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NATURE’S FURY

CYCLONE NISARGA

Nisarga  that intensified into a severe cyclonic storm in the Arabian Sea, is making landfall along on the western coast,  a high alert has issued in the finance capital of India, Mumbai and evacuation of tens of thousands of people people. In Mumbai, the home of Bollywood and  largest stock exchange, high winds whipped skyscrapers and ripped apart shanty houses near the beach.

 Many trees uprooted in parts of Maharashtra , Goa and Gujrat, are hit by really strong winds and heavy rain and high tides even before Cyclone Nisarga made landfall

Media reports said Nisarga is the worst cyclone to hit the region in more than 70 years, raising concerns about readiness in Mumbai and neighbouring areas.

The cyclone threatens to worsen prospects for an economic turnaround as a nine-week-long government-imposed coronavirus lockdown began to ease this week.

 Largest container port of the counry Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, on the outskirts of Mumbai, was ordered to shut for 24 hours, the port said in a statement. The storm came as the Indian region grapples with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Maharashtra and Gujarat states have reported about 44 percent of India’s more than 200,000 COVID-19 cases nationwide, and 61 percent of all virus deaths.

The metropolis of Mumbai is already struggling with the highest number of coronavirus cases with more than 41,000 infections.

Local news reports have shown an overwhelmed hospital system in Mumbai, with patients resting on hospital floors until beds become available and bodies left in wards.

Some 100,000 people were evacuated from low-lying areas in Maharashtra and neighboring Gujarat, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

Both states, already among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, activated disaster response teams, fearing extensive flooding could further impair overwhelmed health systems.

If hospitals and clinics are damaged by the cyclone, the city won’t be able to cope with the large number of COVID-19 cases, and social distancing measures will become virtually impossible to follow.

THE POWER OF YOGA AND WRITING

There are two practices that are central in my life: I practice yoga and I practice writing stories.

And, sometimes, I practice them together: flowing through some asanas, sitting quietly for a moment to still the mind, and then writing down any thoughts when I open my eyes, before moving through more postures. Both of these practices are completely absorbing and perspective-bending. They take me out of the everyday, so that each day feels better.

One of them reminds me to be aware of every movement in my body and pattern in my thoughts as I travel through each hour. The other has a sneaky way of making everything more interesting—pushing me to look a little deeper at the seemingly mundane.

1. Self-Empowerment Promotes Self-Reliance

We do yoga to help ourselves heal, to empower ourselves to feel better, and, perhaps, to experience our best selves! Empowerment is achieved by encouraging self-reliance and providing education, discipline, and learning opportunities on the mat. You are empowered to try, to therefore make mistakes and still be fully accepted. Your interests are met with enthusiasm; the importance and joy of hard work are recognized and encouraged. Failure is treated lightly, while curiosity and integrity are held in high regard.

So what does empowerment feel like?

Physically, to me, this feeling of self-reliance has to do a lot with our foundation and core strength. For instance, in downward facing dog your hands are as important as your feet because the foundation is about growing your heart and feeling your strength. Making ourselves stronger always has a lot to do with self-reliance. No one is doing the poses for you.

Writing can also make you stronger, and aid in self-reflection. Writing about where you feel strength in your life can remind you of how far you’ve come. Journaling about a time where you felt courageous can also promote self-empowerment. What did you learn from that experience that influences your life today? The same benefits of Yogasana exist in writing.

Writing, like yoga, teaches us to be self-reliant. You write for yourself, and each sentence where we validate ourselves means that we are no longer being disempowered by waiting for or needing the validation of others.

2. Action Promotes Presence in Our Stillness

Yoga gives us a way to tap into the present moment of stability. The poses help us quiet the fluctuations of our minds into more gentle wave patterns. Writing our yoga is made more accessible by the clarity we gain from the physical practice of poses and meditation.

Yoga also helps us tap into our creative potential. By practicing with regularity we can feel the transformation made in our bodies. Just like yoga, journaling is a form of creative expression that gives us deep insight into our own self-observations and learning. When we combine the physical practice and the writing practice we activate an even greater transformation.

Yoga stretches our mind muscle and teaches us how to connect with ourselves and accept the sense things make or make sense of things. Journaling gives us insight into our held patterns of behavior, thoughts, and feelings that may have kept us from experiencing our full potentiality or seeing things clearly. When we can’t make sense of things we restrict ourselves from uniting with our own true nature, joy! Experience for yourself the power inherent in the union of both yoga and writing.

Why You Should Write Your Yoga

My intention behind this was to get into the habit of writing. To use the same discipline I use towards my yoga asana. And, as a result, see progress. And I have. I know you will too. Try my past, present, and future journaling exercise below to start writing your yoga.

Past, Present, Future Journaling Exercise

Embrace each of these three stages of time, writing what comes to your heart, as well as your pose inspiration for each one:

  • Exercise One: Past
  • Exercise Two: Present
  • Exercise Three: Future
  • COURTESY: SILVIA MORDINI

HOW HUMAN BRAIN RESPONDS TO MUSIC

Since 2006, two UCF professors — neuroscientist Kiminobu Sugaya and world-renowned violinist Ayako Yonetani — have been teaching one of the most popular courses in The Burnett Honors College. “Music and the Brain” explores how music impacts brain function and human behavior, including by reducing stress, pain and symptoms of depression as well as improving cognitive and motor skills, spatial-temporal learning and neurogenesis, which is the brain’s ability to produce neurons. Sugaya and Yonetani teach how people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s also respond positively to music.

