If we notice, most of us before falling sick with a running nose or sneezing would have a recent history of sleeping at odd hours, working late nights, official deadlines, continuous travels, irregular food habits or an increased stress level due to personal or professional situations. It is only right then to focus on preventive practices and practices that will help keep our immunity boosted and support the body’s natural ability to fight any kind of illness.
Maharishi Patanjali says, “Heyam Dukham Annagattam”, the purpose of Yoga is to get rid of misery even before it comes. Normally until the body shows signs of sickness, we do not consider the person sick; whereas in Yoga, we believe that the sickness begins much earlier at the level of our Bliss (Anandamayakosha) and then affects the state of Mind (Manomaya kosha) and eventually appears as symptoms in the Body (Annamaya kosha). So the first sign of sickness is actually the reduction in joy, enthusiasm, positive energy and our ability to relax. Hence these are early signals to restore the lost balance in the body, mind and soul. This is the time when we must increase the flow of prana (life force energy) in the body along with relaxing the mind through Asana, Pranayama and Meditation.
Yoga is known to be one of the most effective natural immunity boosters. Recent research published in the Journal of Behavioural Medicine suggests that yoga can be a helpful way to boost your immune system and decrease inflammation in the body.
Regular Yoga practice can effectively lower stress hormones, strengthen the nervous system, stimulate the lymphatic system, while also removing the toxins from the body. Some kind of daily Yoga practice can reduce anxiety and calm the mind, thereby enhancing the quality of sleep. Good sleep is healing and is the biggest contributor to maintaining a healthy immune system.
Below are a few Yoga practices for boosting immunity and prevention of Covid-19:
This Sri Sri Yoga protocol consists of Asanas, Pranayama and Meditation. The asanas (Yoga poses) listed in this protocol can be divided into categories like inversions, twists and chest expanders.
Any inversion asanas, will help the blood flow and stimulate better functioning of the lymphatic system leading to drainage of toxins, thereby strengthening the immunity. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body. Inversions also particularly help release congestion in our sinuses and lungs, making them less susceptible to infections. Due to improved blood flow to the brain, there is a natural sense of relaxation and calmness in the mind that follows all such practices. However, people with hypertension and may avoid inversions or practice under expert supervision.
Asanas like Hastapadasana or Ardha-uttanasana (Standing forward bend), Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog), Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) or Viparita Karani (Leg Lifts) will help in blood flow throughout the body.
The digestive system has an important role to play in strengthening our immunity. According to Ayurveda, poor digestion and an ill-maintained digestive tract lead to building up mucus (ama) and phlegm (kaph) that eventually affects the mind and also congests the lungs. By including some tummy compressing poses and twists in our asana practise, we can increase circulation to the stomach, intestines, kidneys and other internal organs to stimulate better digestion and release of built-up toxin there.
Vakrasana or Ardha Matsyendrasana (Sitting spinal twist), Natrajasana (Supine spinal twist), Shishuasana (Child pose), Pawanmuktasana (wind release pose) and Paschimottanasana (Seated forward bend)will all help you achieve these benefits.
Those asanas that help expand the chest are great for increasing the volume in the thoracic cavity and blood flow around the lungs, thereby protecting the lungs against infections. Asanas like Matsyasana (Fish Pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra), Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), Ardhachakrasana (Standing Backbend) and Setubandhasana (Bridge Pose) are great chest expanders to be added to your daily Yoga practice.
While asanas play a very important role in the prevention of sickness in the body, Yoga’s benefits are far wider and extend to all dimensions of our being. Breathing exercises directly impact the health of our lungs and related organs of breath, making them a vital practice for the prevention of diseases and fostering overall wellbeing. Pranayamas not only train our lungs to maximise its breathing capacity but also fills our mind with calm, positive and uplifting energy.
Practices like Three-Stage Pranayama and Bhastrika taught on the Art of Living’s Happiness Course can benefit the respiratory tract and strengthen the respiratory system, while Nadi Shodhan Pranayama (alternate nostril breathing) helps decongest the sinuses and clear nasal passages. Sinuses are known as the body’s first line of defence against any infection, so keeping them drained and healthy will protect us from external attacks.
