India and the world are combating a lethal microorganism. The novel Corona virus has afflicted millions of people across the globe and some cold statistics stare us in the face. Across continents many have contracted the pestilence. Of those, unfortunately several have capitulated and precious lives have been snuffed out.
The virus strafes the lungs first and thereafter could go on to affect other parts of the body too. Therefore, it is paramount to strengthen and bolster the immunity to ward off the malady. The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defends the body against infections. It makes sense to keep this system well-tuned.
Wearing of masks, maintaining social distance, consuming plenty of warm water preferably laced with honey and lime are standard recommendations. We need to add breathing exercises, yogic practices, a nourishing diet and meditation (to keep the mind calm in such stressful conditions) to the above list.
Need for Pranayama
The word pranayama can be broadly shivered into two segments. Prana implies the vital source of energy (the subtle life force) and yama is the control or extension or expansion. Therefore pranayama can be enlarged as the extension of this dimension of prana.
When our energy/prana or chi levels are low, we feel enervated. This invariably occurs when we eat in gargantuan proportions rather than partake of smaller more suitable quantities, either sleep excessively or do not have adequate rest. In all such cases there is a significant expenditure of the vital life force. In these testing times, replenishing doses of energy is paramount.
Energy can be restocked through the regular practice of pranayama, yoga and meditation. This fortifies the flow of prana through the nadis or energy channels in the human body to support our immune system.
Depletion of energy takes place on account of disruption in our life style, dietary indiscretions, emotional upheavals, or lack of physical exercise besides the human mind undergoing unnecessary stress, as it is relentlessly cannonaded with information about the spike in the cases of COVID-19. By nature humans who do not live in the present moment latch on to the coattails of Sisyphean and antipathetic thoughts.
The human body becomes weak and depleted of energy when we compromise on the four vital sources of energy. These are essentially food, breath, rest and a calm and meditative state of mind.
Negligence on our part leads to excessive pressure on the body and mind and thereby the immunity system of the body is enfeebled.
When the human mind is not in the present moment it oscillates like a pendulum between the past and the future and invariably feels distressed and distraught. Consequently, our breathing pattern becomes rapid and shallow.
Proper breathing acts like a tonic in manifold ways. It strengthens the immunity system, recharges our depleted batteries and assuages an overwrought mind and helps to live in the present moment.
Thus there is a deep and subtle connecting between the breath, body and mind. Effective and rhythmic breathing ensures that we live in the present, thus the mind is calm, collected and in a meditative state. In such a state positive endorphins are released and the body is healthy and robust to be able to combat disease.
Now through regular practice of pranayama and breathing techniques like the Sudarshan Kriya, the mind gets entrenched in the present moment. The human body is powered by five primordial elements. These are earth, water, fire, air and space. These are all extremely important, interwoven and interrelated but it is vayu (air) that sustains our life. We can be without food or water for a few days but cannot survive without breathing.
Our rishis have succinctly opined that pranayama is nothing but the worship of Vayu Devata or the Wind God. The powers of vayu are immense and were known to our ancestors and the rishis. No wonder we pray to Lord Hanuman during our trials and tribulations. He is the closest to Narayana, nourishes and sustains us and strengthens our bodies physically and mentally.
Yoga is a much misunderstood word. It is assumed to be merely a set of physical exercises. That is an incorrect perception. Yoga in Sanskrit actually means yuj (that is the union with the self and divine). Yoga transcends to the metaphysical and is not merely confined to the realm of mere physical plane.
These are keys to balanced physical and mental health. Fortuitously the generation today is verily being exposed to the secrets of breath and this is a positive development.
“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment,” says the spiritual master and writer Thich Nhat Hanh.
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