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Nothing creates stress with such brutal efficiency as the feeling of being trapped by illness. But it’s often far worse than this because such thoughts create tension in the body, aggravating illnesses and injuries. Mindfulness helps you step outside such vicious cycles by teaching you a different way of dealing with stress. Such bone-deep contentment isn’t just pleasant, it also boosts the immune system and restarts the body’s self-repair mechanisms. In previous weeks we taught you how to reduce pain using the Body Scan and Mindful Movement meditations. The aim of this meditation is to move your awareness around the body, paying special attention to areas of tension and discomfort, and then to gently breathe ‘into’ them. Allow your body to settle down into gravity – feeling the points of contact between your body and the surface upon which it’s resting.
Very gently gather your awareness around the sensations and movement of the breath in the body. Now very very gently guide your awareness to the areas of pain and discomfort in your body.
If at any time this feels a little intense, broaden your awareness to include the whole body and pay particular attention to the sense of the body settling down into gravity again and again.
Spend a few moments resting deep in the body, in the breath, and allow your discomfort to be soothed by the rhythm of the breath again and again. See if you can take this quality of breath-based body awareness with you as you re-engage with the activities of your day. If you have lived with pain, illness or stress for some time, you will find the gentle free-flowing movements of the Mindful Movement meditation especially useful. The ‘exercises’ in the Mindful Movement programme are different from ones you may have tried in the past. This week’s exercises have been developed over many years with the help of thousands of patients, so they are safe to carry out.
Try to strike a balance between pushing yourself too far and not stretching yourself enough.
It can be hard to distinguish between the healthy aches and pains that signify progress and those which indicate that you have pushed yourself too far.
If you are sitting, choose a straight-backed chair with a firm base, something like a dining-room chair.
Now relax back down into the starting position for a few breaths and notice the effect of the movement, comparing the two sides of the body.
Before beginning, check that your pelvis is still in neutral – that it’s not rolling backwards or forwards – and that the spine is gently upright, following its natural curves. Now relax the hand back down and notice if the side you have moved feels different from the other.
Now repeat the movement with the other hand – raising it up, forming a light circle with the thumb and index finger and then lightly flicking them apart. Once again, start with your arms hanging loosely at the sides of the body and tune into the breath for a few moments. Spend some time resting at the end of your Mindful Movement session.You can do this sitting quietly or you might prefer to lie down on the floor or on the bed. It is best carried out in warm and quiet surroundings, and remember to arrange to not be disturbed.
The meditation invites you to gently move your awareness around your body, region by region, and to observe, with as much objectivity as you can, what you find.
Remember that if any sensations become too unpleasant you can move your body to relieve your suffering. As you progress through the meditation you will notice that it asks you to pay particular attention to the breath.
To gain a sense of how powerful this effect can be, try the following: clench your fist and notice what happens to the breath.
How to breathe yourself happier: This week doctors claimed meditation can beat pain and depression. Our Meditation Machines make deep relaxation and meditation easy and are based on scientific principles developed by neuroscientists over several decades. Meditation machines use special patterns of light and sound to lead you gently into the peaceful, calm states of mind and body that will help you to relax deeply, improve concentration and memory, and sleep more soundly. So whether you suffer from stress, have physical problems, or any of the other challenges that meditation can help with, we're here to help you get more out of life. We are giving away three amazing guided visualisations with every Meditation Machine - Deep Relaxation and Meditation, Developing Your Intuition and Manage Stress & Anxiety.
Try an Energising Solar Plexus meditationThis visualisation, combined with breathing, can boost confidence. The long dark nights, short days, and lack of sunshine (here in UK) can all contribute to a dose of the winter blues.
When you feel weighed down by your to-do list a Walking Meditation will give you the space to simply be.The beauty of walking mindfully is that it can be integrated in to a busy day without having to make any extra time for meditation. Too tense to relax?Time spent in savasana (yoga relaxation position) can be a struggle. By combining a mixture of effort (sthira) and ease (sukha) in your yoga practice you may find that sometimes a door will open for you, and it is as though the sun breaks through the clouds to reveal a clear blue sky.
How do you bring light and hope in to the dark days of winter?There can be a stark beauty in the winter landscape.
In the early winter morning, roofs sparkle with frost, trees seem to shrink back in to themselves against the cold, watched over by a shimmery, hazy half-moon. What small steps could you take to bring Peace, Harmony, and Justice in to the world?Look for opportunities to speak truth to power.