“Usually in the late stages, Alzheimer’s patients are unresponsive,” Sugaya says. “But once you put in the headphones that play [their favorite] music, their eyes light up. They start moving and sometimes singing. The effect lasts maybe 10 minutes or so even after you turn off the music.”

This can be seen on an MRI, where “lots of different parts of the brain light up,” he says. We sat down with the professors, who are also husband and wife, and asked them to explain which parts of the brain are activated by music.

WHAT MUSIC IS THE BEST?

Musical notesTurns out, whether it’s rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, hip-hop or classical, your gray matter prefers the same music you do. “It depends on your personal background,” Yonetani says. For a while, researchers believed that classical music increased brain activity and made its listeners smarter, a phenomenon called the Mozart effect. Not necessarily true, say Sugaya and Yonetani. In recent studies, they’ve found that people with dementia respond better to the music they grew up listening to. “If you play someone’s favorite music, different parts of the brain light up,” Sugaya explains. “That means memories associated with music are emotional memories, which never fade out — even in Alzheimer’s patients.”

MUSIC CAN…

  • CHANGE YOUR ABILITY TO PRECEIVE TIME
  • TAP INTO PRIMAL FEAR
  • REDUCE SEIZURES
  • MAKE YOU A BETTER COMMUNICATOR
  • MAKE YOU STRONGER
  • BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
  • ASSIST IN REPAIRING BRAIN DAMAGE
  • MAKE YOU SMARTER
  • EVOKE MEMORIES
  • HELP PARKINSON’S PATIENTS

DID YOU KNOW?

USE IT OR LOSE IT We are all born with more neurons than we actually need. Typically by the age of 8, our brains do a major neuron dump, removing any neurons perceived as unnecessary, which is why it’s easier to teach language and music to younger children. “If you learn music as a child, your brain becomes designed for music,” Sugaya says.

OLDEST INSTRUMENT According to National Geographic, a 40,000-year-old vulture-bone flute is the world’s oldest musical instrument.

HAIRY CELLS The ear only has 3,500 inner hair cells, compared to the more than 100 million photoreceptors found in the eye. Yet our brains are remarkably adaptable to music.

SING ALONG In the Sesotho language, the verb for singing and dancing are the same (ho bina), as it is assumed the two actions occur together.

SEASONAL SONGBIRDS

SongbirdSugaya has also conducted neurological studies on songbirds. His research has found that “canaries stop singing every autumn when the brain cells responsible for song generation die.” However, the neurons grow back over the winter months, and the birds learn their songs over again in the spring. He takes this as a sign that “music may increase neurogenesis in the brain.”

DOES PRACTISING YOGA MAKE YOU HINDU

For many people, the main concern in a yoga class is whether they are breathing correctly or their legs are aligned. But for others, there are lingering doubts about whether they should be there at all, or whether they are betraying their religion.

Farida Hamza, a Muslim woman living in the US (pictured above), had been doing yoga for two or three years when she decided she wanted to teach it.

“When I told my family and a few friends, they did not react positively,” she recalls. “They were very confused as to why I wanted to do it – that it might be going against Islam.”

Their suspicions about yoga are shared by many Muslims, Christians and Jews around the world and relate to yoga’s history as an ancient spiritual practice with connections to Hinduism and Buddhism.

Last year, a yoga class was banned from a church hall in the UK. “Yoga is a Hindu spiritual exercise,” said the priest, Father John Chandler. “Being a Catholic church we have to promote the gospel, and that’s what we use our premises for.” Anglican churches in the UK have taken similar decisions at one time or another. In the US, prominent pastors have called yoga “demonic”.

One answer to the question of whether yoga really is a religious activity will soon be given by the Supreme Court in the country of its birth, India.

“Yoga is such a broad term – that’s what causes a difficulty,” says Rebecca Ffrench, the co-founder YogaLondon – a yoga teacher academy – and the philosophy tutor at the school.

So is yoga fundamentally a religious activity?

Last month, a pro-yoga group petitioned the court to make it a compulsory part of the school syllabus on health grounds – but state schools in India are avowedly secular. The court said it was uncomfortable with the idea, and will gather the views of minority groups in the coming weeks.

There are different forms of yoga, she says, some of which are more overtly religious than others. Hare Krishna monks, for example, are adherents of bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion. What most people in the West think of as yoga is properly known as hatha yoga – a path towards enlightenment that focuses on building physical and mental strength.

But what “enlightenment” means also depends on tradition. For some Hindus it is liberation from the cycle of reincarnation, but for many yoga practitioners it is a point where you achieve stillness in your mind, or understand the true nature of the world and your place in it.

Whether that is compatible with Christianity, Islam and other religions is debatable.

To those in the know, for example, the yogic asanas, or positions, retain elements of their earlier spiritual meanings – the Surya namaskar is a series of positions designed to greet Surya, the Hindu Sun God.

The Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutations

“It’s got a trace from history of a religious pathway,” says Ffrench. “However, is something religious if you don’t have the intention there? If I was to kneel down does that mean I’m praying – or am I just kneeling?”

This was what Farida Hamza anxiously asked herself while she was doing her yoga training, which was held in a Hindu temple.

