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Mindfulness For Pain Relief – Vidyamala Burch

A lesson in how mindfulness can be used as pain relief

Vidyamala Burch is co-founder of Breathworks, the internationally acclaimed mindfulness organisation based in the UK. Breathworks arose out of her experience using mindfulness to manage severe pain following spinal injuries in her teens. She has written a range of articles and books and recorded a number of audio CDs and downloads of guided meditations. Her main titles include Living Well With Pain & Illness and Mindfulness For Health, co-written with Dr. Danny Penman, published in 2013. Vidyamala trains and teaches mindfulness internationally.

Today, join Vidyamala Burch as she explores how mindfulness is helpful for chronic pain sufferers. There are several videos on this page so be sure to check them all out. The top one is a presentation by Vidyamala about mindfulness for chronic pain but it is very relevant for all of us because it explores how we react to the pain and suffering of everyday life. Vidyamala talks about how we can relate to pain and suffering with more wisdom, skill and ease.

The second video is an experiential teaching and meditation including a long ‘body scan’ meditation practice. The last video is all about Vidyamalas inspiring organisation ‘Breathworks’.

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Show Notes

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If you’d like to know more about Vidyamalas book and courses go to http://www.breathworks-mindfulness.org.uk




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Purchase a full access pass to unlock downloads for the full interview transcripts, audio, video and separate audio meditation tracks.

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109 Responses

  1. christina wat

    Great experience with the body scan ! Key learning today are :

    1. Fist exercise : Tension in the body, breadth holding.
    2. Chronic tension in reaction to discomfort !

  2. Vicky Stock

    I did a Breathworks course some years ago and enjoyed it. This has inspired me to look them up again for a refresher as I have restricted mobility caused by cancer. Lovely set of videos and some great tips thank you.

  3. lise

    Is anybody else experiencing sound drop outs? Loving each session, but over the last day or two the sound’s been dropping out intermittently …. anyone got any tips?! Thank You! Lise 🙂

    1. Hello… I haven’t heard of anyone else experiencing this. Im sure it does happen a bit as internet speeds with video can be a little weird sometimes. Is the video still moving and motion happening when the sound drops out?
      Does it drop it out in the same spot in the audio version? if not, then its likely an internet video streaming issue or it can also be that your web browser cache is full. So sometimes using a different web browser can be a quick fix…

  4. Magdalena Arcia

    Last summer I took part in a Breathworks intensive training program in Valencia, Spain, in a beautiful mountainous retreat. It was a great experience all around!

  5. Tracey Neal

    I had been waiting for Vidyamala’s presentation & I found it so interesting. I have been considering applying next year to become a Breathworks teacher & this has definitely inspired me on the worth of this approach towards pain. The summit is fantastic & I shall really miss it in November! From the UK

  6. Anne

    Have gained huge benefits in terms of learning to live with my chronic nerve pain from both Vidyamala’s Breathworks programme which I worked through myself from the book ‘You are not your Pain’ and from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living and chronic pain mindfulness app. I now do a daily mindfulness practice which has helped me hugely with reducing secondary suffering – so big thank you to Vidyamala and Jon for that – I love the ‘pain is unavoidable in in life but the suffering is optional’ mindset. And Jon’s ‘As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you no matter what is wrong’. Hugely life changing.

    Would have been nice to hear Melli interview Vidyamala as with the format of previous videos, as I missed that more informal chatty style, would have been nice to see more insights and opinions and tips for taking the breathworks programme into everyday life beyond the 8 week programme.

    But a great session none the less, am enjoying the summit hugely – many thanks to Melli and the team for all your hard work.

      1. Anne

        Thanks Elaine, will do, I have also been considering possibly training as a mindfulness teacher to pass these benefits onto others, so will definitely check those pages out. Best wishes, Ax

  7. Aubrianna Qiora

    I wanted to thank you, though we are only half way through the Summit, for all of your hard work, and co-ordinating such brilliant stars to shine and teach us.

