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Pain Concern Columnist Appointed OBE

Vidyamala Burch, who has dedicated 21 years to helping people manage their pain and illness through Breathworks is recognised for her services to the country.

(Manchester, 2022.06.02) Today, Vidyamala Burch has been made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s Birthday 2022 Honours List. She has been honoured for her Services to Wellbeing and Pain Management as the Co-founder of Breathworks, an organisation which teaches mindfulness-based approaches to people coping with pain, illness and stress.

Vidyamala’s work over the past 21 years has contributed to changing perceptions of pain, illness and disability in the UK. Her Mindfulness-based Pain & Illness Management (MBPM) Programme was the first of its kind to introduce a new way of managing a health condition through a comprehensive approach of mindful awareness and compassion practices, pacing, meditation and mindful movement. Today, Vidyamala’s evidence-based Programme has reached over 100,000 people globally and is used by the NHS and health boards to enrich psychological methods for treating chronic pain. 

Vidyamala’s influence through the years has been recognised by The British Pain Society for her outstanding contribution to the alleviation of pain, and the Shaw Trust Power List for her role as a change-maker for future generations living with a disability (in which she has been named for four years running). She is the award-winning author of Mindfulness for Health (first prize, Popular Medicine in British Medical Association Books Awards), Living Well with Pain and Illness and Mindfulness for Women. 

Vidyamala’s work is born from her own personal experience of living with health challenges for 46 years. After sustaining spinal injuries in her teens that left her with partial paraplegia and severe chronic pain, she began to explore meditation as a way to manage her condition and found the results to be life changing.

In 2001 she started teaching her methods to others and in 2004, she Co-founded Breathworks in Manchester. Breathworks is an organisation whose mission has been to ease suffering and make mindfulness accessible to those living with pain, illness and stress. Operating as a charity, Breathworks trains teachers to embed its approach into a range of community settings, from pain management units to prisons, and from schools to hospices.  It provides funding for community projects and bursaries and scholarships to those with financial barriers.

Vidyamala says: 

“I am over the moon to receive this OBE, in The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year no less. Over recent decades, it has been reassuring to see attitudes and clinical research support the power of psychological interventions in managing chronic health conditions. In our day and age, I see this work as more important than ever. Through my work, I hope to continue to pass on the tools that have helped me to reclaim a full, happy and meaningful life.”

In 2021, Vidyamala partnered with University College London and the NHS to contribute to an app to support those recovering from long COVID. This work has now informed a Mindfulness for Managing Long COVID Course which was launched free to the public this year by Breathworks. 

Vidyamala lives in Ledbury, Herefordshire where she continues to teach, deliver keynotes and coaching online and in person. 

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