“I felt very guilty but in the end, I had to trust that Allah understood my intentions,” she wrote on her blog. “I let them know I did not want to take part in any rituals and they were so respectful of how I felt.”

Yoga classes vary. While some feature the chanting of Hindu sutras, others will make vaguer references to a “life force” or “cosmic energy”. A session might end with a greeting of “namaste” and a gesture of prayer. There will probably be a moment for meditation, at which point participants may be encouraged to repeat the sacred word “Om”, which Buddhists and Hindus regard as a primordial sound which brought the universe into being.

But other classes may make no overt reference to spirituality at all.

That’s the way things are in Iran, where yoga is very popular. It has managed to flourish in a country with Sharia law and an Islamist political system, by divesting itself of anything that could be construed as blasphemy. Yoga teachers are careful to always refer to “the sport of yoga” and are accredited by the Yoga Federation, which operates in the same way as a tennis or football organisation.

Classes tend to be slower than in the West with much discussion about the physical benefits of each position. As with other sports, yoga competitions are held, judged by specially invited international yoga teachers.

Similar prohibitions on spiritual yoga exist in Malaysia, where a 2008 fatwa – a religious ruling – resulted in a yoga ban in five states. In the capital Kuala Lumpur, the physical activity is permitted but chanting and meditation are forbidden. Clerics in the world’s most populous Islamic nation – Indonesia – make a similar distinction.

Yoga has been repackaged in the US as well.

Children at nine primary schools in Encinitas, California, take part in classes twice a week based on a style of yoga called ashtanga yoga. After some parents complained – US schools, like Indian ones, are secular – the Sanskrit names for the postures were replaced with standard English names and some special child-friendly ones, such as “kangaroo” “surfer” and “washing machine”. The lotus position has been rebranded “criss-cross apple sauce”, the Surya namaskar has become the “opening sequence” and the organisers insist that it is all just a form of physical exercise.

Students in their yoga class in Encinitas, California

Some parents remained unconvinced though, and a Christian organisation, the National Center for Law & Policy (NCLP) took up their case. In September this year, the San Diego County Superior Court ruled that although yoga’s roots are religious, the modified form of the practice is fine to teach in schools.

The NCLP is appealing. Dean Broyles, the organisation’s president and chief counsel sees movements like the Surya namaskar, regardless of what they’re called, as “deeply symbolic rituals that express and instil religion through repetition”.

The reason many people in the West think yoga is non-religious, Broyles says, is that it falls into a theological blind-spot. “Whereas Protestant Christianity focuses on words and beliefs, ashtanga yoga’s focus is practice and experience,” he says. Religious intentions may not be there to begin with but practising yoga might lead them to develop.

To an extent, this point of view is endorsed by Hindus themselves. The Hindu American Foundation recently ran a campaign called “Take Back Yoga”. Sheetal Shah, from the organisation, says someone raised in an “exclusivist” tradition like Islam or Christianity who becomes very interested in yoga may eventually experience some conflict with their religious beliefs.

So, for American Christians who don’t like the idea of yoga, there are alternatives, including PraiseMoves.

This exercise regime combines Christian worship with stretching exercises. As the class adopts a posture, they recite a verse from the Bible. In this way, bhujangasana or the cobra pose becomes the vine posture, with a corresponding verse from John 15:5. “I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

“The word yoga is a Sanskrit word that means ‘union with god’ or ‘yoke’,” says Laurette Willis, the founder of PraiseMoves. “And as a Christian, it’s a different yoke – Jesus said: ‘My yoke is easy, my burden is light.'”

For someone who has set about drawing people away from yoga, Willis couldn’t have a clearer idea of the opposition’s terrain. Her mother was a yoga teacher and she started doing it when she was seven, often acting as a demonstration model for the class. She did yoga for 22 years, eventually becoming a teacher herself.

captionLaurette Willis in the Jars of Clay position “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

But she says that on 25 February, 2001, at 10:35 in the morning, while she was working out to a video tape, God gave her the idea for PraiseMoves. She sees it as a process of redeeming or “buying back” yogic postures for God. Just as a musical scale can be used to make good or bad music, so the repertoire of positions in yoga can be put to Christian use.

Despite the similarities between PraiseMoves and a yoga class, Willis says she wants her classes to ruminate, not meditate.

“People leave yoga classes saying ‘I feel so good. I feel so tranquil.’ Well I believe that tranquillity is not peace – the peace that God gives – but it’s almost a numbness.

“You’ve been told the whole time to ‘Empty your mind! Empty your mind!’ And what we do instead is fill your mind with the word of God.”

But for some Muslims, Christians and Jews, yoga is attractive precisely because it supplies a mysticism they feel is lacking in their own religion.

Estelle Eugene co-runs the Jewish Yoga Network and for 20 years has taught yoga to Jewish and non-Jewish people in London.

“I’ve found with general Judaism here that it’s difficult to find a spiritual side that I relate to,” she says. “So the yoga helps me to do that. And it enhances my respect and understanding of Jewish practices that I hadn’t fully understood previously.”

She says she makes small adjustments to yoga where she feels there is a conflict with Judaism. She never attends or holds a class on the holy day, Saturday, and she prefers classes without the chanting of mantras.

