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Monday, March 8, 2010

Mindfulness Based Stress Relief (MBSR)

Working with yoga + meditation for over ten years has demonstrated to me how potent a tool mindfulness is in addressing the epidemic of stress in our lives. Perhaps I will take a moment to sort out how mindfulness relates to yoga for those new to the blog. I have to credit the growing interest in Buddhism with the proliferation of 'mindfulness' through our culture. Mindfulness is the practice of unconditional awareness of one's perception including thoughts, emotions, feelings and sensations. Most of what we call meditation practice could be called mindfulness meditation. I find the continuous segregation of spiritual disciplines and practices a consequence of our brand-happy culture. Call me a simpleton but as far as I can tell the Buddha was a yogi as sure as Jesus was a Jew.

It is always touchy to bring up religion and especially one's view of religion but if you find yourself reacting to my belief at least be mindful of your reactions.

The point I am trying to make is that mindfulness is an integral part of yoga. Mindfulness is what sets yoga apart from other forms of physical exercise. Yoga without mindfulness is just calisthenics. Now that I am working in Prevention & Health Promotion I have been delighted to discover that 'mindfulness' has made it to the mainstream. There has been a great deal of research into the positive effects of Mindfulness-Based Practices (MBP) on mental health. There is also great evidence that shows how MBP are a great complement to traditional talk therapy in combating addiction.

Now that I have made the leap into the healthcare profession I get to use acronyms like MBSR which is Mindfulness Based Stress Relief. MBSR is the application of MBP's to address stress in our lives. I work with four practices that are inter-related but will be discussed separately in our upcoming blogs:

1. The Body Scan
2. Visualizations
3. Yoga Postures
4. Meditation

Here is an MBP for you to practice right now, wherever you happen to be.

The One-Minute Mindful Foot Scan

Here is a micro-mindfulness practice for those that can not find anyone willing to rub their feet. Sit comfortably and take a few abdominal breaths, relax the body...inhale feel the belly fill and exhale let the belly move towards the spine. Now bring your attention down to both ankles, feel what there is to feel without judgement (remember...unconditional awareness). Now move your attention slowly down the tops of your feet concentrating your attention on only the area of focus. Move towards your big toes and then feel everything you can in the big toes. Next move to the space between the big toe and the one adjacent to it, notice especially where the two toes meet. Do the same thing through each toe until you get to the pinky toe and now move across the ball of the foot at the base of the toes down the sole of the foot towards the heel. Experience the arch of the foot and then all sides of the heel finishing at the ankle again.

Stress....what stress?


Yogi Jayanta

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