The Mindful Way Workbook: An 8-Week Program to Free Yourself from Depression and Emotional Distress by John Teasdale, Mark Williams and Zindel Segal. Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. Mindfulness- Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression (2nd Edition – Nov 2012) by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale. Mindfulness: Diverse Perspectives on its Meaning, Origins and Applications Edited by Mark Williams and Jon Kabat-Zinn. Mindfulness- Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression (1st Edition) by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale.
The Mindful Way through Depression by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal and Jon Kabat-Zinn.
See more videos from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre and access our videos with Chinese subtitles on our Youtube Channel. Registered address: POWIC Building, University Department of Psychiatry, Warneford Hospital, Oxford. They feed off each other in a vicious cycle that leads to ever greater suffering and disability. One thought triggers the next, and the next, in a vicious cycle that can leave you burnt-out and broken.
You can stop the spiral from feeding off itself and triggering the cycle of negative thoughts that makes suffering far worse. With practice you come to realise that stress (like pain) is a ‘message’ that tends to melt away of its own accord once it has been ‘delivered’, or felt with full mindful awareness. Even if you have an incurable condition, it will substantially improve your quality of life. These were taken from our book Mindfulness for Health: A Practical Guide to Relieving Pain, Reducing Stress and Restoring Wellbeing. Can you let your awareness gently rest there?  Can you feel the breath in that part of the body? Broaden your awareness to include sounds around you, open the eyes and begin to gently move your body. Over the months and years, you may have become less mobile – or even scared of moving – for fear of hurting yourself further.

Nevertheless, you might like to discuss them with your doctor, specialist or physiotherapist, and practise them with care, leaving out any that you – or they – feel are unsuitable for your illness, injury or disability. This can be tricky, so aim to become aware of your own character when it comes to exercise. See if you can drop into a deep awareness of the breath as you move, allowing it to lead the pace of the movement, rather than forcing it or rushing through them. Make sure the pelvis is in a neutral position, neither rolling forwards nor backwards, and that your spine is upright, following its natural curves. Rest the forearm in the opposite hand and then smoothly rotate the hand around the wrist for a few circles, always checking that the face is soft, the belly is soft, the shoulders are soft, and that the hand holding the forearm is not gripping too tightly.
When you’re ready, raise one hand up in front of the body and join the thumb and index finger of this raised hand together so they form a circle.
Do this a few times with the thumb and index finger and then with each of the other fingers in turn.
Then, on the in-breath, extend both arms up so that the hands are in line with your shoulders with the palms facing downwards, keeping your shoulders relaxed. This is crucial for distinguishing between Primary and Secondary Suffering, and, ultimately, reducing the pain that you actually suffer. The idea is to hold each area centre stage for a while, before gently letting go and moving on to the next.
If you are slightly fearful or anxious about what you will find, remember that you don’t have to jump into the meditation with both feet. The habit of inhibiting the breath can also manifest as shallow breathing or as hyperventilation. When you pay attention to the breath, and it becomes calmer, it naturally becomes deeper and more rhythmic.
For a limited period with each Meditation Machine we are including a FREE four week 'Concentrate Your Mind' course worth A?25.
Use the easy-to-follow exercises during your Meditation Machine sessions and start to see amazing results in in a few days. Put as much care and attention into creating delicious and nourishing home Yoga practices as you would in to preparing a special meal for someone you love.
You can break the ice, and reveal the hidden feelings underneath, by shining the warm light of compassionate awareness on to them.
Start your practice either in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) or in Savasana (relaxation pose) and repeat the phrase a number of times. It is energising and uplifting and can induce a feeling of well-being and happiness.Close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and relax. Then if you find yourself stressing out over Christmas; or when you find yourself berating yourself for not having done any yoga- STOP- and instead right there and then do a 3 minute yoga practice.
At times the bird seems to be working hard to stay airborne; at other times she glides effortlessly through the sky carried by the wind.
However hard you try to relax you just don't seem to be able to still the mind, control your feelings, or relax the body. Dilute sunlight shines through the bare branches of a gaunt looking Horse chestnut tree and half melts iced over puddles on the path below. As we tune in to the rhythm of the changing season, so also do we connect with a sense of our own natural rhythm. At the darkest part of the symbol is a little dot (bindu or seed) of light; at the lightest part of the symbol is a little dot of darkness reminding us that both sunlight and shadow contain within themselves the potential or seed of their opposite quality.
