Here we are in this difficult place, between coping with the effects of isolation and navigating our way in an unsafe world. This in-between zone is not only a harsh new reality but also a dramatic metaphor for the changes…
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.
“New Year’s Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”
— Mark Twain
The new year is a time to think about what you want to achieve and to set new goals accordingly. Proceed carefully, because unless you’re in the minority of people who succeed, your new year’s vision will soon cloud over and nothing will change.
A 2018 YouGov poll found that one in 5 Americans stuck to their resolutions. Other research suggests the same stats, 80% abandon their resolutions in the first quarter. More radical resolutions fail faster. The reason cited is lost motivation. The remedy: Find tools and tactics to keep you motivated — a productivity app, accountability buddy, or motivational coach.
If you suspect that motivation is your issue, it could be wise to try these remedies. Personally, I’m not for externally imposed motivation. It takes me back to catholic girls’ college and cantankerous nuns killing all manner of fun.
But it’s not only my personal experience (trauma) that makes me reject external motivational. When it comes to falling short of a goal, I believe something more fundamental sends our desires sideways or to the back-burner, or into oblivion.
“As there is no worldly gain without some loss, so there is no worldly loss without some gain.”
– Francis Quarles
We, humans, are acquisitive creatures. The archaic drive of the hunter and gatherer also powers modern lives. But unlike our lean-living, itinerant ancestors, we inhabit a world of oversupply and stagnation. We tend to sit, dig in, and hold onto things long past their use-by date.
Just as planet earth suffers from human excess, we individually bear this burden. While the bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up and zen-living gurus showed us — room by room, object by object — how to live with less, our less-visible hoardings still collect dust year after year.
Projects, skills, jobs, relationships, behaviors, and habits would also benefit from the life-changing habit because if we’re at full capacity with things set in motion in the previous years, piling on more won’t upgrade our quality of life or bring success — only the opposite.
Most of our actions are unconscious. We simply react in real-time.
Modern neuroscience tells us we are consciously aware of about 5% of our thoughts. Most of our behaviors and emotions are reactions to the 95 percent of brain activity that occurs beneath our awareness.
At the root of our automatic, knee-jerk reactions to life is a lack of self-knowledge. Modern wisdom says you should just be yourself: very appealing because no effort is required. Older wisdom says you should cultivate the self because a consciously directed life is much more likely to satisfy and bring meaning.
According to Eastern and Western psychology, we have an ego/persona, a shadow, and a self. The simplest way to understand them is:
Ego is your identity, while the persona is the mask you wear to survive and thrive – your social personality.
Shadow is the aspect you hide so that you can integrate and find acceptance.
Self is your true inner nature, who you are, and who you always will be. It actually includes the ego and the shadow.
In many cases, identity and relationship issues, and mental health problems stem from these three parts of ourselves working independently (often in opposition) rather than in harmony with each other.
Psychological education and inner-reflection methods such as meditation create healthy, harmonious selves.