    I had a dream way over a year ago, that I became a Buddhist. Indeed, the steps I am taking are proving that out to be true. I knew it was healing, but had no idea to what extent, as I suffer from chronic physical pain, for which I am on Disability for.

    Hands down all the speakers have really given me a facet of this amazing diamond in various practices, and I am already benefiting by incorporating as a beginner all the things I am learning.

    I have to attest to the release of pain from this particular practice that Vidyamala Burch, shared with us and I took it all the way up my head. I felt a loving release of some pain. The same is true of the teacher who showed us Somatic meditation.

    On the Mind ( heart and mind) side of this, I have learned much about Investigation through the RAIN technique from Tara Brach. All of these great teacher have brought something to the table from which I am eating.

    Thank you all for nourishing my body and soul. It means everything to me.

    I heart you … Namaste

    Satiah A. Q.

  8. denise higgs


    1. Rebecca

      Denise, I too have cfs and like you I haven’t listened to all the meditation tracks on the app I downloaded quite a long time ago. I mostly stick to one track but I’ve decided to give the other tracks a go now after listening to the interviews throughout the summit. I hope your recovery goes well. 🙂

  9. Moira Wilson

    Vidyamalla thank you so much for showing me that there is a way through suffering. Your book with cd was my very first introduction to mindfulness. The journey you started me on is so helpful and your courage is inspiring. Thank you for the guided meditation today it was wonderful. Thank you too Melli for bringing this amazing summit together..

  10. Julie Franklin

    I attended Vidyamala’s very first course, about fourteen years ago, and I have been using the Breathworks approach since then, as a way to live with my own chronic ill health. Vidyamala is an inspirational teacher. I would recommend her books and the Breathworks courses, for anyone living with pain or ill health.

  11. Tobias Schreiber

    Wonderful presentation! very useful information and practice. Thank you Vidyamala for your persistence, patient, and compassionate sharing. Your wisdom blesses others with the path of peace. Melli, thank you for your vision in sharing all the rainbow colors of the of mindfulness as radiated through the prism of unique expression.

  12. Loretta Lam

    Thank you so very much Vidyamala. My pain is relatively new in my life and I have been struggling mightily against it. I’m touched with insight at your approach and your experience.
    I will bring my practice to this part of my life and I know it will help. many thanks
    Big hugs

  13. Ana Carolina+Costa

    Wonderful resources by Vidyamala, I simply loved this body scan! I’ve always focused on the chest while breathing, now I discovered that focusing on the back is also really nice!

    1. Monique Daniels

      Carroll, I had the same experience. The sound was very muffled, even when I played the video through my TV with the sound at maximum level. I think I could really benefit from what Vidyamala had to share, but I had to turn it off. I had the same problem with the first video for the bodyscan. Melli’s voice came nice and clear, but I kind of followed along with the scan on my own because I couldn’t understand the guidance.
      Otherwise, I am really enjoying this summit and have missed only one day because I was traveling.

  14. Rose Chan

    Really enjoyed the first video and my admiration for the work and heart in this area even
    enjoyed more the presentation video for clear and concise information and share of experience. Thank you so much

  15. Karen Hall

    Please visit & ‘like’ Vidyamala on her Facebook page or on Twitter. Breathworks also has a website, a Facebook page, YouTube channel, Pinterest page; we’re on LinkedIn, Soundcloud & Vimeo. If you’d like news of our events and regular courses, please check out any or all of our social media and sign up for our newsletter from our website. Thanks for all the comments today, it was a great talk. Please share this presentation with your network and let more people learn how mindfulness can help them live well with pain or illness.

  16. Silver One

    Vidyamala, first and for all am I impressed by your own life-discovering-pain-journey. I am also very impressed by how you dispite your incredible handicap manneged to reache out world wide and help so many others and manage to build up a hughe organisation. Makes me feel humble. Amd maybe I’ll reache out one day to become one pff the branches of your organisation-tree 🙂

  17. Darren

    “Not all addictions are rooted in abuse or trauma, but I do believe they can all be traced to painful experience. A hurt is at the centre of all addictive behaviours. It is present in the gambler, the Internet addict, the compulsive shopper and the workaholic. The wound may not be as deep and the ache not as excruciating, and it may even be entirely hidden—but it’s there. As we’ll see, the effects of early stress or adverse experiences directly shape both the psychology and the neurobiology of addiction in the brain.”