When this occurs, an extraordinary thing can happen: a profound sense of happiness and peace fills the void.
If you’re lying down, let the arms rest at the sides of the body with the hands palms upwards. The aim is not to stretch as far as possible or to maintain a position for as long as you can. It’s best to carry out the practices themselves while listening to track 3 (Click HERE or you can find it on the audio CD that comes free with our book Mindfulness for Health).
However, you should always work within your own physical constraints, so please adopt whatever position is the most comfortable for you. Try to avoid the trap of believing that you ‘should’ be able to move in a certain way – or to a certain extent. If you tend to push yourself, then pay attention to this temptation as you move – and perhaps back off a little. So when you bend your knee, for example, the soft edge is the point at which you first feel a sensation of stretch and compression. You’ll know that you’ve passed the hard edge when it feels as if you’ve begun forcing the movement.
The most creative place to work is a moderate stretch that can be sustained, not an intense one that you can’t hold for long.
If you notice ‘electrical’, ‘nervy’ or sharp sensations, you should reduce the range of the movement or, if it becomes too intense, you should stop for the day.
Gently support one forearm with the opposite hand in a very light hold and gently and smoothly rotate the hand around the wrist in a circle, within your range of movement.
On the in-breath, extend both arms at the sides of the body, so the hands come up to shoulder level with the palms facing forwards. It will also begin the process of dissolving stress along with any anxiety or depression that you are feeling.
Sometimes it’s best to avoid a bed as you will subconsciously associate it with sleep and may naturally become quite dozy. It encourages you to bring, as best you can, a calm and inquisitive flavour of awareness to the meditation. The breath is not only the source of life, but is also a sensitive barometer for any emotions or physical sensations that you are feeling just below the threshold of awareness. Such disturbed breathing triggers the mind’s alarm systems, which, in turn, create tension and stress in the body. What you choose to focus on will be very personal to you, and choosing your bhavana can be an enjoyable and creative process. This friendly and kind attention allows suppressed feelings to surface and your energy to flow feely again. As you repeat the phrase keep a soft, background awareness with the natural flow of your breath. Commit to doing at least one of the practices on your list each day over the Festive Season; even if it is only remembering to take a mindful breath in and out each time you answer the phone or write an email. This is a great rehearsal for the inevitable ups and downs that we face in our day to day life. Remember that although it isn't possible to control how you feel, it is possible to continue to act in a way that is true to your values, even whilst feeling in low spirits. If you are walking in the open air, then even in the city, you can look out for signs of the changing seasons.
Relaxation then becomes a destination that you want to get to in order to escape where you actually are. A thick, heavy blanket of cloud covers the sky, but even this cannot deter an irrepressible orb of pale sunlight breaking through the uniform greyness.
More infoAccept cookiesCookies are small text files that websites can store on your computer. Alternatively you may prefer to rest the hands on the belly, hips or ribs with the hands palms downwards – whatever is most comfortable.
The human body is designed to move, so remaining still for too long can lead to many secondary health problems. They are not designed primarily to enhance fitness and flexibility, although they will have these benefits in the long run. If exercise tends to alarm or frighten you, then see if you can ask a little more of yourself. It’s also worth bearing in mind that your edges will change as you grow stronger and more flexible. At the end, relax your arms back down so they hang loosely at the sides of your body, and shake your arms and hands a little, relaxing the shoulders.

And now go through each of the other fingers, perhaps repeating several times with each finger. As you breathe out, very gently draw both arms across your chest, crossing the arms and giving yourself a very gentle hug. On the next in-breath, imagine you’re peeling off a top with both hands, raising the crossed arms up over your head. But if your bed is the only place you can be comfortable, then by all means meditate there. If this should happen, remind yourself that this is your time that has been set aside to heal and nourish you. When your mind wanders in this way, try as best you can to shepherd your awareness back to the body and the breath.
Try to leave behind any preconceptions about what you ‘should’ feel and instead try to simply observe what you find. With practice, you can learn to use the breath as an early-warning system that allows you to sense and defuse suffering and stress before they become a problem.
