I’ve always found it curious that most of us are inclined to take care of our bodies through exercise and movement while paying less attention to our psycho-emotional health. Of course, exercising the body directly benefits the mind, keeping it fit while purging our daily stressors. But I am interested in exploring why our culture often de-emphasizes taking care of one’s psyche in favor of caring for one’s body. It doesn’t have to be an either-or proposition.
It’s no secret that stress is an insidious, detrimental influence on our lives. Don’t get me wrong – stress can be a helpful motivator to accomplish goals, meet deadlines or get out of harm’s way in a ‘fight-or-flight’ situation. Chronic stress, on the other hand, may have more adverse effects to our body and mind.
In my experience, clients who generally have nagging physical symptoms are experiencing some form of external stress in their lives and may occasionally pop a pain pill here and there. For me, to ignore these external factors during my Structural Integration sessions would simply be negligible and irresponsible on my part. One of the reasons I fell in love with Rolfing Structural Integration is this holistic aspect – through fascial manipulation, we are affecting the mind by touching the body.
But if we’ve done our jobs right and won a client’s trust, they are empowered to seek out the motivation for accountable self-care. The client has connected the dots and figured out stress and pain are directly related.
To deepen this mind-body connection, I often suggest clients give meditation a try. What is there not to like about meditation? It relieves all the side-effects of pain:
– reduces cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’
– diminishes anxiety and depression
– reduces high blood pressure
– allows focus away from body’s pain signals
There is mounting evidence (Meditation Health Benefits: What the Practice Does to Your Body) from neuroscience researchers stating the plasticity of our brain is an effective top-down treatment strategy. We can alter the brain’s structure and function by practicing meditation. Meditation focuses the mind, and in this case, alters the focus away from painful thought patterns. It also quiets the mind inviting the ‘rest and digest’ nervous system (parasympathetic) to provide calm throughout your day and throughout the bodymind.
I am partial to the Transcendental Meditation technique of repeating a mantra while allowing feelings and thoughts to flow. It’s meant to complement any lifestyle giving you an opportunity to step away from the rigors of daily stress twice a day 20 minutes at a time. Read more about my TM experiences here.
Best of all, it’s so simple! Simple enough that it won’t add more stress to your already busy lifestyle. What’s not to like about that?
And dare I say, meditation might be so effective you won’t need practitioners like me to assist you out of your pain.
What are your thoughts on meditation? What other forms of meditation work for you?