Common signs of coronavirus infection include respiratory symptoms, fatigue fever, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. It seems that colds and cases of flu usually have more upper respiratory symptoms, including sneezing; however, the presentation of COVID-19…
In my medical, psychotherapy, and yoga therapy practice, I combine yoga and meditation with what is called Functional or Integrative medicine. Functional (integrative) medicine Functional medicine is a systems-based approach that examines every part of the body, not only the…
The healthier you are, the better your chance to get through the coronavirus pandemic relatively unscathed. The latest research shows that people who are overweight, who have diabetes and other chronic diseases, or who smoke are more at risk of becoming seriously ill with this virus. However, there are things you can do right now to improve your health and reduce your risk.
There are four pillars of health that create a strong foundation for total wellbeing:
- A calm, peaceful mind and the cultivation of self-awareness.
- 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted, deep, restful sleep.
- Plenty of activity and exercise.
- A good diet, and appropriate fasting (especially if you are overweight).
All four pillars support each other. However, the most important is a calm, peaceful mind, which cultivates self-awareness.
Self-awareness is the most important thing you can have at this time. It is even more important than toilet paper.
There are two viruses in the world at present. One is the coronavirus. The other is psychic contagion… fear and panic.
It is because of psychic contagion that the development of self-awareness and a calm, peaceful mind is key to your health and survival. Self-awareness, which improves with deep rest and a healthy lifestyle, is critical. Self-awareness enables you to:
- Stop touching your face while you are potentially exposed to coronavirus.
- Monitor your state of health and tune into your needs.
- Know what to eat and how much exercise you need to improve your health.
- And most importantly, self-awareness cultivates good mental health and prevents unnecessary anxiety, panic, and catastrophizing.
Every time you step outside the boundary of your front door, you are potentially exposed to coronavirus. Self-awareness enables you to move through the world outside of the relative safety of your home and remain safe and connected rather than disconnected out of fear, thereby becoming more vulnerable.
The cultivation of self-awareness and connection enables you to absorb information and process it so that you gain a sense of confidence that is grounded in reality. It is from this position that you can access your intuition and creativity to respond intelligently.
You will need a lot of self-awareness to adapt to the new world that is emerging in these next months.
The first pillar – Develop a calm, peaceful mind and self-awareness
The development of a calm, peaceful mind and self-awareness is the most challenging of the four pillars. It is much easier to modify your diet or start doing some exercise than to deal with your mind, yet your mind influences all the other pillars.
It is relatively easy to create physical health, but the mind is a much bigger fish to fry. This is because much of it is unconscious. You are only aware of a small fraction of your mind, your conscious mind, which is like a wave arising out of the ocean of the unconscious mind, which is the realm of your psyche and spirit.
Your psyche is an autonomous force, outside of your control. You need to be able to dive into the psyche via meditation to form a healthy relationship with this bigger part of you. The way to do this is by regular meditation practice.
From the point of view of the ego, the psyche is chaotic, because the forces and impulses contained within it do not conform to social norms. You can see your psyche reflected in the strange world of your dreams. There is a constant tension between your ego and your psyche, and this tension needs to be managed if you are to remain healthy, both physically and mentally.
How we are using yoga, meditation, and western medicine to build immunity and protect ourselves from the coronavirus.
We are publishing three articles on how to maintain health and have the best chance of preventing illness during the pandemic of Covid-19.
The first article (this article) will discuss the two best yoga meditations to build healthy, resilient immunity that can give you a better chance in the fight against a virus.
The second article details how to build the four pillars of health from both Eastern and Western perspectives.
The third article recommends Eastern herbs and Western supplements that Jayne and I are using to support our health and immunity and which I recommend to my students and clients.
Yogic theory tells us that the key to staving off viruses is to make your life force (vitality, prāna) stronger than the life force of the virus, otherwise your immunity (agni) can’t cope and the virus wins.
If you can follow the advice in the articles, you will increase your immunity and resilience.
We live in interesting times!!!! Global warming, mass migration and epidemics crashing through the borders of nation-states, and financial disruption. All this distress can weaken your immune system, making you prone to illnesses, such as the coronavirus. These are all boundary issues.
People dream about getting into their yogic practice and improving their diet and sleep. Prior to the virus spreading, this may have seemed a luxury that you can take up when “you have time”. However, today a healthy lifestyle that conserves energy and builds vitality-prāna is crucial to developing strong boundaries that either prevent the virus from entering or if the virus does get in enables you to combat it.