    “The difference between passion and addiction is that between a divine spark and a flame that incinerates.”

    “Not why the addiction but why the pain.”

    ― Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

    Dr. Mate in other speaking engagements shares with us that experience of physical pain and experience of emotional pain, lights up in the same areas of the brain when studied using fMRI.

    So, it stands to reason that the power of learning practices of Mindfulness as presented today can assist our healing, or at the very least our ability to manage symptoms of both physical and emotional pain.

    With both experiences evidently shaking hands at the level of the brain, and with clear study now to support the power of Mindfulness (consistently practiced) assisting us on all levels of being, I support fully Melli’s question she’s shared regarding the impact that learning the skill of Mindfulness could have for changing the world, one Mindful Human at a time.

    Another wonderful gift to start the day. Thank you. Be Well.

  18. Erica Marcus

    This came at the perfect time. My upper back seized up while running this morning and I am currently in bed unable to move without a lot of pain. The guided body scan let me be with the tenseness and invite some opening into that space.

    Thank you!

  19. Ellen Cedergreen

    Lovely body-scan for me. Really loved the flow of it and the metaphors (driftwood, water flowing into the various parts). My favorite body scan. This is effective for physical and emotional pain. I really can’t thank you enough!

  20. C Jones

    I really enjoyed the body scan and videos. I worked through the Mindfulness for Health book last year after being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Prior to this I did not know what mindfulness meditation was. The book and meditations have helped me to manage my illness and slowly come to terms with it (most of the time). When I am in pain I often find a meditation more effective than painkillers. I wish I could persuade everyone with this illness to give mindfulness a try. Many people are still waiting for their doctor to prescribe the magic pill and will not accept that they have any control over the level of their pain. Keep up the good work with Breathworks, especially your charitable work as this may enable more people to access your wonderful course.

  21. Anna K

    Beautiful! Thank you Vidyamala for this wonderful practice! I really enjoyed it! And thanks so much Melli for organising this amazing event. It makes me jump out of bed every day to listen to these insightful videos and start my day mindfully 🙂 Thank You!

  22. Shantelle Bates

    Another wonderful session, thank you
    I have been dealing with chronic pain in my back for some time, and have recently had it increase due to another injury in both ankles, it has been difficult. I have had amazing support from family, friends and doctors, but I have found that the information shared here has allowed me to understand it better and hope to utilize these skills to better manage my situation.
    Thanks to both lovely ladies for sharing it

  23. Jim Bright

    Another great session today. I was amazed when we were asked to make a fist and Vidyamala asked what happened to the breathing, and it had stopped ! Really interesting stuff.

  24. Shantelle Bates

    Another wonderful session this morning, thank you.
    I have been experiencing chronic pain for some time, firstly from a back injury and more recently an addition from both ankles being badly injured. I have had amazing support from family, friends, doctors and medical staff, but have found that the information given today has given me a better understanding of it. I look forward to implementing the practices in the hope of easing my day to day experiences with it.
    Thanks again to both lovely ladies for sharing this with us

    1. vidyamala Burch

      Hi Janet – it can help with chronic migraines and, if you do meditations like this body scan regularly, you may find that your migraines ease up. No promises but worth a try! Thanks for listening.

  25. Kimble Perry

    Thank you so much for this sample session.
    I learned so much for myself (breath holding, metaphor of the fist, the various diaphragms) and ways of helping a psychotherapeutic client with her auto immune chronic pain and gut issues.
    I am going to provide her with your internet info. to further her path of acceptance and management of pain.
    Such a rewarding summit

  26. Claire Jones

    Wow thank you so much for sharing the videos and the meditation practice today. I have completed an 8 week Mindfulness Based Intervention program and been practising for about 9 months since then but the way you described the body scan today really helped me to access a deeper level of relaxation and acceptance within my body. I’m pretty sure I can feel tension in my throat area which is interesting, hopefully through noticing it will release over time.

