You may have heard of studies where athletes visualize themselves in competition and improve their skills more than athletes that actually practice. Most of us have heard of the placebo affect of sugar pills. The mind is a tool that can be directed to improve your back and reduce your pain. Yoga is a science that helps bring the body in harmony with the mind. One of the techniques used in yoga is called an affirmation. Affirmations are one way of training your brain to create positive associations with your body’s physical state. An example of a positive affirmation is, “I am pain free right now.” This is a great affirmation that helps to create that feeling in your body. Try saying it and really believing it. Affirmations are used to set an intention that you will believe. They are a very powerful tool, and for those of you who are skeptical, I urge you to try it for a week. Write your affirmation and place it by your bed, near the kitchen sink, on your desk and in your car. Any way to remind yourself to repeat this affirmation so it becomes a natural part of your thinking is good. You begin to feel yourself pain free. This is a positive affirmation. Notice I did not use negative terms such as “my back doesn’t hurt.” The more positive words you can use, the easier it will be.
Now let’s try a visualization technique. Perhaps your back pain has limited you in what you can and cannot do. In your minds eye, instead of picturing yourself sitting uncomfortably, picture what it would be like to be completely mobile and smiling without any pain, able to do the things you would like to do. This is another positive image that your brain will start to believe. This is setting an intention. In yoga, we know intention is how we lead our lives. Intention is what makes us graduate from college, get married, and have a career. We are always setting an intention. When we become masters of intention we can use it to create positive neural pathways in the brain that help us believe we can be healthy and pain free. For more information on the power of the mind in healing, I recommend reading ‘Head First’ and ‘Anatomy of an Illness’ by Dr. Norman Cousins.
New developments in the field of quantum physics have helped scientists understand that thought waves have a measurable affect on the physiological body. Just as radio waves, infrared light waves and sound waves are invisible to the naked eye but still affect physical reality, thoughts have a measurable wavelength. They are interacting with our body and play a part in our healing. Speaking from experience, I know the mind can both create and eliminate pain.
One of my favorite visualizations is to think of a very calming color. Lie on your back and close your eyes. As you breathe in, imagine that color entering your body and filling your body with that relaxing color. As you breathe out, imagine all the ugly colors that were creating pain in your body leaving with your breath out. Feel your body melt into the floor as the color permeates through your neck, shoulders, and back. This is a great relaxation technique to help you fall asleep and relax tense neck muscles.
Another very effective visualization technique to relax your back is to visualize satin bows on every joint in your back. While lying on your back start at the bottom of your spine and one by one see the bows untie as you move your minds eye up your spine. This is a great way to relax your back muscles which hold tension often without our awareness. You can use this visualization for every joint in your body, seeing the bow untie and feeling the release as you relax that part of your body. It helps to start at the toes and work your way to the top of your head. Lying flat on your back is also a great way to help bring your spine into alignment while doing the visualization.