The persistent spread of the novel corona virus is responsible for a large-scale degradation in mental health and wellbeing. Restrictions on travel planning, uncertainty of the future and deprivation of income levels has led to immense stress and anxiety. Cases of sudden panic attacks, excessive worry, post-traumatic stress disorders, substance abuse etc has spiked up due to the pandemic. All this and more has taken a toll on our physical and mental bodies.
While some people have worked very hard on improving their fitness during the lockdown and have a jolly time with their family at homes, the rest have just been an easy hunt of fear, depression, stress and anxiety. Suicide rate now is spiking like never before. According to the international journal of medicine social isolation leads to diagnosis of psychiatric disorders and suicidal behaviours.
Well, then what is the solution?
One of the long ancient practices of yoga and meditation is now being entailed in the contemporary world. To combat the stress and tension from covid-19 there is no better tool than yoga and meditation itself.
The Sanskrit word of yoga is called Yuj. It means union. Yoga is a practice which aims to bring unity between the mind, body and the spirit. Subjects like physics, chemistry and biology are science which study the outer world and material things, yoga is the science of the inner. Through the practice of yoga and mindfulness one learns the art of emotional management. Stress, depression, anxiety and worry are all psycho somatic disorders of the mind. Yoga teaches us how to be more aware of the mind and its content. Can a dark room still remain dark when a candle is lit in it? Similarly, when there is more understanding and awareness of ones physical and mental state it is very easy to bring light of optimism and creativity to it. What drowns us is our unawareness and lack of sensitivity towards oneself, nature and the entire existence. We often tend to be very hard on ourselves by running after success, fame, prosperity which causes us to be thick skinned and stone hearted. This constant pile up of stress if not worked upon will erupt like a volcano one day leaving us depressed, lost and mentally sick.
According to Bhagavad Gita chapter 6, verse 6
Krishna says to Arjuna – The one who has gained mastery over his mind, mind then tends to become his best friend. Whereas, the one who has failed to do so, their minds becomes their greatest enemy.
Yoga teaches us how to be in the present moment by constantly becoming more and more aware of our thoughts and actions. Intense feelings such as sadness, anger, jealously, hatred, envy, greed, lust etc have negative impacts on our body and mind. And in almost every negative episode of your life it is you who will suffer the most than the other person. Therefore, yoga and meditation are vital tools for making your mind and body relaxed and stress free. By living a yogic lifestyle of solitude and solidarity we would have a natural flow of creativity taking place within us which would otherwise be suppressed in times of agony.
Let’s look at a few benefits of how yoga can be of great help during the pandemic and how can we dodge the virus physically by performing some asanas while dealing with the tensions of the mind by using different yogic tools.
1. Helps increase immunity:
One of the basic criteria for combating with corona virus is when you work towards increasing your immune system. In various traditional families of India, mothers have made panacea drinks which would have various special spices like cinnamon, turmeric, cloves etc to increase immunity of their family. Apart from these magical drinks yoga asanas also helps in increasing your immune system. The immune system becomes better when there is a significant reduction of inflammation in the body. Balancing the three doshas; Vata, Pitta and Kapha of your body will naturally bring about strength and endurance of your immune system.
2. Brings equilibrium in your hormones:
The major cause of the body becoming tortured during a stressful situation is the spike of the cortisol hormone. This hormone is secreted by the adrenal glands of the kidney in response to stress. This hormone would cause anundesired symptom on the physical body like obesity, high blood pressure, acne and pimples, insomnia, inflammation etc. Mentally, high cortisol levels naturallydraw oneself towards anxiety, stress and depression.
Yoga and meditation work as great tools to maintain low cortisol levels in your body. After a yoga session we feel more vibrant and relieved of stress because our brain releases various “happy hormones” like dopamine, serotonin and endorphins.
3. Makes the musculoskeletal system stronger:
The practice of surya namaskars from hatha yoga and ashtanga yoga traditions are one of the best means to increase endurance in your muscles. Sun salutationsfocuseson moving your body entirely on the mat. The pavanmuktasana series; joint movements done before your asana practice helps in making the various joints mobile so that they can be free from joint degeneration or arthritis. Standing poses, sitting poses, supine poses, prone poses and lastly inversions bring about overall strength and flexibility in your body. Along with making the musculoskeletal system sturdy, yoga also makes our nervous system strong which will help combat the virus.
4. Music and mantra chanting to elevate your moods
Yoga is not just a physical practice wherein you contort and distort your body to get into a pose. Yoga is practised for nourishing and improving the overall health of the individual physically, emotionally and mentally. With the use of sound vibrations, sound therapy by playing Indian classical music and mantra chanting one can deeply relax and transcend the mind. Music, dance, love and devotion all come under the practice of Bhakti Yoga. In the Indian tradition there are various mantras with different significance which can be chanted to bring about a symphony in our minds.
5. Savasana and yoga nidra for stress and anxiety:
Yoga nidra is one of the most famous tantric yoga techniques popularised by Swami Satyananda Saraswati of Bihar School of Yoga, India. Yoga nidra is a form of deep psychic sleep wherein the practitioner’s body is totally relaxed in a passive state yet the mind is aware and conscious of its thoughts. Due to rapid stress and tension the body and mind losses its balance and sanity. Through yoga nidra the body undergoes rest and recovery. As and when the body relaxes/ the mind also relaxes with it.
Savasana is one of the most desirable asanas for relieving depression and anxiety. Practising in a closed roomwith a nice fragrance and soft soothing music playing at the background one can deeply relax their body, mind and spirit and rejuvenate their energy.
6. Yogic concentration technique- Trataka
Often stress and anxiety touches to a wandering mind. In this situation the mind takes you in different directions at the same time leaving you confused and fragmented. Trataka or candle gazing meditation in yoga helps the yoga practitioner to increase concentration levels and focus. There are different forms of gazing which student can opt for like eye gazing, thumb gazing, sunrise and sunset gazing etc. This practice makes one grounded and centered so that he can live in the present moment with more awareness and mindfulness.
7. Pranayama- breath awareness techniques:
That which is subtle is more powerful. The most fundamental and highly effective practice to reduce stress and anxiety is pranayama. Pranayama are breath awareness techniques which are meant to expand the longevity of the individual through the use of one’s breath. Practices like Kapalbhati, Bhastrika, Anulom Vilom, Bharmari etc are scientifically proven to work as tranquilisers and help reducing trauma, anxiety and tension especially in this live threating era of the novel corona virus.
If you would have noticed your breath is different in different emotional situations, haven’t you? When we are angry the breathing pattern is chaotic, fast and uneven. Whereas, when we are spending time with our loved ones or in a calm state then breath is more gentle, slow. Through the practice of pranayama one can have full mastery over his breath which in turn would make his mind clam and serene. You can practice the asanas, cleanse your body etc but if you don’t create harmony with your breath through pranayama your life expectancy will soon deteriorate. Your breath is just like the thread which holds differentbeads of your senses together.
Therefore, incorporate a yogic way of living in the market place and see for yourself how you are totally part of the world yet not part of it. This simply means that you will not be caught up with your mindanymore rather you will start disidentifying from it. The practice of yoga and meditation will make you sensitive and fragile with a lion’s heart!
I hope you are safe and secure with your loved ones during the ongoing pandemic. Namaste.