    I was also very moved by your commitment through the breath works foundation really felt a lot of emotions stir up as it is mirrors my own beliefs. I suffer from M.E/CFS/Fibro and financial issues + access to effective treatment has been a big issue for me. No one should be priced out of learning skills they need to help themselves so thank you for all that you do! It inspires me that others are out there – when I am well I also want to contribute to helping others and be able to provide to support to those that need it regardless of their financial circumstances.

    Seeing the materials today I am thinking that I could well benefit from one of your 8 week programs as the skills for chronic health issues do seem to different to the more traditional MBSR style and I can see how they could help.

  27. Rona Lewis

    Without really knowing what I was doing, I used ‘deep belly breathing’ (plus some luck, obviously) to get through childbirth with no pain relief. I read about the technique of sending breath right down into the contracted belly, the day before I gave birth! I also used mindfulness last month when I had a massive abscess at the nape of my neck, which had to be surgically removed. The pain of that ended up worse than childbirth, and I am not safely able to take any painkiller stronger than ibuprofen due to my medical condition. I couldnt sleep more than 20mins a few times a day for about 5 days. Thanks to mindfulness, I only cried bitterly with exhaustion and agony about once a day. I will say though, I think the doctors and nurses at hospital didn’t fully comprehend the pain I was in because I’d tell them calmly and clearly that sometimes it was at a 9 on the pain scale. In short: I know from first hand experience that mindfulness practice can help with quite awful pain. Along with my medical condition I live with lower level – sometimes mid level pain on the regular. However I made an unconscious decision to totally ignore this ‘background pain’. That is how I cope with it. When I stop to pay attention to my body, there is pain all over. So I find myself very resistant to body scan meditation, despite knowing it would be good for me. just wondering if anybody else is in a similar situation? I don’t want to feel pain constantly – I prefer to push it away and not deal with it. I almost wonder what kind of masochist I’d be to ‘go there’, considering the ignoring strategy seems to work for me. I’d love to hear from others about this ‘dilemma’ – especially if there’s anybody out there who chose to face up to their physical pain and what happened as a result.

    1. C Jones

      I too cannot take strong pain relief. I do not find myself focusing on the pain during a body scan, I consciuosly relax each area of my body during the scan and only focus on the pain after I am relaxed. Sometimes the pain has eased by this stage without me having to think about. Give it a go. You’ve nothing to lose.????

      1. Rona Lewis

        Thank you for sharing some of your experience, C Jones. I feel quite a lot of fear about body scan meditation I’ve come to realise – but I am going to gather my bravery and give it a try. I’m glad the body scan helps you with your pain.

  28. Mary Callender

    I loved this! I have hip pain that can get really bad as the weather gets colder/rainier. The doctors say the MRI shows nothing but it feels like a large metal rod is piercing through my buttock where my leg joins to my sacrum! How can I find a teacher who can help me learn this? I am in the US in Virginia. Thank you for talking about your experience and how mindfulness meditation has helped you learn to work with your pain. I will look for your books in the US.

  29. Phil Young

    Thank you so much again Melli for todays summit with Vidyamala. It has been such a confirmation of my own journey through chronic pain and what meditation and mindfullness can acheive. Would have been great 8 years ago ha ha but a journey of discovery that has given me so much. I have sent a msg to Vidyamala through breathworks but wanted you Melli to be aware of how much i appreciate the work you’ve put into this. Blessings to you and thank you breathworks. Have a place to direct people to when I cant seem to explsin the process ckearly.

  30. Wendy Weiss

    Very relaxing – healing. I am new to the mindfulness practice. Learned about this summit from a class I just completed at the local university. Transformative.
    Thank you!

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