“To keep the body in good health is a duty- otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear”Buddha
Let me start with sharing my personal journey of transformation. I was never a “yoga” kind of person and never in my wildest dream thought that someday yoga would become my passion.
It all started almost 7 years ago, every couple of months I used to be down with stomach infection and had to take antibiotics. I initially thought that it has something to do with my diet, so I stopped eating uncooked food and even changed my water filter, but nothing worked. This continued for almost 18 months. I always felt lethargic physically and mentally, though I did my routine work but it was with no interest. These bouts of infections not only distributed me physically but took a toll on my mental health as well.
Having heard a lot about yoga, I decided to work on my core and accordingly joined a yoga class in vicinity. I religiously practised asanas with coordination of body, mind and breath. I did Pranayama, which was initially very boring for me, but when I started reading about it, I realised that Pranayama is the core of Yoga. I started practising pranayama mindfully and eventually I could feel the changes in my mind and body. Today, yog asanas and pranayama have become part of my daily routine, which has transformed me mentally, and physically in a positive way. The benefits I noticed are; higher focus, awareness, peace of mind, flexibility, higher self-esteem along with muscle and mental strength.
Episodes of stomach infection lead me to the path of yoga; hence, it was a “blessing in disguise” for me. The best part is, after seeing this transformation in me, my husband and my best friend started practising yoga regularly, despite having no inclination.
Yoga – A solution to Universal problem; Stress and anxiety
There are so many stressors in our day-to-day life, right from a school-going child to an adult; everyone is going through one or the other form of stress. It is very difficult to avoid these stressors but yoga and pranayama can very well manage them. Our ancestors had less stressful life than we did. Digital world has made our life more stressful. In the current time of Instagram, everyone wants instant results and one becomes anxious if desired results are not achieved quickly.
We often tend to take our health for granted. We think health as a disease free body. It is actually the ability of our body and it’s organs to function at the optimal, maintaining perfect balance and harmony, despite changing environmental conditions. Medicines have increased the life span but the quality of life has reduced, as duration spent in suffering from disease has increased. We can achieve blessings of good health in the form of vitality, youthfulness, vigour, physical stamina, mental clarity and awareness through yoga, pranayama, mindfulness, etc.
Yoga and pranayama when practiced regularly harmonize our body, mind, spirit and act as stress busters by generating ample amount of energy, which relaxes our muscles, stimulate each cell of our body so that it functions at its best. When we do asana at a slow, rhythmic, steady pace, in coordination with breath, it detaches our mind from the external world by shifting our focus inwards and we can feel its calming & healing effect in our daily life. Yoga is not just about fancy poses we see, but it is much beyond that. It means connecting to our real self by consciously working upon ourselves. We will be able to connect only when we rise above anger, ego, greed, envy, lust or any other form of negative emotion. Once we are able to connect with ourselves, we will be able to connect with the Divine and this is real Yog.
Yoga is not a destination, it is a journey, it is not a “work out”, it is a “work in”.
Pranayama- Best tool for calming our mind
Mind and body are already connected and breath is a bridge that connects our mind and body. We can always use our breath to calm our mind. Observe your breath when you are nervous, agitated or angry, how coarse or erratic it is. Similarly observe your breath when you are relaxed, how calm and peaceful it is. Therefore, when mind can influence our breath, our breath can influence our mind too. It is a two way street.
Stress has a direct impact on our breath, thus by manipulating our breath, we can neutralise the effects of stress. Nature has blessed us with a very powerful tool to de stress ourselves, which is our Parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) i.e. our rest and digest response. Pranayama is one of the tools to activate our PNS. Exhalations are related to PNS so in Pranayama/ breath work, we mainly focus on exhalations and letting go. Try to make exhalation longer than inhalation, which will activate your PNS and initiate relaxation and help in calming the mind.
Suppose you had an argument and your mind is disturbed, then consciously take a slow, rhythmic, comfortable deep inhalation and become aware of your breath touching the inner walls of your nostril and during exhalation, feel the warmth of the air brushing the soft palate of your oral cavity. Try to exhale slowly, deeply and in controlled manner. This itself will shift your focus and break the thought pattern of anger or stress.
Long, full, smooth and rhythmic exhalations can work wonders by calming down our agitated thoughts and if we continue with this pattern, we will be more than happy to see the results. Even in your daily routine, every hour take a pause for few seconds and consciously take just one deep, long, slow inhalation and exhalation. This will keep activating your PNS and thus help in balancing the effect of sympathetic nervous system i.e. fight or flight response. This will relax your mind, which will give you clarity of thoughts. These things need regular practice and patience.
Another tool to break your thought pattern is counting numbers, but counting from 1 to 10 is very mechanical so instead try backward counting from 50 to 40, which will help you divert your attention. Once you are habituated, you will not need any tool to break the unwanted thought pattern because by regular practice, you have already trained your mind for the same and so you will easily be able to switch your focus from one thought to another by simply becoming aware.
It is rightly said, “Calming the mind is yoga and not just standing on the head”
So keep doing and keep going! Happy Journey… ☺
Author – Neelu Kalra
Neelu Kalra is a yoga enthusiast who has learned yoga and pranayama through traditional Guru – Shishya Parampara (Oral Wisdom). She wants to spread awareness among people about the correct method of doing yoga, pranayama, and mudras in the traditional way, which can transform lives. To achieve her objective of promoting holistic living, she started her YouTube channel about a year back where she regularly uploads videos on the correct techniques of doing yoga, pranayama, and other exercises. She also writes articles on various aspects of Yoga in simple language which are very easy to comprehend. Apart from Yoga, Neelu loves to travel, explore new places and connect with nature. Last but not the least, she loves to draw and as the world has turned digital, she has started drawing on iPad Air with Apple Pencil 😊
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