WE all have our own ways of relaxing, but Amanda Thomson has found an unusual approach to chilling out – by cranking up the heavy metal.
Inspired by her own attempts to deal with severe pain, the holistic therapist has launched Scotland’s first heavy metal mediation class at her Metal Panda Holistics studio in Falkirk.
The 37-year-old first started practising meditation when she discovered it was an effective way to manage the chronic migraines and pain brought on by her ME.
Four and a half years ago, the mum-of-two was juggling a demanding job while going through a messy divorce.
“It was a very stressful time and I didn’t really deal with it,” she explained.
“It led to me being diagnosed with ME 18 months ago. You usually get it after something like glandular fever that’s hammered your immune system but I hadn’t had anything like that.
“The doctor said it was the result of 12 years of chronic stress that hadn’t been addressed. I ended up with a chronic illness that there’s no cure for. I just have to manage it.”
Her pain manifests either in migraine or allodynia, which is when Amanda’s pain receptors overreact to normal stimuli and wrongly send pain signals to her brain.
“It can be all over or localised but I get it mostly in my legs and arms. It can last from a few hours to a few days,” she added.
Amanda decided to start doing meditation and breathing exercises to manage her condition and control her stress.
“If I’ve just taken medication, I’ll meditate to zone out past the pain until the drugs kick in,” she said.
“It keeps my stress levels down and helps me manage my pain.”
There was just one problem for the metal fan – the music. Determined to find an alternative to the typical “plinkly plunk” meditation soundtrack, Amanda drew inspiration from new fitness craze, heavy metal yoga.
“If I’ve had a bad day, I don’t go home and listen to Beethoven to unwind. I put on my type of music – heavy metal,” said Amanda.
“I found listening to music was the best way to de-stress and relax so naturally put them together.
“I thought if heavy metal can work in yoga it can work in meditation.”
Amanda started listening to rock music aged 12 and then progressed to heavy metal.
Her favourite track to meditate to is Metallica’s hit Sanitarium.
The weekly sessions have been running for several months and are attended by people aged 20 to 50.
“I’ve lady who’s done yoga for years and she adores heavy metal meditation,” said Amanda.
“She says it’s the easiest way she’s found to straight away get into the meditative state – she raves about it.”
The reason her unusual technique works, says Amanda, is that a lot of people find traditional meditation music is a barrier.
“A lot of people don’t like the music and find it too distracting,” she said.
“Heavy metal has a lot of repetitive riffs and people use that as an anchor.
“Following the flow of the music helps them reach that meditative state.
“You don’t need to sit in the lotus position, chant or sit in silence. This is about making meditation more accessible.”
Having paid a heavy price for addressing her spiralling stress levels, Amanda recommends everyone makes time to unwind.
“I don’t think people understand the impact stress can have on your body,” she added.
“A lot of us walk about with our shoulders practically up to our ears.
“You can feel the benefits after five minutes as your body relaxes, and it can also help with things like as blood pressure, anxiety and depression.
“Some people say I don’t have time to meditate but who doesn’t have five minutes?”