A 15 minute session of soothing sounds and flickering lights sends you into a meditative state. Spend some time considering what you wish to cultivate or grow out of your yoga practice and this will give you some clues about what your bhavana should be. Just as you might use mindful breathing whilst holding a difficult pose, equally so it can be used when you feel: bored, sad, happy, depressed, restless, and even ecstatic. This is quite different from just keeping relentlessly busy to avoid confronting how you feel.
This three minute meditation is a mini miracle and can be squeezed in to even the busiest of days.
Paradoxically, when you let go of trying to relax, and settle in to simply exploring whatever sensations arise, as if by magic relaxation very often ensues.
Feel the way the whole body expands a little on the in-breath and subsides a little on the outbreath. Saturate the breath with kindliness, gentleness and tenderness as it rocks and cradles this part of the body.
Then come back to stillness – having your arms hanging lightly at the sides of the body if you are standing, or resting on your lap if you are sitting, as you feel the effects of the movement.
At the end, allow the arms to hang loosely on the sides of the body, shaking them a little before coming back to rest. On the next out-breath, allow your arms to float down the sides of the body with the palms facing downwards, back to the starting position.
Meditation is neither a marathon nor a sprint, but should be seen as a gentle ramble that encourages you to move at your own pace. Often, simply observing the breath – making sure it is as natural as possible – can dissolve pain, suffering and stress without your needing to do anything else at all. In this way, disturbed breathing can drive Secondary Suffering in a vicious and distressing cycle that also fuels anxiety and stress. Combined with the movements in the chest and abdomen, along with the massaging of the internal organs with each breath, this is known as ‘whole-body breathing’. A regular yoga practice can be a great way of boosting your happy hormones this time of year. If you’re sitting, place your hands in your lap with as little strain on the arms and shoulders as possible. Treat yourself the way you’d naturally treat somebody that you loved and cared for who was hurting. We ask you to rest your consciousness deep inside your body, so that you bring a kindly awareness to your movements. When you feel a stretch or a challenge, move a little deeper into the movement with the help of the breath. After you’ve done a few rotations, turn your wrist in the other direction for a few circles. And if you don’t observe any particular difference between the two sides of the body, don’t worry. It’s always good to check if you’re holding the breath, as we often tend to do so in these kinds of movements. Feel the effects of the movement as you give the weight of your body up to the floor, and let the breath drop deep into the body. On the next in-breath, open the arms again, and on the next out-breath give yourself a hug again. Repeat this movement a few times in a flowing rhythm, allowing the pace to be dictated by the natural breath. If resistance should still persist, then gently remind yourself of what others have found: mindfulness tends to liberate more time than it consumes.
The reverse is also true: breathing into pain or dis- tressing feelings tends to dissolve them. If you notice that you are holding the breath, just relax it again and see if you can bring softness to the face, belly and whole body as you flick the fingers.
Let your whole spine be massaged very gently by this movement with the chest and back flexing and expanding in the different phases.
It is important to establish a routine, as this will support you on those days when your energy or enthusiasm is lacking. And there is nothing to be gained from punishing it for doing what it is designed to do; instead, try to work with your mind. The practice will be far more beneficial if you are relaxed, rather than fighting pain or discomfort. It stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which releases many hormones into the body that defuse tension and stress and promote healing.
Always bear in mind that it is the quality of awareness you bring to the movements that is paramount.
As your arms open, feel a corresponding opening in the chest, with the shoulder blades very gently drawing together in the upper back.
Gently shake the fingers, hands, arms, wrists, elbows and shoulders at the sides of the body before allowing them to come back to stillness. Encourage it to discover what can be found in the continuous flow of life through your body. Try to feel whether the sensations are fixed and unchanging or if they flux from moment to moment. If you are unable to carry out some of the exercises, try visualising yourself carrying them out in your mind’s eye. And as you give yourself a hug with the arms crossed, feel how the upper back broadens and opens. You may be surprised to discover that your pain is not a ‘solid’ enemy, but is somehow more ‘fluid’ than that. This virtuous cycle is also an extremely powerful antidote to pain, suffering, stress and anxiety.
If it’s possible, try to get a sense of the thoughts and emotions that accompany these sensations. And allow the pace of the movement to be dictated by the rhythm of the natural breath, neither rushing nor holding the breath.
Give your weight up to the floor, letting yourself rest downwards into gravity whether you are sitting or standing.
When you do this, you will notice your suffering and stress begin to gradually soften and dissolve.

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