits, for both the inner and outer body.  Regular beach time & salt water swimming also offers healing benefits for skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis and acne.  In summary, spending quality time in nature, offers us incredible physical and psychological benefits, such as recovery from stress,  increased relaxation, decreased mental fatigue, better performance, restored mental clarity, increased immune function for improved heath, healing and an increased overall sense of well-being.

Best Places to Enjoy Nature

1) Beach

2) Mountains

3) Local Parks

4) National Parks

5) Landscapes

6) Camp Sites

A Few Outdoor Nature Activities for Summer:

1) Walking

2) Biking

3) Hiking

4) Rollerblading

3) Boating

4) Kayaking

5) Canoeing

 6) Paddle Boarding

7) Swimming

8) Camping

9)  Outdoor Meditation & Relaxation

10) Outdoor Yoga & Fitness Classes

Want to feel better mentally, physically and emotionally? Increase the amount of time that you spend outdoors surrounded by nature!

Natural Stress Management Techniques via The Positive Pear