LF: You seem really different since being in India over the last 12 years? What have you learned there?
JL: The Vedic teachings have taught me how to be at peace with myself in a steady, continuous way. I’ve sat with Swamiji Dayananda studying the sacred texts in a traditional setting. Within this teaching, I’ve come to know myself to be more than my body and my thoughts, that I am complete and wholly acceptable as I am.
LF: What is this Vedic teaching?
JL: This teaching is meant to help the student abide in composure. There is an effective way of thinking objectively and perceiving oneself. This is not a mere state or a passing experience. It is a vibrant awareness and a way of life. It is a matter of owning up to the fact that our intrinsic nature is free of everything unwanted. This understanding provides a firm basis from which to address any sense of stress, fear or inadequacy that may arise.
LF: What a profound teaching!
JL: The yoga practices I teach can facilitate physical, mental, emotional and spiritual integration. After a long and deep study I have been given status of a qualified teacher of this ancient, unbroken lineage. I am honored to share with you these teachings. This complete yoga is the blossoming of the whole person.
Patients who have back surgery, a procedure that can cause severe pain for weeks, may have a new relief option beyond narcotics: meditation.
In a study at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, a neurosurgeon has teamed up with a geriatrician who leads meditation classes to test whether the technique can lessen pain in spine-surgery patients and reduce the need for opioid painkillers, which can be highly addictive. The randomized trial trains patients in a simple form of meditation and asks them to practice it starting two weeks before their surgery and for six weeks after, using audiotapes to guide them.
Results of the study might not be available for at least a couple more years, as the researchers have so far signed up about half of the 50 participants they aim to recruit. Some of the patients who have tried meditation say it seems to make their pain more tolerable than they expected.
“We are not hoping to replace the need for pain medication,” says Patricia Bloom, a clinical associate professor of geriatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “We are trying to understand, can you help people’s pain to resolve faster and can you make their need for narcotics less,” says Dr. Bloom, a co-investigator on the project with colleague Arthur Jenkins, an associate professor of neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery.
Dr. Arthur Jenkins, of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, is conducting a clinical trial to see if meditation can help control the intense pain many patients suffer after spine surgery and reduce reliance on addictive narcotic pain medication. ENLARGE
Dr. Arthur Jenkins, of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, is conducting a clinical trial to see if meditation can help control the intense pain many patients suffer after spine surgery and reduce reliance on addictive narcotic pain medication. PHOTO: MATT KOZAR
David Langer, chairman of neurosurgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City, says meditation can help reduce anxiety and stress, which can make pain worse. Still, “I would be surprised if it had a large impact on post-operative pain,” in part because many patients will find it difficult to commit themselves to meditate regularly after major surgery, he says.
Meditation has previously been found to benefit patients with a host of medical and psychological issues. Studies have looked at whether it can help control hypertension, assist people suffering from heart disease or help relieve chronic pain, Dr. Bloom says. What makes the Mount Sinai study unusual is its focus on acute post-operative pain—the kind that typically requires opioid drugs to control, she says.
Dr. Jenkins says there has been growing pressure on doctors to reduce reliance on narcotic painkillers because of the dangers of addiction. He says he tried ways to reduce the use of drugs, including performing less-invasive surgeries with smaller incisions and shorter recovery times, but that isn’t always possible. Five years ago, Dr. Jenkins says he had an “epiphany” after reading a scientific study showing meditation could reduce physical pain.
Dr. Patricia Bloom, a geriatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, also teaches meditation at the hospital. She is a co-investigator on the study looking at meditation and postsurgical pain in spine patients. ENLARGE
Dr. Patricia Bloom, a geriatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, also teaches meditation at the hospital. She is a co-investigator on the study looking at meditation and postsurgical pain in spine patients. PHOTO: HARRISON BLOOM
The study, published in 2011 in the Journal of Neuroscience, involved 15 people who were subjected to pain using heated probes. The researchers used an MRI to scan the brains of the volunteers and found that pain intensity was 40% less when they practiced meditation than when they didn’t, says Fadel Zeidan, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest School of Medicine, in North Carolina.
“Wow, that is exactly what I am looking for,” Dr. Jenkins recalls thinking. He says that during his 15 years practicing spine and neurosurgery, he has become increasingly open to other healing options, such as working with chiropractors as a complement or alternative to surgery. “I have evolved to a more holistic approach,” he says.
