“It’s not stress that kills us; it’s our reaction to it” – Hans Selye
Not only stress has become a part of our lives, we have become attuned to it. Like we have just accepted it, it’s going to happen to me, to you to everyone.
But just because something is common doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. And stress is not just dangerous, it’s fatal. There’s no dearth of information chronicling the adverse effects of stress on the body and mind.
And it’s proven that stress could both be the precursor to other psychological and physiological ailments, thus it in itself is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with.
What is the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program?
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) program is a blend of mindful meditation and yoga. As Google’s Chade-Meng Tan puts it “Jon Kabat-Zinn would be known as the first person who successfully brought meditation to be a part of mainstream medicine”.
While perhaps its initial purpose was to combat and curb stress, the program has today become more of an established complementary medicine for a lot of ailments.
Even before you delve into the how and what of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, understand that it is more of a therapeutic than curative complementary (not alternative) medicine.
There have been numerous instances of patients responding to traditional medicines when introduced to MBSR training. In fact, when mindfulness meditation alone was used on a group of patients suffering from chronic pain and were not benefitting from traditional medicine, 65% of the group showed an improvement.
An overall reduction of 33% showed up on the Pain Rating Index!
How to do the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Technique (MBSR) Yourself
There are MBSR instructors who are licensed to practice this mindfulness-based technique or you can also go to certain clinics and yoga studios. Or you can do this yourself, you might not do it to a T but even these simple steps are extremely effective.
Awareness – The first step of the program is body and mind awareness. One of the best ways to align your body and mind is through meditation.
This is a simple meditation technique that even novices with no experience of meditation can do. Just lie on your back in a quiet place, make sure there are no distracting background noise. Your body should be in a relaxed state with hands limp on the side and legs. And when you are lying flat on your back, let thoughts pass through your mind.
It doesn’t matter what these thoughts are, just let them pass. If you feel you are getting excited by a certain thought that prompts you to get up and take some sort of action, start breathing in deep and concentrate on your breathing- the natural movement of your diaphragm, the air moving in and out of your nostrils and then go back to your thoughts.
Now once you are in this idle state, be aware of your body parts. Start from your feet to your abdomen to your arms, shoulders, chin, cheeks, eyebrows, forehead right to your brain. You can close your eyes and stay in this state for a few minutes. Open your eyes slowly and come back to the present. You’d feel lighter and calmer.
Mindful Meditation – Once you are aware of your being, you can move on to a mindful meditation technique. You might have heard the term thrown around a lot. To simplify, mindful meditation, in fact mindful anything is a step further than awareness exercise as it entails the directing of one’s attention to a particular point of focus.
A very simple mindful meditation and one that is perfect for beginners is the mindful breathing meditation. Sit in the meditative pose with your legs drawn in and your back erect, now concentrate on your breathing only. Do this for 30 seconds first and then build up.
You can also do the Heart of the Rose technique. If you have read ‘The Monk who Sold His Ferrari’, you might be familiar with this technique. It’s simple, take a rose and stare at the centre (hence the name Heart of the Rose) for a minute. Then slowly focus on the flower, its petals, the color, the texture, the way it feels. The goal is to reach 20 minutes of complete focusing on the flower, but if you are just starting off do it for at least 30 seconds.
MBSR Yoga – There are a lot of yoga postures that can be a part of this program. One such is the Crocodile twist where you lie on your back on a yoga mat with your hands behind your head and your head resting on it. Now draw both your legs up towards the abdomen and then while keeping your back straight move your lower body till the right knee touches the right side of the ground and the left knee the left side.
It’s okay if your knees don’t touch the ground, just go as far as you can.
Another pose to try is the Ardha Matsyendrasana or the half lord of the fish pose where you sit with one leg folded inwards and the other folded upwards and twist your body to one side while keeping one hand at the back and the other on the opposite leg.
When you twist, try to concentrate on a particular object, it could be a speck on the wall or a glass or anything and hold this focus for as long as you can. Then repeat with the opposite leg.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Technique is more of a lifelong habit that you should take up to keep your mind and body healthy.