Yoga Nidra Relieves Pain
Dr. Swami Karmananda Saraswati, MB, BS (Syd)
Yoga nidra relaxation therapy has been successfully applied on patients
suffering from chronic medical problems, report doctors at Davis Sacramento
Medical Centre, University of California, USA. They have adapted the technique
so that it can be easily and effortlessly practiced by hospitalized patients,
and have found it effective in relieving many of the special problems
associated with chronic illness. They reported success in the following
- Relief of insomnia and sleep disturbances.
- Holding moderately severe pain out of conscious awareness, allowing
patients to fall asleep.
- Providing partial relief from the feelings of hopelessness and depression
so commonly associated with chronic illness.
- Lessening the requirements for hypnotic and sedative drugs in hospitalized
patients, thereby reducing the dangers of long term drug dependence
and undesirable side effects.
The patient is led into a state of deep systematic relaxation of body
and breath. Then he is instructed to allow his mind to wander to a restful
and pleasant memory, He is next encouraged to experience the memory as
fully and completely as possible. This brings about an effortless attention
without any sense of striving for concentration. In a report published
by the American Journal of Psychotherapy they presented case histories
for a number of challenging patients who proved amenable to this therapy.
- Case 1: A sixty five year old man hospitalized with increasingly severe
intermittent chest pain of over twenty years duration. He was subsequently
diagnosed to be suffering from oesophagitis (inflammation and irritation
of the lower end of the oesophagus). He was instructed in yoga nidra and
found it very useful both for general relaxation and for relief of moderate
pain. Over a six month period he acquired the ability to stop the pain
or to forget about its presence, and found he could drop directly into
sleep after ten to fifteen minutes practice at night.
- Case 2: A twenty two year old man hospitalized for three months following
extensive bullet wounds to the abdomen and hip. He suffered severe and
continuing pain which only responded partially to sympathectomy (surgical
severing of the pain fibres that travel with the sympathetic nerves).
Due to continual pain he was anxious, depressed, irritable and occasionally
panicky. His appetite was poor and he steadily lost weight. Using yoga
nidra he was able to sleep in spite of his pain, and his general mood
and appetite improved markedly.
- Case 3: A fifty three year old man with widely disseminated lung cancer
requiring narcotics for pain relief was anxious, depressed and had difficulty
sleeping. Using the preliminary muscular relaxation procedures of yoga
nidra, he was able to sleep without the use of a sedative hypnotic preparation,
provided his pain was controlled. His mental attitude improved markedly.
- Case 4: A fifty year old man who had previously suffered a myocardial
infarction and since that time had presented himself almost weekly for
the past year at the emergency department complaining of chest pain and
fearing a further heart attack. However, repeated electrocardiograms showed
no changes. He was taking 120mg. of diazepam per day and suffered from
severe sleep disturbance. He was ultimately referred for psychiatric evaluation
and introduced to yoga nidra. He responded well, acquiring the ability
to relax when he felt an oncoming 'heart attack' and his panic stricken
visits to the hospital ceased.
This study indicates that pain is a complex matter influenced by our
expectations and approach to life. Many people react to pain in a neurotic
way making it much worse. A positive patient will suffer from and complain
of pain far less than a patient whose overall attitude is negative. Yoga
nidra progressively releases mental and emotional tensions from the mind
and changes our unhealthy and unhappy outlook on life. Through this practice,
the very pain of life here exemplified in the form of chronic intractable
pain clue to illness, is lessened, and living, even in the face of tragedy
and death, becomes more acceptable and fulfilling. Yoga nidra changes
our way of life making us more positive and open towards our varied experiences
- and pain is, after all, but another experience.
*1. Alfred P. French, MD and Joe P. Tupin, MD, 'Therapeutic Application of Simple Relaxation Method', American Journal of Psychotherapy.