What did the majority of Americans do before prescription or over the counter pain pills? I don’t know about the majority but the enlightened ones relied on meditation. And now there is even more data to back up the practice. A study, conducted at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, focused on the effects of mediation found not only will you have a calmer, clearer mind, but meditation can have pain relieving effects even greater than morphine, we knew yogis were on to something!
I’m especially interested in using meditation for pain management because in about 5 weeks I’m going to deliver a baby boy au natural as long as everything goes as planned. My dad actually first introduced me to a form of mediation, visualization, when I was about 9 years old to help me prepare for soccer games and track meets and I still meditate and use visualization to improve communication within myself. But to prepare for delivery and per the advice of my mom (it’s what she did to give birth) and my doula, Chelsea Welch, I’m ramping up my meditation practice and have made a goal to do Julie Rader’s Yoga Nidra, a yogic sleep and meditation method, 3 times per week until my little man is ready to come out!
Back to the science… The study used 15 healthy volunteers that had never meditated before. The volunteers had brain scans, called arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging (ASL MRI) to monitor their brain activity while a “heating device” was applied to their legs, researchers (laughed) recorded data. They then attended four 20 minute classes focusing on mindfulness through what researchers called a “focused attention” technique. The volunteers had follow up brain scans after learning how to meditate while the “heating device” was applied again and researchers (laughed) recorded data.
Volunteers pain ratings were reduced, some recording an 11% reduction all the way up to a 93% reduction!
To explain the decrease in pain researchers found a “significantly reduced brain activity in the primary somatosensory cortex” the area of your brain responsible for creating and recognizing the intensity of pain.
Other impressive quotes/findings…
“We found a big effect – about a 40 per cent reduction in pain intensity and a 57 per cent reduction in pain unpleasantness,” said [lead study author Dr. Fadel] Zeidan.
“Meditation produced a greater reduction in pain than even morphine or other pain-relieving drugs, which typically reduce pain ratings by about 25 per cent.”
Wow. If you meditate you may already be aware of the emotional benefits of your practice but now there are proven physical benefits as well. If you’re a meditative novice and are interested in trying it out pop in to one of the Yin Classes at The Green Yogi with Chelsea Welch or Matt Rothert. Or if you want to practice in the comfort of your own home we sell Mukti Meditations by Julie Rader here at the studio or on the Mukti Online Store, which includes Meditation Music and a 40+ minute Yoga Nidra, led by the lovely and talented Julie. Your brain is an incredibly powerful tool why not use it to reduce your pain?