If you haven’t been building your prāna, now is the time to start. Within a few weeks of practicing energy building meditations along with some lifestyle modifications (suggested in the second article), you will feel more relaxed and more robust.
If you are suffering from chronic illness your life force (prāna) and your agni (digestive fire, immunity) are both not working properly.
Build prāna and agni
The key to gain the best advantage, and to prevent a virus from taking hold or from becoming a severe illness, is to build your life force–prāna and your immunity–agni.
Prāna is life-force, and life feeds on life. The main function of prāna is to maintain itself, to keep you alive. To generate prāna in your body you need to extract energy from the world, for example in the form of food, water, and oxygen, and use this energy to generate more energy within you.
To reach your greater prānic potential you need to fill yourself with the best quality of fuel at all levels of your being, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
You produce physical energy in mitochondria, little powerhouses that exist within the cells of the body. Healthy mitochondria are the physical basis of prāna in your body. You have approximately 37 trillion cells in your body, and approximately 1,000 mitochondria in each cell – a lot!
All activity (all karma) uses prāna. This includes movement, speech, thought, and emotion.
Healthy forms of exercise both use and generate more prāna by stimulating the growth of mitochondria in your muscles. Certain activities use excessive amounts of prāna, for example, worry or emotional distress, leaving you feeling depleted and exhausted, while poor diet and lifestyle can damage prāna. Whereas negative emotions and depression deplete prāna, loving experiences create prāna.
You take in energy from in the form of food and liquids, and from the air, you breathe. The more alive a substance is, that is, the more prāna it has, the more life-force you can extract from that substance.
Generation of prāna also occurs through stillness and deep rest. Deep restful sleep and meditation are the two best ways of generating prāna. Though sleep is designed to restore energy, it is not always efficient, especially if you go to bed exhausted or full of worry and tension. This is why relaxation and meditation practices are the more efficient form of rest, allowing you to calm the mind and emotions and to deeply replenish yourself with energy. You can actually use meditation to tune into and access your prāna at a very deep level of being.
Generate, Store and Utilize Prāna
Yoga and meditation enable you to delve into the mystery of the life-force via an exploration of the relationship between the breath and prāna. You do this by utilizing physical postures, breathing techniques, and specific mental visualizations. These techniques provide a profound and systematic approach to sense what prāna feels like, how to generate and store it, and how you use it to your best advantage.
Yoga and meditation enable an authentic experience of prāna.
You discover what lack of prāna feels like and can feel where it is flowing and where it is blocked. You can then liberate the energy blocked and trapped within tensions, contractions, and negative patterns, thereby reducing the degenerative effects of aging and support healthy flow. You can actually influence the smooth flow of prāna using techniques such as ujjayi prānāyāma, throat breathing, which is taught on several of Big Shakti’s meditation training programs.
As you develop prānic awareness you are tuned into, and become more sensitive to your body’s needs. You intuitively sense what makes you strong and healthy, and what makes you weak and sick.
Prāna is the energy at the basis of all creation. Everything that exists, animate and inanimate, is a manifestation of prāna in one form or another. At the macrocosmic level, prāna is called Mahā Shakti, which means ‘great power’ (mahā = great, shakti = power).
Within the microcosm of living beings, Mahā Shakti manifests as prāna shakti. Whereas Mahā Shakti is responsible for all creation, animate and inanimate, prāna shakti is the source of all sentient life.
Prāna is your life-force or vital energy, your inner power and strength. It is the energy that powers growth, change and your ability to engage with life. Prāna empowers both the gross physical and the subtle dimensions of your being, for example, prāna powers your intelligence and intuition.
The word prāna can also be translated as breath. At the subtlest and most refined level, it is the energy that powers your spiritual essence.
The term prāna, therefore, has multiple meanings depending on the context. For example, Mahā Prāna is macrocosmic prāna, prāna shakti is microcosmic, and prāna vāyu is the term used to describe a sub-prāna (which will be explained in more detail in part 2 of this article), which lies in the chest. The fact that each of these areas shares the name prāna, points to the fact that it is via the chest, the heart and the lungs that we can connect our individual prāna and consciousness heart to cosmic prāna and consciousness.