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Many people hear the word meditation and instantly think of trendy yoga girls, cheesy narrated audio guides, and Buddhist monks. While it may be tempting to write off meditation as part of a new age spiritualism that you’re just not into, meditation does not have to be tied to specific philosophy or religion. Meditation is really about quieting your mind, listening to your body, and allowing yourself to release thoughts of the past and future, if only for the moment. The reality is that anyone can meditate, and there are as many varieties of meditation as there benefits.
Meditation, often introduced as part of a yoga practice, can
- Decrease levels of fear and anxiety
- Reduce stress
- Decrease pain
- Improve your mood and overall feelings of well-being
- Improve your ability to concentrate and focus
- Decrease symptoms of depression
Why we use Meditation in Pelvic Floor Rehab
When we use meditation in pelvic floor physical therapy, we are really looking to capitalize on the benefits of reducing stress, decreasing pain, and improving an overall feeling of well-being. Unchecked stress can spill over from a mental state to a physical one. Many people clench or tighten their pelvic floor muscles when stressed without even realizing it. This is one of the many causes for pelvic floor dysfunction. Stress can also cause those with chronic pelvic pain to suffer more pain flares that are more disruptive to everyday life.
We like to use meditation to help our patients break up the cycle of tension causing or contributing to the pelvic floor dysfunction. Meditation can also help train the body and mind to interpret sensations and perceptions of pain as “background noise” that can be managed and controlled. Reducing the stress and anxiety can help reduce the onset of pain flares for patients with chronic pain.
With regular meditation comes a more acute awareness of the body. This body awareness can help patients with chronic pain anticipate and prepare for pain flares which helps in “dialing down” the pain when it comes. By beginning a regular meditation practice patients can, with time, reduce the onset and severity of their pain, giving them an opportunity to exist outside their diagnosis and giving them a better overall feeling of wellness.
How Much Time Should it Take?
How much time should you do this? Should it be done daily? Five minutes a day? Before bed or as part of a morning routine? Can it be done on the subway? Do you have to go to a three day meditation retreat?
Ideally, you should meditate for at least 20 minutes a day at a regular time. Start small, and work up to meditating for a longer period of time as you become more comfortable with your practice. Try different styles of meditation to find a practice that works best for you and that become part of your daily routine. You can even use different meditational practices at different times. For example, if you introduced a 20 minute Vipassana practice to your morning routine, you could also use mantra meditation before big meetings or stressful events, or sound meditation right before bed. Meditation before a stressful event can greatly reduce stress during the event, but having a dedicated time outside of that event is key to reducing stress and increasing body awareness overall.
Varieties of Meditation
There are a variety of different ways to meditate, and not all will work for each person. Therefore, it is important to experiment to find which one or ones work best for you.
- Mindfulness of breathing
- Traditional Buddhist practice “Vipassana”
- Helps to ground yourself in body and understand how the mind works
- Mindfulness meditation
- Practice of intentionally focusing on present moment and the sensations/thoughts/emotions
- Commonly associated with John Kabat-Zinn and the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program.
- Here are some free guided mindfulness practices.
- Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta meditation)
- Improves ability to empathize and boosts self-acceptance/loving attitude towards oneself
- Recommended for depression, insomnia, nightmares, and anger issues.
- Here is some more information on where to begin.
- Mantra meditation
- Mantra can be a syllable, word or phrase that is repeated to help focus the mind. Many religions across the world use a repeated prayer as a way of focusing thought.
- Can be useful tool when the mind is racing/overwhelmed with thoughts as the mantra requires ongoing attention.
- You can use the article “Learn to Meditate in 6 Easy Steps” to start with, and then adapt as necessary.
- Sound meditation (nada yoga)
- Focus on sounds and simply hearing by using calming music to quiet the mind.
- This article explains how it works and how to practice it.
- Guided meditation
- Typically in audio form
- Can help cultivate a meditation practice by having a guide walk you through a simple meditation.
- May use techniques such as guided imagery, body scans, or affirmation to imprint a message in the mind, or binaural beats which use different frequencies to help alter brain waves to a meditative state