Eugene recently ran a Day of Jewish Yoga, which explored ways of combining yoga with Judaism. One of the sessions combined yoga with practices to help participants reach kavanah, the meditative mind-set seen as an essential for Jewish prayer and rituals.

On her website, a testimonial from Rabbi David Rosen, the former chief rabbi of Ireland, says yoga offers “much blessing and enlightenment” and arguably helps “recapture Jewish wisdom and practice which may have been lost”.

An Iranian yoga teacher – who wishes to remain anonymous – told the BBC that her religious students sometimes report that they pray with more concentration after practising yoga. “They say when we go to Mecca, we feel we are able to make a deeper pilgrimage because of the yoga,” she says. “Our minds and our bodies move closer to our faith.”

This is not as contradictory as it might seem, according to Rebecca Ffrench.

“Something that is interesting about yoga is that whilst it is spiritual, it doesn’t stipulate a specific religion,” she says. “Even in the devotional forms of yoga, it says you can use any object of devotion you like, be it Ganesh, Krishna, Jesus or Allah.”

She adds that atheists can also perform yoga – they can fix their attention on the “wonder of the universe” or perhaps the complexity of the DNA helix.

Farida Hamza, meanwhile, is convinced that yoga and Islam are not only compatible, but overlap significantly. The ethical precepts of yoga – captured in the principles of yama and niyama – share many essentials with the five pillars of Islam, she argues.

“Each pillar that we follow in Islam, or the duty that we have to do, is sort of existent in yoga. Simple things like – you give alms to the poor. Well, a yogi is supposed to do service. You have to be honest, you have to be non-violent – all of these are in Islam and in yoga.

Left: sujood (part of Muslim prayer). Right: someone doing yoga

“The way we pray as Muslims, each pose that we do is a yoga pose,” she adds. “So Muslims that hate yoga are probably doing yoga without realising it.” Muslims even join their middle finger and thumb together during prayer, similar to a yoga mudra, she says, though she doesn’t believe Islam came from yoga or was influenced by it.

Born in India but raised in Oman, Hamza sees her path towards yoga as part of a plan drawn up by Allah. “I am grateful for the joy I felt when my hamstrings opened,” she says. “And my big toe stretch, or the first time I did a standing bow – it took me two years to do a standing bow.

“But I did it and that is Allah’s grace – he blessed me with that.”

COURTESY:BBC

IS YOGA A RELIGION

If you’re anything like me, I feel sure you will have come across this great debate about yoga and religion – in a Facebook post, a newspaper article or in a discussion with a friend. There are so many opinions and conversations in the mix here, which can lead to confusion and prejudice and defensiveness. I felt it was time for me to add my voice to the great yoga and religion debate.

Yoga is on the timetable of many gyms alongside spin classes, BodyPump and Aquafit. Yoga has become mainstream. It takes place in the gym’s studio. There’s no sense of this being a sacred space at all. That’s how I came to yoga in the first place. For many people, yoga is about mastering the correct breathing or holding the correct poses. It is a purely physical exercise. And there’s no doubt about it, yoga is an excellent form of exercise which builds strength and flexibility. It also promotes wellbeing by supporting the mind-body connection.

Yet because this ancient practice has deep meditative, spiritual and mystical roots, this leads many people to wonder if yoga is a form of religion and how yoga can sit alongside faith.

A couple of years ago, BBC News Magazine published an article entitled ‘Does doing yoga make you a Hindu?’, contributing to the broad discussion about yoga and religion. The piece explored the issues some people have about whether practising yoga betrays their religion. Many Muslims, Christians and Jews around the world see yoga as an ancient spiritual practice with connections to Hinduism and Buddhism. For example, some churches in the UK will still not allow their church halls to be used for yoga sessions.

However, recently all over the world, people have recognised the health and wellbeing benefits of yoga. Many yoga teachers have found ways to dilute, minimise or remove completely the spiritual dimension of yoga to make it accessible to people of all religions, so that yoga can be practised comfortably by people of all faiths. This doesn’t sit well with some of those deeply committed to the spiritual roots and traditions of yoga – which is why the Hindu American Foundation ran a campaign called ‘Take Back Yoga’. They were not happy with the direction the practice of yoga was heading in the United States and the increasingly tenuous relationship between yoga and religion.

The difficulty in getting to grips with this debate is that yoga is such a broad term. There is no definitive definition of yoga. There is therefore no definitive answer to this question. There are so many different types of yoga and yes, some are overtly more spiritual than others. Yoga is generally seen as a path to enlightenment, but again, enlightenment will mean different things to different people. Yoga classes vary hugely. Some feature chanting; others are more vague referring simply to cosmic energy or divine light; some classes will make no overt reference to spirituality at all.

Most yoga classes end with a spoken Namaste and a gesture of prayer. However, how many people actually know that Namaste means ‘the divine in me bows to the divine in you’ and how many of them really think of prayer when they hold their hands like this? And a word like ‘divine’ – surely that can encapsulate a whole universe of meaning.

Many of the asana still retain elements of their earlier spiritual meanings – for example, the Sun Salutation is a series designed to greet Surya, the Hindu Sun God. But is it still a spiritual experience if you are not aware of what it stands for or if you do not believe? At what point does it merely become a flow of physical poses? And what’s to stop you undertaking this sequence as an awareness of the power of light, or an appreciation of the sun itself, or in recognition of a divine power that you may call God?

