Meditation to Relax Before and After Surgery

I am a surgeon and I understand that you may be anxious, nervous and hesitant about your upcoming surgery. Anxiety, however, causes your blood pressure and heart rate to increase, lowers your threshold for pain, and agitates your nervous system. I have a prescription for that. It’s called meditation and breath work. As a vascular surgeon at Beth Israel Medical Center who is also a devoted yoga practitioner, I have seen many patients benefit from meditation as a part of preoperative, intraoperative and postoperative healing work.

Do you remember what your Mama told you when you were nervous? “Take a deep breath, relax, focus and it will all feel better.” Mama knows best because that is an accurate description of meditation!

Pranayama is a Sanskrit word that refers to breath work and is an essential and important part of meditation. Prana refers to that life force that is within us all and moves as the breath. When patients are comfortably and kindly ushered into a gentle space where they can engage in their breath, they experience a significant drop in their feelings of stress, nervousness, anxiety and pain.

Here’s how to meditate:

* Find a comfortable, quiet seat.

* Close your eyes and clear the chatter in your mind. Center center your mind and turn inward.

* Find a soothing mantra to repeat to yourself. Try, “I am relaxed and calm. I trust my surgeon. I see a life where I am strong and healthy.”

* As you repeat your mantra, breathe in deeply to a count of 8. Hold the breath in for a count of 2. Exhale to a count of 8.

* When your mind returns to distracting, fearful or anxious thoughts, simply say “hello” to them briefly and then refocus on the quiet meditative power of your breath.

Meditation is something everyone can do, regardless of what surgical procedure they have had or are about to undergo. You don’t need to be an expert or an accomplished yogi to practice meditation. Even if you find it challenging to quiet your mind, the practice will be helpful to you as you heal and in your everyday life.

Jennifer Svahn, MD, FACS is an attending vascular surgeon at Beth Israel Medical Center and registered yoga teacher.

3 thoughts on “Meditation to Relax Before and After Surgery

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Ani Cullen

    April 11, 2014 at 4:16am

    Thank you for this very simple but extremely useful tip on meditation. I am going to have my first ever operation and I am extremely anxious because unlike dealing with emotional managing physical pain is a real challenge for me.
    As I practice yoga every day, the breathing technique will be easy to follow, now it is only the ‘mindful awareness’ is there to tackle.
    Thank you once again, I am truly grateful!

  2. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    April 14, 2014 at 8:17am

    Came across this post just when I need it most. Thank you.

  3. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    June 25, 2015 at 4:50pm

    First time ever to have a operation with a local, my knees have been bad for over 20 years. Thank you! for giving me a mantra and breathe to focus on instead of the sound of my body being cut.

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