Dr. Jenkins and Dr. Bloom set about designing a randomized trial to explore whether meditation could help with spine-surgery pain, which can last for six weeks or longer. When patients agree to participate, the researchers use a deck of cards—drawing either red or black—to decide who will practice meditation along with getting painkillers, and who will only get painkillers.
One patient, Clifford Glenn Gualano, 55 years old, had spine surgery several years ago that left him in “excruciating” pain. Ahead of another operation on Sept. 7, he says he was dutiful about listening to the audiotapes and trying to meditate, but was still very skeptical. “I am not a tree-hugger, and this is kind of how this strikes me,” says Mr. Gualano, a police officer in Spring Valley, N.Y. Still, Mr. Gualano was wary of narcotics and decided “to take a shot” at meditation. “If it works and you can sell me, you can sell anybody,” he says.
Since his operation, Mr. Gualano says the meditation exercises don’t reduce the “very severe pain” he has, but they help him relax. He had difficulty waiting the prescribed four hours between doses of hydromorphone, a narcotic. But if he meditated it helped him to hold out until the next dose.
Mr. Gualano recently moved to a rehabilitation facility, where he was given a second painkiller. He has been meditating some but hopes to do it regularly once he gets home. “If it starts hurting, and I need to take a pill, I will try the meditation first,” he says.
Dr. Fadel Zeidan, an assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina, has been studying meditation’s effects on pain. A 2011 paper he and his team published helped inspire the current study at Mount Sinai on postsurgical pain in spine patients. ENLARGE
Dr. Fadel Zeidan, an assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina, has been studying meditation’s effects on pain. A 2011 paper he and his team published helped inspire the current study at Mount Sinai on postsurgical pain in spine patients. PHOTO: COURTNEY ZEIDAN
Wake Forest’s Dr. Zeidan says it is possible certain forms of meditation can help with the pain from back or neck surgery. His team has published more research, including a 2015 study that found benefits from so-called mindfulness meditation. It “works by teaching you to regulate your response to pain,” Dr. Zeidan says. “People learn to accept the pain as opposed to trying to fight it.”
Mount Sinai’s exercises are a hybrid of mindfulness meditation and a type of mind training called Open Focus to help with relaxation and pain reduction, says Dr. Bloom. In one segment on stress reduction, Dr. Bloom, whose voice is heard on the tape, tells listeners to gently close their eyes and allow “your mind to relax and restore.” She instructs them to focus on different parts of their body and to concentrate on each breath they take.
In another segment devoted to pain, Dr. Bloom tells listeners to “turn your attention to the pain that you feel, seeing if it is possible to visualize the length, width and shape of your pain.” The message: Let “your pain be there, not holding on to it but not pushing it” away, either.
Dr. Bloom acknowledges the meditation techniques aren’t for everyone: “Some people would think it is too woo-woo.”
Barry Wollner agreed to give meditation a try ahead of his spine surgery last year. He found that he suffered minimal pain after the operation, which he attributes to the meditation. ENLARGE
Barry Wollner agreed to give meditation a try ahead of his spine surgery last year. He found that he suffered minimal pain after the operation, which he attributes to the meditation. PHOTO: RONNIE HOCHBERG
When Barry Wollner, 63, was scheduled for spine surgery last year, Dr. Jenkins’s team asked him if he believed in meditation. “I said that I don’t not believe in it, but I had never done it,” says Mr. Wollner, a retired housing official for the state of New York.
He diligently set about doing the exercises ahead of his surgery, as often as three times a day, he says. After the operation, he continued meditating and says he found the pain tolerable. He was prescribed oxycodone, a narcotic painkiller, but used very little. Staff at the hospital were surprised. “They would look at me and say, ‘You really didn’t take any?’ and I would say no,” he recalls. “It was the meditation.”
Write to Lucette Lagnado at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more at: wsj.com
Meta-yoga is a way of life in which one becomes alive to all realities. Swami Dayananda’s essential message was to expand awareness such that one’s essential experience of life is transformed forever.