So where does this conversation about yoga and religion leave atheists? Is it possible to practise yoga as an atheist? Some would even ask ‘Given that yoga is a spiritual practice, should atheists even be allowed to do yoga?’ When you do not believe in a divine being outside of yourself, a higher power, then where do you focus your meditation? Many atheists do practise yoga. Yoga and atheism are not mutually exclusive. Individuals fall silent in wonder and awe before the mind-blowing diversity of the universe or the complexity of the DNA helix or on that incredible, awe-inspiring living thing that is a human being.

If we take a look at the fifth Niyama, there is no getting away from the fact that the foundation of yoga is overtly spiritual. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the Niyamas are the second limb of the eight limbs of yoga. The fifth and final Niyama is Ishvara Pranidhana, which can be translated as contemplation of the Divine Being or surrender to the absolute.

It’s about bowing down in awe and wonder to the divine intelligence which infuses everything.

It’s about surrendering to a higher power, when every instinct within us is struggling to cling on to control. When life is unfolding mysteriously and we seem to have no say in that: e want things our own way; we resist and fight what is happening to us; we feel victimised; we feel life is unfair.

This is when we are called to embrace wholeheartedly and joyfully all that is outside our control but in the control of a higher power outside of ourselves. Surrendering to what is with love and humility. That takes faith. That takes belief in a divine being. That requires a certain level of spirituality. That ‘Thy will be done’ mentality that is at the heart of many religions.

So what am I saying here? That yoga and religion are inextricably linked? That yoga belongs to a particular religion? Or that it is a spiritual practice that demands a faith-based attitude? Or that you can simply make yoga whatever you want it to be?

Here is one man’s answer.

To answer this question, I look to the roots of yoga. Traditionally, yoga is the science of the Self. Yoga seeks to help us understand our inner world through various techniques that include meditation, asanas, breathing, focused awareness, and certain rules of behaviour and conduct. If by religion, we mean the religious experience of transcendence, the loss of fear of death, and the emergence of platonic qualities such as truth, beauty, goodness, harmony, and evolution, then yes, yoga can give us a religious experience. It is not religion in the form of ideology, dogma, belief systems, or compliance; it’s a spiritual experience that gives us access to a universal domain of reality.
— Deepak Chopra, MD, Founder of The Chopra Foundation

In my experience, I have encountered yogis from a diverse range of backgrounds, traditions and religions (and non-religion). Each yogi approaches yoga in their own way with their own style of practice and their own expectations. I have come to believe that yoga is a philosophy and an approach, not a religion. It is not constrained by the dogma and traditions of any one religion.

And as such, yoga can be combined with religion or easily practised without religious belief. Yoga brings people of all faiths and of no faith together. It unites and does not divide. It does not discriminate but celebrates diversity. It engenders respect and tolerance, rather than prejudice and judgement.

So by all means, do it your way. Find a style of yoga that suits you. Find a yoga teacher that delivers the session in a way that you are comfortable with. Let yoga accompany you on your journey to enlightenment, whatever enlightenment looks like for you right now.

Namaste.

The divine in me bows to the divine in you.

FIVE YOGA TIPS TO COOL OFF THIS SUMMER

5 yoga tips to cool off this summer

Summer means different to different people. For example, a yoga practitioner sees summer as part of change. One season flows into another and each one brings its set of changes. A yogi will simply look at the changes and follow techniques that ensure the body and mind stay fit.
So we bring you five yoga tips for the season.

Tip 1: The secret is in your breath
The next time you’re waiting for a bus or have a few minutes before you rush out for the day, try the Sheetali pranayama.

1. Stick your tongue out and curl the sides of the tongue upward towards the center of the tongue.

2. Breathe in through the mouth, hold the breath and slowly exhale through the nose.

3. Repeat five to 10 times.

You’ll find your body temperature cooling down.

Tip 2: Drink up

The more you hydrate yourself, the better. However, this season, besides drinking gallons of fluids, you could include the Sheetkari pranayama in your routine. Here’s how:

1. Close the right nostril with your right thumb.

2. Exhale completely through the left nostril and then breathe in through the left nostril.

3. Close the left nostril with your little ring finger and exhale through the right.

4. Repeat five to 10 times.

Many feel that Sheetkari helps to quench thirst, so if you’re stranded without water somewhere, you know what to do. Anyhow, do include sheetkari in your routine as it helps cool down the body.

Friendly caution:Sheetkari is not a substitute for water or fluids. Drink up, for sure.

Tip 3: Calm the nerves

When the temperature is hot outside, it’s likely that tempers flare too, you get impatient and tired. That’s where Chandrabhedi steps in. This breathing technique has a cooling effect on the nervous system and on the nadis (subtle channels of energy).

1. With mouth open, clench your teeth and press the tongue against the teeth. Breathe in.

2. Close your mouth and breathe out normally through the nostrils.

3. Repeat five to 10 times: inhaling from the left and exhaling from the right.

After the pranayama, lie down in Shavasan (Corpse pose). It’ll relax and refresh you.

Tip 4: Slow down on yoga poses

Here are other yoga asanas that you can practice in summer:

Yoga poses practiced gently and meditatively balance the mind and body and are beneficial any time of the year. Shavasana and meditation are especially good in summer.

