One of the hardest parts of the Coronavirus pandemic is the huge amount of stress and anxiety many feel. Most of us haven’t grown up under constant threat to our welfare and livelihood. Thankfully, Yoga is a 5,000 year old tradition that has stood the test of time, and will most certainly get us through the Coronavirus.
It has helped all who reach for it overcome times of great hardship with grace and resilience.
Let’s call on it now to strengthen our internal fortitude, usher in courage and actively calm our nervous system.
Here are 4 ways Yoga helps during the Coronavirus:
ONE: Use Yogic Breathing
Breathing is an automatic function of the respiratory system, but amazingly we can use Yogic techniques to control the breath to our advantage. Breath exercises in Yoga are called Pranayama and include the manipulation of the inhale, exhale, and breath retention in between.
The benefits of breathing that Yogi’s discovered thousands of years ago are:
|Decreases stress hormones|
|Automatically triggers the relaxation response|
To protect ourselves during times of great stress, we naturally start to transition into Sympathetic Nervous System living, or fight/flight. We think we need to stay alert for the imminent threat. And while that response will be helpful when we’re literally required to fight/flight, for us sitting on our couch in quarantine, it is not.
It is time to downshift this stress response, at least for right now. So periodically throughout the day, use the exercise below so you don’t overload the nervous system. An overloaded nervous system gets worn down as stress hormones flood the body and becomes vulnerable to pathogens.
Recommended Yogic Breath: Sama Vritti Pranayama (Box Breath)
A classic Yogic breathing technique is Sama Vritti Pranayama, or equal part breath. This specific Pranayama is helpful during this pandemic because it enables practitioners to stay alert and prepared, but also composed and calm. It builds a strong internal fortress that is able to weather any storm.
So I guess it should come as no shock that the Navy Seals teach Sama Vritti Pranayama, or Box Breathing as they call it, during their training.
Sama Vritti Pranayama is very powerful because it allows for the exact balance of CO2 to O2. It does this by making the inhale the same length as the exhale. This is important because many of us shorten the length of the inhale during crisis. As the inhale becomes shallow, it can freeze us in panic and fear.
How to do Sama Vritti Pranayama
|1. Inhale for a count of 4|
|2. Hold for a count of 4|
|3. Exhale for a count of 4|
|4. Hold for a count of 4|
***Remember – breathe through your NOSE, not only during Breathwork, but in everyday life! Breathing through the nose protects the lungs from bacteria and pathogens since the nose has a natural filtering system.***
TWO: Use Yogic Thought Management – Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhah
The true magic and power of Yoga lye in this core tenet:
Yogaś-Citta-Vr̥tti-Nirodhaḥ: Yoga calms the fluctuations of the mind.
The father of Yoga, Patanjali, stated that the goal of Yoga is not washboard abs or gymnast level flexibility, but rather basic though management.
And perhaps nothing could be more important during crisis. Having the ability to choose and control our thoughts is our superpower during this time.
Thought management is yet another tool that helps us downshift our nervous system and keep the stress hormones that suppress the immune system at bay.
Basic Thought Management looks like this:
And on and on it goes. Because we’re human, we have to keep stopping, keep breathing, and keep choosing another thought. It is work. And during crisis, it behooves us to stay diligent over our thoughts.
We’re our own protectors. We are the sole gatekeeper monitoring what gets in and stays. We are the only one’s who can protect our energy and heart.
Different thoughts to CHOOSE:
THREE: Use Yoga postures to move stress out of the body
During times of great stress, we’re susceptible to emotions getting trapped in the body. Since we don’t know what to do with the overwhelming feeling of being out of control, we tend to freeze. Our breathing gets shallow, we stop unnecessary movement, and we ruminate in worry and fear.
This is all normal. But because of this lack of movement, stress and tension then sit dormant, and doesn’t follow the natural pathway out of the body. The manifestation of this stuck emotions is pain and tension.
An example of this is that grief commonly gets stuck in the lungs and we have trouble breathing fully. That’s why we practice Pranayama or breathing exercises. Stress also likes to burrow in and make its home in the hips, that’s why Yoga for stress-relief focuses on stretching the groin.
