Christmas can a challenging time for almost one in five people (18 per cent ) living with chronic pain, and for the many more living with ill health and disability, as the stresses of the season can exacerbate conditions and take an extra toll on minds and bodies.
‘I have lived with chronic pain for over 30 years and although I love the festive season, I find the stress and demands of Christmas aggravate my conditions,’ says, Vidyamala Burch, 54, Director and Founder of mindfulness organisation, Breathworks, and world-leading expert on mindfulness and health.
Vidyamala had two serious spinal injuries when she was a young woman, resulting in a degenerative back condition, partial paraplegia and constant, chronic pain. ‘Although Christmas can be the most wonderful time of the year, it can also be a time of great tension, when we stretch ourselves both physically and mentally, under the strain of ensuring that ourselves and our loved ones have a wonderful time.’
‘Stress and tension have huge impacts on our physical and mental health. If you already live with an underlying health condition, such as chronic pain, long-term illness or disability, the extra stress of Christmas can be an extra burden too many, not only playing havoc with our immune system[ii] – the impact of cortisol on our immune system being well documented in making us more likely to pick up viruses and infections – as well as triggering our need to over-indulge in food and drink.’
But there is help, Vidyamala, continues: “I use mindfulness to find a moment of calm at Christmas, a short meditation can be enough to give yourself breathing space and take the pressure off.’:
Vidyamala’s Tension Release Meditation
The aim of this meditation is to move awareness around the body, paying special attention to areas of tension and discomfort, and then to gently breathe ‘into’ them.
If sitting, choose a straight-backed chair and adopt an erect but relaxed posture. If lying, allow your legs to gently fall away from each other, arms at your sides.
Close your eyes. Allow your shoulders, neck, back and face to soften. Feel the points of contact between your body and the floor or chair.
Gather your awareness around the sensations of breathing. Can you feel it in the chest, the stomach, the back? Feel the whole body expand and contract as you breathe.
Guide your awareness to the first area of tension. Allow the breath to soothe and massage it for a few minutes. Saturate your breath with kindness. If it feels too intense, broaden your awareness to include the whole body.
Focus your awareness on the next area of tension. Follow your breath into it for a few minutes then focus on the next area…then focus on the next and the next. Open your eyes and gently move your body.
Vidyamala’s award winning book Mindfulness for Health – A practical guide to living with pain and illness, is available from the Breathworks’ Christmas shop: http://goo.gl/qoUlUJ
For more information on Vidyamala and Breathworks, please visit www.breathworks.co.uk