Any physical activity increases body temperature. That is why it’s best to avoid excessive or strenuous asanas when it is extremely hot. Early mornings or late evenings are the best times to practice yoga. People belonging to the ‘pitta’ type should avoid fast paced yoga poses. If the temperature is very high, avoid brisk breathing techniques like Kapal Bhati and Agnisara.

Tip 5: Swear by Shavasana

After a long day, do you want to unwind in the evening? Here’s how
1. Lie down in Shavasana near a wall – with your feet touching the wall. Raise your legs and rest your feet on the wall.

2. After holding the posture for a minute or two, bring the legs down and rest in Shavasana. You’ll find this yoga pose refreshing and restorative.

How does this work? Since the heart is pumping out more blood, when the temperature is high, this yoga pose helps the heart by returning more blood back to the heart. (Here we use gravity to bring the blood back to the heart.)

Caution: Those with high blood pressure and back problems should avoid this yoga posture. An easier alternative to this yoga pose is to pile up some pillows and rest your feet on them.

COVID-19: YOGA TO THE RESCUE IN THIS LOCKDOWN

With our changing lifestyles owing to the coronavirus pandemic, this age-old exercise has benefits that are far reaching. Read on.

The restricted travel, panic over the risk of infection, continuous flow of negative news and scarcity of day-to-day material and resources due the corona pandemic are all adding to growing anxiety. Being confined to our homes can be mentally challenging. Besides staying connected to family and friends, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, there is also one other thing that can help keep anxiety and mental health in check – yoga. Yoga has known to be beneficial since ages, and not just for weight loss, but also to keep the mind calm.

A mind running with negative thoughts over the uncertain future results, often results in sleepless nights which causes daytime fatigue. “Mental health is of utmost importance to see through these challenging times. Most people are not able to relax and forcibly try to relax which results in greater stress,” says Mudit Dandwate, a yoga professional and co-founder of Dozee, a contact-free health monitor that tracks heartbeat, respiration, sleep and stress-recovery.

Why yoga?

Anxiety or stress usually triggers the sympathetic nervous system which will have manifestations such as increased blood pressure, tensed muscles, lack of concentration, faster breathing, and yoga helps to calm that down. Dr Manoj Kutteri, wellness director at Atmantan Wellness Centre, says, “Yoga is a great tool as the stretching poses help to reduce tension in muscles and joints, and this can, in turn, help relax the sympathetic system. There are many yoga poses which are excellent for managing blood pressure thereby reducing anxiety symptoms.”

Yoga during Quarantine

One of the best forms of physical, mental and spiritual practice, Yoga is best suited for this quarantine period. “Practice of yoga takes care of all these mental issues. Yoga along with breathing and meditation can be considered as an all-round exercise which will take care of our body, mind and soul. Hatha yoga practices are best suited for beginners. These practices also can have different variations which can make one perfect in the final poses. Some of these practices include Tadasana, Trikonasana, Ardha Kati Chakrasana and Veerbadrasana,” says Kutteri. Dandwate says that Yog Nidra is the most beneficial during these times. He says, “One of the most profound and powerful techniques that can be used is Yog Nidra. 20 minutes of Yog Nidra every day can help immensely in overcoming stress and anxiety.”

AFZAL ALAM WHO GOT COVAXIN VACCINE SHOT SHARES HIS EXPERIENCE

Afzal Alam from Bihar volunteered to take the vaccine shot of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. His parents were unaware of him being a volunteer in the clinical trial.

A 29-year-old Afzal Alam along with a few friends reached the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) DOTS Centre on December 30, 2020, as a volunteer to participate in the clinical trial of the indigenously manufactured Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, his parents back home in Motihari in Bihar had no knowledge of this. Alam has been regularly donating blood at AIIMS. “Since I have been a blood donor for many years at AIIMS, I know a few doctors and when they brought up the issue of trials, I did not hesitate to take the job as part of the clinical trial process,” said Alam.

“I was keen to be part of this process and contribute to society, especially after so many people have died due to Coronavirus,” he told India Narrative.com. “There have been deaths due to COVID-19; people have lost jobs and livelihoods. We need to put an end to this so that jobs are back and we can live normal life. I wanted to make a difference and support the clinical trial run,” said Alam. “When we reached AIIMS DOTS centre for the trials, we were made to feel very comfortable by the doctors,” he recalls. On arrival at the centre, Alam’s weight and height were measured. “We were made to sit down; and all our questions were patiently answered by the doctors — there was no hurry. In fact, there was no forcing us for volunteering for the trials also; and the choice was still open to me to turn back,” he said.

“We were also told that financial support to the nominees would be provided in case of any disability or death,” added Alam. Alam, however, said that he never thought of turning back. “I was there and was determined to take the shot. There was no tension or fear; and that is perhaps because of my overall association with AIIMS,” noted the volunteer. The doctors conducted an RTPC test on Alam after which the Covaxin shot was administered

Alam and the other volunteers, who got the jobs, were discharged after being under observation for about 30-odd minutes. Nine days have passed since Alam received his vaccine shot. He has experienced no side effects yet. “There is no fever or any other discomfort,” said Alam, adding that for the first 48 hours, the doctors were in constant touch with the volunteers. After the first 48 hours, the doctors check once in two days.

