This piece by Elizabeth Landau on CNN.com is a beautiful account of how mindfulness can change the shape of both physical and emotional pain.
Back pain is the type of pain that I see and work with most frequently in my events and classes. When a person is experiencing pain--or is accustomed to feeling pain--the mind runs amok with negative thinking. Whether it be anxiety, depression, blame, shame, or the anger that Monty Reed (in Landau's piece) describes, those negative emotions actually cause pain to increase or intensify. Judging yourself for having a particular feeling or emotion, or believing you are victimized and disempowered, can cause anyone's back to hurt!
I know--from years of teaching mind-body integration, empowerment, and back-care--that one reason my work is so successful for back-pain clients is that I help these clients become mindful and to see themselves not as victims, but as I see them: fully functioning, healthy, whole people who have a choice to judge themselves and their situations harshly or to simply notice each moment as it is. That self-acceptance, that mindful awareness of their "whole, healthy" state, and that empowered feeling of "Oh, I have a choice in what I feel, notice, and believe about myself" go a long way toward reducing and eliminating bodily pain (and emotional pain, by the way). The fact that I also teach the most effective, fastest-acting core-strength exercises is just icing on the cake!
Believe what you will about effective treatments or therapies for physical and emotional pain. But I know in my heart of hearts that the way I teach (my perspective) is just as important as what I teach (my back-care methods). That's one big reason why I gravitated so naturally toward teaching Yoga. To me, Yoga IS mindfulness and empowerment. Each asana and each breath presents an opportunity to be conscious of and curious about each emotional and physical sensation we have. An asana/pranayama practice is just one 60-minute string of individual moments of "being in the present, watching what comes up without judgment." When you take my yoga classes, you'll experience it for yourself. And it just might make your pain go away.
Sara Hauber, MA
Coach, listener, observer, writer, and erstwhile teacher; constantly curious
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