Meta-yoga involves a method of expanding your awareness that shifts your relationship both to yourself and your world. Realities of life are defined in three categories: the absolute, objective and subjective. They are discussed in great detail in the Vedanta scriptures, i.e., the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. Distinguishing and applying these realities forms a context for realizing what it means to live a fully satisfying life.
There is a time tested method to elevate yourself to a higher awareness, when you sharpen your observations, your life experiences are heightened. Meta-Yoga is a way of life that gives you clarity about how to obtain joy when it is otherwise hoped for but seems unobtainable.
This deepens your relationship with yourself whereby this ancient method of contemplation and meditation points to your own presence as a source of stability. As the observer you are the one present to everything– the world, your body, your breath, even your thoughts and emotions. As an observer, you are basically your own stable presence, not even your mind engaged in relationships, etc. How does this alter your awareness? You are the heart of heart behind your relationships with your world. Everything passes through your stable awareness, like clouds in the sky. As awareness you are the stable witness of your life. In meditation, your stable awareful presence is a profound and fulfilling topic to meditate upon. The mind can finally rest in the ground of your own present awareness.
The phrase “be present to what is” has deeper implications– the more self-aware, the more inner joy. The more you connect with your own awareness you find more tolerance for everything else. This gives a new level of trust in yourself and your perceptions. And when you see others perspective, it is with compassion for their humanity, not by losing yourself or resisting views of others. Simple transparency and acceptance about the human condition is so freeing.
With increased clarity it feels more normal to be with things as they are without reactions of anxiety, fear, anger, etc.A first step is truly noticing that you are centered in yourself without needing the world and your life to be different in any way. You are not your desires! You are the one who is present to them; you are the one who is aware of them. These are not mere empty words; this is a living experience that you can choose to own up to. You can become truly self-empowered person with the help of a knowing guide.
I invite you to be more at peace and centered in your self, your life and your relationships through Julia’s life coaching sessions and guided meditations. This ancient method of gaining clarity is practical at all levels of experience.
Let’s consider Three Principles of Living Free of Back Pain from a holistic mind-body perspective:
1) Center of balance
It may not be as easy to find your center of gravity as you may think. When properly balanced, your pelvis is in alignment with your head and feet. From a side view, the ankles, hips, and ears should all form one straight line. Generally, it is possible to discover areas, poses, and series to retrain the body in order to find the center axis of alignment. When you’re aligned, there’s more balance and ease in your body, mind, and breathing.
Deep breathing is a learned skill and is one of the best strategies for calming and strengthening the mind and body. Learning the habit of deep breathing is first done through awareness of breathing. The mind affects breathing more than we think. When the mind is disturbed or restless, our breathing becomes shallow, irregular, and we lose our rhythm. The exhalation breath is key to healing low back issues, because in a complete exhale breath, the core muscles are engaged. This not only increases strength and tone in the thoracic diaphragm, it also tones a lesser-known diaphragm – the pelvic diaphragm.
3) Strengthening deep core muscles
Strength in deep core muscles improves posture, balance, and breathing. As a result, one finds oneself more easily balanced in one’s center of gravity. Deep core muscles, which include a tent of muscles around the torso, support the spine. Also, the pelvic floor muscles are considered to be key trunk stabilizers, and they are often left out. Strengthening these muscles not only maintains center of balance, but also engages diaphragmatic breathing.One can bring visible and dynamic change to the targeted area. Core strength determines performance in one’s life activities and sports, and can have additional health benefits. Many daily activities (such as vacuuming the floor, for example) require us to maintain, as best we can, the function of bending and lifting. For this, strong core muscles are required to protect and maintain stability in the spine and to prevent injury to the lower back.
There is a synergy between these 3 principles and they are considered to be keys to treating and preventing low back pain. One enhances the other and together they are key to adapting to the stresses and strains of life. In workshops presented by Julia Lorimer and Mitchell Kauk, PT OCS, RYT, each principle is addressed in terms of the mind and the body’s approach with the ultimate goal of having an integrated understanding.
This article on principles for living without back pain is co-written by Julia Lorimer and Mitchell Kauk, PT, OCS, RYT .
Julia Lorimer, e-RYT-500, Pain Relief Specialist teaches yoga workshops for addressing chronic pain. She co-teaches with Mitchell Kauk, PT, OCS, RYT yoga workshops– Living without Back Pain. She also offers Special Asana Series Workshops for exploring these and other principles further.