Despite the shot, the volunteers are mandated to continue following the normal COVID-19 protocol which includes social distancing, wearing of the mask and washing hands. “We have to continue with the COVID-19 protocol despite the vaccine and also the doctors have asked us to immediately report in case of any discomfort,” he said. Alam’s next shot is due on January 27. He has been asked not to donate blood for three months. For other volunteers, family planning too is restricted for six months. (IANS)

CAN PRANAYAMA HELP US IN FIGHTING COVID-19

To put it simply, breathing control practices are advised to maintain the capacity and the health of the lungs. But for COVID positive patients, forceful pranayama is not advisable, slow walks in the room and “Anulom Vilom” can be practiced.
A leading Ayurvedic doctor advises everyone who suddenly wants to practice pranayama to protect themselves from COVID or to recover faster, to wait for a while. “If you have been doing it regularly, it is okay to continue but do not force yourself to do it if you have a cough. You will be unnecessarily exerting the body.”

Lungs2FotoJet (60)

While long term effects of COVID are still being studied, it has been established that it affects the lungs, since it is a severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). So when lungs are reportedly the main battlefield for COVID, it is critical to care for your lungs. And whenever we talk about lung health, we cannot avoid talking about breathing exercises. And that’s what has been happening through the pandemic. Freewheeling advice to practice breathing asanas especially pranayama have been floating all over social media – with some reports claiming that it can banish the virus from your system. Let’s find out the truth
COVID and breathing exercises


We spoke to Dr Rajesh Chawla, Senior Consultant, Pulmonology and Respiratory Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, to understand how breathing exercises can be beneficial in these times. “Breathing exercises don’t really help but posture changes do help if a person has low oxygen levels. If the person lies on his belly, facing the bed in a prone position, it opens up a lot of extra area in the lungs and helps in breathing. The best way to practice this for better breathing is 2 hours of lying down in a left lateral position, 2 hours of lying down in a right lateral position, 2 hours in prone position and the 2 hours on your back. This can be done once a day to ease the breathing process. This is highly recommended for COVID positive patients who experience breathlessness.” He warns that whenever a person is experiencing low oxygen, they should not be doing any heavy breathing exercises. For people who are COVID positive or patients with pre-existing respiratory ailments like asthma, Pranayam that involves forceful breathing is not advisable.

Link between lung health and exercising

Lack of physical activity is known to increase body cortisol and may inhibit critical parameters of the immune system. It is known that immune cells maintain their ability to redeploy with physical activity and they play a very important role of patrolling the vulnerable areas of the body. Exercise is known to stimulate these cells. Journal of Health and Sciences and Sports stated that exercise is known to enhance innate immune systems with moderate exercises. It helps in managing acute respiratory illnesses and also reduces prevalence of chronic diseases in the body.

Dr Nimish Shah, consultant respiratory medicine at Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre shares, “In terms of exercise, one must focus on a few things, not only focusing on the lungs but also areas that help breathing – like chest walls, muscles of respiration and diaphragm. To improve these, slow and long deep breathing while you are sitting ideally helps, yogic breathing helps, diaphragmatic breathing also helps people with lung diseases. Walking in itself, running and jogging are also known to be beneficial. And not many people know but sighing and yawning also help increase your lung capacity.

How can you tell there is a problem?

The first significant symptom of unhealthy/compromised lungs is the feeling of breathlessness. One might feel suffocated that is causing troubled breathing. Shortness of breath, pain while breathing in and out are also some initial symptoms that direct towards deteriorating health of the lungs.

Other signs of an underlying lung issue could be progressively reduced exercise capacity, reduced stamina, progressive weight loss, chronic dry cough, productive sputum, possible underlying lung problem. These should be brought to the attention of your treating doctor.

Dr Shah adds a word of caution. “If the oximeter shows your saturation level less than 95 with increased heart rate, it is an indication that your body is trying to compensate for more than required and lungs may be compromised.”

YOGA FOR CANCER PATIENTS

In 2015, it’s estimated that more than 1.6 millionTrusted Source people were diagnosed with cancer in the United States alone. They will undergo painful treatment regimens, stress, and emotional trauma.

Therapeutic activities like yoga can complement cancer-fighting medical treatment to help heal the body, mind, and spirit in the midst of the cancer battle.

“Several studies have demonstrated that yoga can combat fatigue and improve strength and range of motion for patients undergoing cancer treatment,” says Dr. Maggie DiNome of the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, California.

So, what are the benefits of yoga in cancer patients, and how can you get started?

1. Lower fatigue

Several studies have linked yoga with reduced fatigue in cancer patients. Several studies have reported a significant decrease in fatigue through the use of yoga, and three studiesTrusted Source showed that patients’ fatigue decreased the more yoga sessions they did per week.

2. Reduce stress

Battling a life-threatening disease is physically, emotionally, and mentally stressful. Yoga may be able to help with this aspect of cancer as well. One study found that practicing a seven-week yoga routine was able to reduce the likelihood of developing “mood disturbance” by up to 65 percent. Other researchTrusted Source has found that the reduction in stress also improves quality of life, appetite, and could be responsible for reduction in pain.HEALTHLINE EVENTThere is hope ahead

Watch Lesley Stahl, Alyssa Milano, D.L. Hughley & more as they recount the past year and look ahead to the future. Watch our insightful and uplifting conversation on hope, vaccines, mental health & more.WATCH NOW

3. Improve physical functioning

In addition to everything on your mind, cancer affects your ability to move. Spending time in the hospital or sick at home can make the body stiff and sore and make it more difficult to complete daily tasks. As a regular form of exercise, yoga is a gentle way to stay limber and active. A review of 16 trialsTrusted Source found that regular yoga practice can improve functional well-being in both cancer patients and survivors.

