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Moving meditation is a type of meditation in which we combine mindfulness with physical activity. Any activity carried out with slow, deliberate movements can be turned into a meditation practice. Moving meditation is ideal when we feel restless and it is a great way to get some exercise. If you have fibromyalgia, you may be reluctant to exercise for fear that it will aggravate your symptoms and make you feel worse. I know I was, but that is not the case. If we move more, we hurt less.
There have been a number of publications on the effects of Movement Meditation (MM) practices on fibromyalgia. MINDFULNESS + MOVEMENT significantly improves a fibromyalgia patient’s ability to manage pain, depression, anxiety and even the physical symptoms of the disease.
The Oregon Health and Science University conducted a study that focused on moving meditation (yoga) to see if it should be a prescribed treatment option for fibromyalgia. After 8 weeks, participants in the study saw a significant improvement in symptoms and daily functioning. The pain was reduced by 24%, depression by 42% and fatigue by 30%. Also, flexibility increased and stiffness decreased.
Basics of Movement Meditation
Moving Meditation is a practice to improve the mind-body connection. It combines awareness of your breathing and movements of the body. The goal is to harmonize your breathing with your bodily movements to calm and quiet the mind. You need to be fully engaged in the present moment with a complete and nonjudgmental awareness. Focusing on what you’re experiencing as it pertains your movements.
Any type of movement – walking, biking, swimming, dancing – can be a moving meditation practice. It has to be done with the intention of using the movement and sensations of the body to bring your awareness to the present moment. You are not thinking about things in the past or the future. Just this very moment without making any kind of judgment of that experience. You simply acknowledging it as it is.
Fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions can make exercise difficult. We can become caught in a vicious cycle. We don’t want to move because of the pain. In turn, the lack of movement increases muscle tension resulting in more pain.
Moving meditation is an excellent way to integrate exercise into your life. The movements are slow and gentle and can be modified for your level of physical ability.
Types of Moving Meditation
There are many types of moving meditations. It doesn’t matter how limited your range of motion or how poor your flexibility. Many movements can be modified so you can either sit, chair yoga for example, or even lie down.
- Yoga – There are many types of yoga. Some are athletic and demanding. With fibromyalgia, restorative or meditative types of yoga such as Hatha Yoga are best. Choose a type of yoga composed of gentle stretches, deep breathing, and meditation. The physical poses and focused breathing can help alleviate aches and pains. And meditating can help you to concentrate on the present instead of focusing on your pain.
- Tai Chi – Tai Chi is a mind-body practice which combines meditation, slow movements, deep breathing, and relaxation. Tai Chi reduces mental and physical stress. promotes healing, and emotional stability. It strengthens the heart, boosts the immune system and is gentle on muscles and joints.
- Qigong – Qigong combines meditation, dance, movement, and breathing exercises. It is a form of gentle exercise composed of movements that are repeated a number of times, stretching the body and building awareness of how the body moves. Studies on the effects of Qigong on Fibromyalgia symptoms show that this exercise helps improve energy, decreases fatigue, and alleviates pain.
- Rhythmic Exercises – A rhythmic exercise that engages both your arms and legs is most effective in relieving stress when performed mindfully. The repetitive motion in exercises like walking, swimming, and dancing, let you get into a rhythm. Focus on the sensations of your limbs and your breathing. Let the rhythmic flow of your movements relax your mind.
Research has repeatedly shown that exercise is one of the most effective treatments for Fibromyalgia. Research has also shown that mindfulness meditation leads to changes in the brain that are especially beneficial to those with fibromyalgia. These changes trigger the body’s relaxation response and deactivate the fight or flight response.
Mindfulness meditation reduces distressing thoughts that come with pain. Mindfulness inhibits the central nervous system’s ability to perceive pain. And it also promotes deep muscle relaxation and creates a buffer against stress-related symptoms. Exercise has positive effects on stress, sleep quality, bone density, muscular strength, and flexibility.
Moving meditation brings the two together, mindfulness and gentle exercise. It addresses both the physical and the emotional aspects of chronic pain. Some say it may be the perfect way to gain control over chronic pain.
I started with chair yoga and then Tai Chi. I want to try Qigong next. Do you practice moving meditation? If so, has it helped you manage your pain better? I would love to hear your thoughts.