It seems like a World War out there, but it is not people of some countries fighting people of other countries, and there are no bombs or guns, no fighter aircraft, no trenches. It is the whole of the terrified human population fighting an invisible, silent, microscopic virus.
At every level we are being tested like never before, and nations are locking themselves down to shut out the spread of the disease.
Human beings have been around for thousands of years, and fought and survived incredibly difficult circumstances. They have thrived, in spite of, maybe because of those difficult times.
Yoga and Ayurveda and traditional sciences are testimonials to man’s wisdom collected over so many experiences over the millennia. They cull out the essential ways of living and of how human beings can face challenges like the present one, and triumph over them.
Yoga offers a practical way of taking charge of what is controllable – which is your own thoughts, feelings, desires, impulses and despairs, while offering a systematic approach to cultivating physical and mental health. In this time of great stress and confusion, yoga offers a way of relaxing the body and the mind and bringing about clarity of thought and action. Yoga also offers something precious – a promise of higher immunity and a chance to cultivate good health, whatever your age, background or situation.
Yoga develops the inherent warrior in all of us.
Let us look at the practical steps.
The practice of Savasana, or guided and progressive relaxation helps to calm the nervous system and reduce confused, impulsive, uncontrolled behavior. Deep physical relaxation gives the human body the time, the way and the ability to repair and rejuvenate itself, and turn on the powers of healing and health. Savasana is both recuperative, removing tiredness and tension, as well as preventive, improving the body’s innate capacity to withstand unwanted invasions. Savasana triggers better immunity by reducing and eliminating stress.
The practice of pranayama is an act of generating and cultivating energy. If we understand energy, we also know then that sickness is nothing but a depletion of the body’s energy to a level where it cannot fight viruses, bacteria, and the millions of other attackers. In the Sivananda class we practice Kapalabhati and Anuloma Viloma, as pranayama.
Kapalabhati is both a cleansing practice as well as a practice of improving the capacity and ability of the lungs. This miraculous breathing routine promises a shining countenance, signifying glorious health. Kapalabhati cleanses the nasal passages, the sinuses, and the entire breathing apparatus. It empties the lungs of its impurities, and eliminates carbon dioxide thoroughly, making it vibrant and youthful.
Kapalabhati also massages the digestive system, and stimulates it. Modern medical science is just about getting to the understanding that gut health is critical to immunity – our gut wall houses 70 percent of the cells that make up our immune system. It is also, according to the same researchers, the second brain, Researchers find the gut-brain connection plays an important part in gastrointestinal function but also states of feeling and intuitive decision-making.
Also, Kapalabhati focuses on repetitive and forceful exhalations. The better we exhale, the better we inhale. Soon, through a regular practice of Kapalabhati, we develop a habit of being able to breathe in quantitatively and qualitatively better.
Finally, Kapalabhati also stimulates the brain, and activates the endocrine system, reducing the stress and helping to create a feeling of calmness. People who practice three rounds of Kapalabhati, especially in an evening practice, can often been seen yawning – a true sign that the brain is calming down enough to be able to start drawing oxygen, a normal enough function of the human body when it is tired and oxygen deprived.
Anuloma Viloma is soothing, calming, balancing. By playing with the breathing pattern, the brain and the lungs begin a new kind of dance. Through this practice we are training our lungs to breathe differently, better and more efficiently. Anuloma Viloma prolongs and improves exhalations thereby
giving us better control over our breath. The intermittent holding of our breath makes the lungs stronger, and more efficient. When we breathe in as a part of these two manipulations, a better absorption of oxygen takes place. That is what we want – more oxygen, better health and better life.
Moving on now to the practice of asanas.
The physical practices of yoga are restful, detoxifying, meditative and restorative, igniting the body’s inherent capability of taking care of itself. Asana practice is a way to give ourselves a gift of good health.
Surya Namaskar is a complete, all-round aerobic and cardiovascular exercise. It is also excellent, low impact exercise to build strong bones and lean muscles. Many people use Surya Namaskar to lose weight, tone up and improve overall fitness. It also helps to improve flexibility, stamina and endurance, overall body balance and coordination and warms up and prepares the body for asana practice.
The 12 asanas as taught and practiced in the Sivananda system provide 360 degrees care and attention to the body and mind. They stimulate, revitalize, energize, harmonize, strengthen and soothe. The main systems – digestive, immune, endocrine, skeletal, muscular, lymphatic, nervous, excretory, reproductive, cardio-vascular, respiratory and skeletal systems are all worked upon collectively and individually, systematically and thoroughly. At the same time, the asanas work in a gentle way, making it accessible to a large section of the human population looking for solutions to fitness and health.
The overall result of a one hour, or 90 minutes practice of the Sivananda Yoga class is this – you feel better physically and mentally than when you began, you have done your bit to improve your immunity, overall health and well-being and there is more clarity of perception and decision making.
While everyone has to find his or her own way of coping with stress and disease, Yoga gives definite guidelines and tools on how to work on ourselves, and to be prepared.
Over the next few days, we will be offering a set of three classes online, for everyone to practice, based on what has been written above. They are meant to keep us more calm, develop better immunity, and make us stronger from within.
Let the knowledge, wisdom, the blessings and warmth of yoga comfort us at this very scary hour of human evolution.
Let Yoga show the way.
In my next blog – a look beyond asana and pranayama practice - diet, lifestyle, personal and social ethics, prayer, the power of mantras, and meditation.