Yoga moves emotion through, and out of the body, using both physical movement + the breath. We have to have both. Asanas or postures set the stage for the inhale to sweep through every nook and cranny exposed by the pose, and on the exhale, all the cobwebs break free.
Typically asanas expose areas of the body that like to stay hidden. We cross our legs while sitting, firmly shutting down sensitive hip flexors. We crouch over in shame, thus closing off our heart. So we 1st softly open the physical body through asanas, then big bellow breaths cleanse the emotional body.
It’s important to stick to the basics during times like these. Now is not the time for fancy sequences or non-foundational asanas (postures).
Try these ancient Yoga sequences below:
Surya Namaskar Sequence
Warrior Pose Sequence
FOUR: Mudras & Mantras
Mudras (symbolic hand seals) and Mantras (sacred sounds) are also foundational Yoga practices that are extremely effective in times of distress. Both work by circumventing the thinking mind, which is frozen in anxiety and distress, to heal on a deeper level.
Mudra: Prithvi Mudra (Earth Mudra)
Mudras or hand seals/gestures are used in Yoga practice specifically during breathing exercises (pranayama) or meditation. Using mudras enhance focus and activate calm, grounding, and strength.
One of the best mudras to help feel grounded and safe is Prithvi Mudra.
Pṛthvī Mudra पृथ्वी मुद्रा: Gesture of Earth
|1. Symbolizes Mother Earth: grounds us securely in the here and now.|
|2. Connects to Muladhara (1st) Chakra: strong sense of self & safety.|
|3. Pineal Gland activation: regulates hormones and melatonin (sleep).|
Image Credit: Fire Up Water Down
How to do Prithvi Muda
|1. Sit in a comfortable position (cross legged, on a chair, in bed).|
|2. Press the thumb and the ring finger together.|
|3. Rest the palm upwards on legs.|
|4. Close the eyes.|
|5. Take a full Inhale. Exhale.|
|6. Bring the focus to the fingers pressed together. Notice the pulse. Swirl the tips of the fingers around each other a few times.|
|7. Breathe rhythmically.|
|8. Allow worries to pass through like clouds traveling by. No Shame.|
Mantra: Om Shanti Shanti Shanti (The Peace Prayer)
Chanting a mantra is yet another tool that helps us exit the worry loop, and enter a state of calm. Mantras are sacred utterances that carry sound vibrations. The literal translation of Mantra is “mind tool.”
So all mantras are tools we can use to focus the mind on the here and now. This moment. And I think you’ll find that in this moment, all is tolerable. There’s no worry. Or regret. Only YOU.
On a physical level, when we chant mantras, a powerful molecule called Nitric Acid is released during the repetitive humming and singing. Nitric Acid has a ton of health benefits, but those particularly helpful during a Pandemic are:
Boosts immunity, decreases depression, and reduces inflammation.
Emotionally, each mantra evokes a feeling, or state of mind, which is a bit misleading because the idea is to become MINDLESS while meditating on the mantra. I know this thought is scary to some. Especially those of us who grew up in the church. But becoming “mindless” does NOT open us up to anything evil.
Becoming mindless simply means we put the incessant thoughts on pause, momentarily. We can, and certainly will resume normally scheduled programming, but that pause is critically important. It gives the nervous system time to downshift.
While the mind is circling over and over in thought, the body is unable to relax. It stays keyed up. It’s like a soldier always at attention. So we pause. We give the body space to repair. We allow new neural pathways to form. And we rebuild.
The mantra we’re going to recite is Om Shanti Shanti Shanti. It is a prayer for peace. Chanting Shanti thrice is intentional:
|1. Adhi-daivikam – “O God, may we be protected from obstacles that are beyond our control.”|
|2. Adhi-bhautikam – “O God, may we be protected from people & surroundings.”|
|3. Adhyatmikam – “O God, please remove all the inner obstacles.”|
Another way to think about it is – Peace within, Peace without, Peace all around.
So try out these tried and true Yogic practices…..
We need them now more than ever. And if you’re new to Yoga, WELCOME. And if you’ve done Yoga before but want a little more support right now, WELCOME BACK!
Yoga welcomes all.
No matter what. ❤️
And some of these practices might be new to some. But give them a try. These Yogic techniques are by far the most effective and powerful tools to reduce stress hormones, focus & calm the mind, and build stockpiles full of bravery & courage.