Healthy body, Healthy mind!
During the current pandemic, when people have restricted movement and are confined to their homes, it is really important to stay fit and healthy and not just take precautionary measures against the virus.
Yoga has a very holistic approach towards physical and mental well-being, where the ultimate goal is to still the mind. Stillness or calming down the mind is the very essence of Yoga. Now, let us look at how we can apply the principles of the ancient science of Yoga in our daily lives for physical and mental well being.
1. Physical Well-Being
Yoga Asanas (postures), Kriyas (cleansing practices) and a Proper Diet are the 3 key points to keep our physical body fit and also helps boost the immune system.
Yoga Asanas: Asanas or physical postures help in improving your body’s strength, stamina, flexibility and balance. They alleviate stress and anxiety levels. Asanas can be performed by people of all age groups and it is the best solution when confined to your home.
A quick beginners Yoga Asanas routine:
1. Simple routine of muscle and joint flexing
2. 5-6 rounds of Surya Namaskaras (Sun salutations) followed by leg raises.
3. Standing Asanas : Veerabhadrasana (warrior pose), Tadasana series, Utkatasana, Padahastansana (Standing forward bend), Trikonasana (Triangle pose)
4. Shavasana (relaxation in lying down position)
To do this routine hardly takes 20 minutes of your time and the benefits, as described are numerous. Always perform Shavasana (relaxation in lying down position) for a minimum duration of 5 minutes after any yoga practice.
Kriyas (Cleansing Techniques): Kriyas are cleansing techniques which cleanse the internal organs of your body. There are 6 Kriyas which are described in the ancient hatha yoga texts. I will mention two of them which focus on the respiratory system and useful during the pandemic times.
Neti cleanses the nasal cavity and removes any blockages in the nostrils. It is a very good practice for people with nasal allergies.
Kapalabhati (Lungs and Bronchial tubes cleansing) involves forceful exhalation by contracting the abdominal muscles. This is a very good practice as it expels all the stale air and improves the lung capacity.
(A note of caution: All Kriyas must be performed under the guidance of a trained yoga practitioner)
Proper Diet: A vegetarian, saatvic diet which contains all the macro and micro-nutrients, using seasonal and fresh vegetables, fruits, freshly cooked meals is recommended.
According to Yoga and Ayurveda, always fill only half of your stomach with solids, one fourth with water (fluids) and keep one fourth empty.
2. Mental Well-Being
The mind, which is nothing but a bundle of thoughts, is like a restless monkey, moving from one sensory pleasure to the next. We have to learn to train our minds in order to be healthy. The Yogis were aware of the power of the mind and discovered various techniques to calm down the mind.
Pranayama (Breathing Techniques): Our breath is the connection between the body and mind.
Pranayama helps in calming down the mind and gives clarity to the mind by slowing down the breath rate.
The right way to breathe is by engaging your abdominal muscles, chest and clavicles. This is called a "Complete or Full Yogic Breath". This is the first technique one needs to learn to utilize the full potential of the lungs.
Happiness Analysis: Happiness analysis engages your intellect in helping you observe and decide “What makes you happy?”. We are so engaged with our external senses and think that happiness is outside us. For example, I love chocolate and think that eating chocolate makes me happy (at least for a while). Now, I eat a few pieces of chocolate and enjoy the chocolate but if I continue eating lots of chocolate, I will soon reach a saturation point and feel like throwing up. All our sense pleasures and gratification follow the law of diminishing returns. The more I engage in those senses, the lesser the happiness and satisfaction. Then what is happiness? When I ate the chocolate, for a small instant of time, my mind was still (devoid of thoughts) and that is what made me happy. So, after truly experiencing this, one knows that happiness is within.
Dharana and Dhyana (Concentration and Meditation):
Dharana (concentraton) is a preliminary step to meditation where one puts a conscious effort to focus on an object of focus (visual, auditory etc) and try to minimize other thoughts.
Dhyana (meditation) is a steady uninterrupted stream of thought with no sensory perception. In yoga, meditation has to be effortless. One can only “fall into meditation”.
Tips for Dharana (concentration):
Sit in a comfortable position, making sure your back and neck are straight and relaxed, without leaning to any surface. Close your eyes. Focus at the tip of your nostrils and just observe your breath. Try not to get distracted with other thoughts. Just observe your breath. Stay still in this state for as long as you can. You could mentally visualize an inspiring/positive image, or try to focus on positive vibrations (sound).
Discovering the creative potential within you: As a lot of us are at home, we have more time on our hands. So, use this time to start a new hobby or rekindle an old hobby for which you never seemed to have time. Please avoid and restrict TV viewing time and be more creative. The pandemic is giving us several opportunities to look at life from a different perspective.
Tuning in to nature: Just observing nature and it’s simplicity calms the mind. Try to immerse yourself in nature - just watching the rains, or the activity of birds in your neighborhood or perhaps the flutter of a butterfly.
I hope that you apply some of these tips in your daily life and benefit from them not just during the pandemic time but even after this phase. Please feel free to contact me for further queries and questions.
“Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience”- R.W Emerson.
I wish that all of us emerge out of this pandemic with more vitality, wisdom and happiness.
1. Nagarajan, K., Dr. (2020, July 15). Pancha Kosha and it's practices. Lecture presented at 2nd Online YIC in SVYASA University, Bangalore.
2. Misc, Sivananda Yoga Teachers’ Training Manual, Quebec, Canada, International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center HQ.
3. Satyananda Saraswati, 2013. Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha. Bihar, India: Yoga Publications Trust.
About the Author
Maitreyi Priyam is a certified Hatha Yoga teacher, currently studying Yoga therapy and wants to pursue research in the field of Yoga and Life Sciences.
Her passion is to teach Yoga by reviving the holistic approach of Yoga.
She believes the Yoga is not just about physical postures but it is a systematic approach to bring in equanimity of the mind and remain in a state of equilibrium irrespective of the good and bad experiences of life.
She has studied basics of Ayurveda, Buddhist philosophy and various meditation techniques. Her other interests include Vedanta, Neuroscience and Psychology.
Email her at email@example.com for enquiries.
Follow her on facebook at Samvritti Yoga for classes.