4. Sleep better

A combination of physical and mental stress can make sleep difficult, but healing the body requires ample rest. Yoga can help with insomnia and make it easier for cancer patients to relax at night. Some researchTrusted Source has found yoga to be able to help improve sleep quality, efficiency, and duration.

5. Lower risk of recurrence

“It has been shown to result in decreased body fat density, which can help to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence,” says Dr. DiNome of regular yoga practice. Obesity is a risk factorTrusted Source for cancer, and managing your risks is important even after a diagnosis and recovery. Regular exercise through yoga is just one way of keeping the risk at bay.

So, where do you start?

Cancer patients and survivors wholly unfamiliar with the practice of yoga should talk with their doctor about programs that may be specific to their condition. An increasing number of cancer centers offer such wellness programs, and yoga instructors are increasingly experienced in working with such patients.

“I have worked with cancer patients in the past,” says Jessica Bellofatto, founder and director of JBYoga in East Hampton, New York. “A yoga practice focusing on restorative postures, relaxation, and meditation is very helpful for fatigue, anxiety, depression, and other symptoms of cancer and cancer treatment.”

Bellofatto recommends four poses to get started:

1. Seated Spinal Twist

Bellofatto says this pose can help with digestion and nausea. Start by sitting cross-legged on the floor.

  1. Breathe deeply.
  2. On the exhale, slowly twist your body to look over your right shoulder, placing your left hand on your right knee and your right hand behind your body.
  3. Breathe deeply and hold the stretch.

2. Legs up the Wall

Also known as Viparita Karani, this pose can help combat fatigue.

  1. Sit on the floor with your left side against the wall.
  2. Turn to the left and bring your legs up against the wall as you lower your body into a prone position.
  3. Scoot your buttocks against the wall.
  4. Your shoulders and head will rest on the floor while your legs stretch up the wall in this relaxed position.

3. Reclined Bound Angle

Supta Baddha Konasana can also reduce fatigue and stress.

  1. Begin seated and bring your feet together in front of you, with the soles facing one another, knees bent and heels pointing toward your groin.
  2. Slowly lie back, supporting yourself with your arms until your back is against the floor.
  3. Relax and breathe deeply, with arms out to your sides.

4. Seated Meditation

A beginner pose, seated meditation helps you to focus on breathing and mindfulness.

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs crossed in front of you.
  2. Feel your sitting bones in contact with the floor.
  3. Lengthen your spine to sit up tall, and gently drop your chin down slightly so your neck is aligned with your spine.
  4. Breathe deeply and try to keep your mind from wandering.

“We know that life is painful — that getting cancer and going through cancer treatment is extremely painful, emotionally as well as physically,” says Bellofatto. “But as yogis, we are also taught that suffering is optional, that we can transform our suffering into awakening with the recognition that everything in life is for our awakening.”

Bellofatto recognizes that this feat is easier said than done, but yoga can be transformative for cancer patients who are able to put it into practice.

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COVID-19 VACCINE SIDE-EFFECTS

With over 6 million people vaccinated since the launch of the Covid vaccination drive on January 16, India has become the third country, after the US and UK, in the world with the highest number of Covid vaccines administered. With this in mind, Dr Naresh Trehan, chairman of Medanta Hospital, explains whether one should be worried about side-effects and what to do if they do occur.

Minor side-effects: Often people develop fever, headaches or pain at the site of injection a few hours or maybe a day after being vaccinated. For mild fever, paracetamol can be taken. If your fever is above 102 degrees Fahrenheit, then it is important to report it to the relevant authority and visit a doctor.

Strong and immediate reaction: Some people can have a strong allergic reaction to the vaccine within half an hour of getting injected. This is quite rare and happens among those previously prone to allergic reactions. Most vaccination centres keep those being dosed under observation as a precaution and such reactions can be treated with medicine and care. We haven’t had any vaccine-related deaths in India yet. Some deaths have been reported after vaccination, but they have not been attributed directly to the vaccine.

Follow your vaccine schedule: It is important to take your second dose on time and to follow the advice of doctors and nurses who are administering the vaccine. Don’t skip your second dose if you had a minor reaction to the first. Some side-effects can happen after a vaccine dose but they need not be harmful and should not deter you from your second shot.

Don’t pay heed to online rumours: So far there is no data that says the vaccine can lead to low fertility or heart attacks or is dangerous for the elderly. Don’t fall prey to online conspiracy theories. All the vaccines used around the world, except for Moderna and Pfizer, are tried and tested. In the UK, the Covishield has already been given successfully to the elderly. So there is no need to panic over what happened with Pfizer in Norway. These are two different vaccines.

Have confidence in data: Believe in the data available to us. India has vaccinated over 6 million people and the side-effect rate, so far, is very low. Also, this is a global event and, around the world, most vaccines are using the same platform, so we can learn from our shared experiences. A lot of countries have given vaccines to the elderly and those with comorbid conditions and have had a positive response.ADVERTISEMENT

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