Here we must mention the importance of Jal-Neti (saline nasal wash). A recent study suggested that those who irrigated their nasal passage with salt water daily experienced a significant reduction in colds and allergies.
Finally, to remain healthy not just in the body but also in mind and spirit, we have to keep our stress levels down. Stress leads to weakening the immune system and the body’s natural ability to defend itself. Meditation is the easiest and most effective way to help ease anxiety and reduce stress. There are numerous studies to show that just twenty minutes of daily meditation can decrease blood cortisol levels and increase endorphins causing a positive and happy state of mind.
As Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says,“A strong mind can carry even a weak body but a weak mind cannot carry even a strong body”.
Make asana, pranayama and meditation the most important part of your daily life to keep your immunity up against viruses that the world today is afflicted from.
Here is a daily sequence of home practice for all:
• Deep Sectional Breathing – 5 to 7 breaths each
• Bhastrika (Bellows Breath) – 2 rounds of 20 breaths
• Marjari Asana (Cat Pose)
• Ardhachakrasana (Standing Backbend)
• Hastapadasana or Ardhauttanasana (Standing forward bend – Hand to knee/toe)
• Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
• Ardha Matsyendrasana or Vakrasana (Seated half spinal twist)
• Paschimottanasana (Seated forward bend)
• Shishuasana ( Childs Pose)
• Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
• Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
• Adhomukhswanasana (Downward Dog Pose)
• Setubandhasana (Bridge Pose)
• Sarvangasana or Vipritkarni (Shoulder stand or simple leg lift)
• Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
• Natarajasana (Supine spinal twist)
• Pawanmuktasana (Wind-release Pose)
• Yog Nidra (Relaxation)
• Nadishodhan Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing) – 5 mins
• Guided “Panch Kosh” Meditation by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar available on YouTube.
A regular yoga practice can result in better health, know that it is not a substitute for medical treatment. In the case of a medical condition, practice yoga postures after consulting a doctor and under the supervision of a trained Sri Sri Yoga Teacher.
The author is CEO at the Art of Living’s Sri Sri School of Yoga and Secretary-General of the Indian Yoga Association. He was recently appointed as advisor of Yoga at the department of Ayurveda, Himachal Pradesh.
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BLESSINGS DO WHAT MONEY CANNOT
There are times when some families face a situation that cannot be resolved even if they spend all their money on it. In contrast, some other families easily come through seemingly insurmountable problems, as if by a miracle. But miracles do not happen. Those families had earned a lot of goodwill and blessings from others, and these helped tide them over the difficulty.
We all get the fruit of what we have done in the past. If we have accumulated a large stock of good wishes, we receive help from unexpected quarters that takes us across tough times.
Blessings are an intangible commodity, so we underrate them. We value what is visible: wealth, achievements, personal connections. It is essential to have money, and there is no harm in earning large amounts of it, but it helps to collect some blessings as well. They are invisible but have the energy to make the impossible happen.
If we are not getting blessings from others, in all likelihood something else is coming our way. When we are warm and friendly with someone, the other person responds in kind, and we receive pure and positive energy, or what we call blessings. But if we are cold or discourteous, or harbour ill-feeling for them, their thoughts about us are unlikely to be nice. We engage in such karmic transactions every day, investing in good or bad thoughts and feelings, and getting the return of that. But we overlook this — at great cost.
Suppose we get angry with someone and shout at them for a minute. How long are they going to take to get over the bad feelings and emotional upheaval we caused? Probably a lifetime. A minute’s investment of anger brings us a lifetime of ill-feeling from the other person.
We invest money with great care, checking beforehand what the return will be, but give little thought to karmic investments and end up receiving things we had not bargained for. Then we wonder why we are not happy even though everything in our life seems to be fine. We are earning loads of money and have everything we want, but we are still not content. That empty feeling inside is the result of the harmful vibrations we have attracted by hurting others knowingly or otherwise.
Karmic investments call for more prudence than business deals. If we pay no attention to the quality of our actions, the corrosive effect of bad karma, which stems from — and reinforces — our character flaws, will corrupt our mind and the decisions it makes.
When we invest intelligently, that too brings lifelong returns, in the form of goodwill, cooperation, and friendship. Suppose someone has made a mistake and is expecting to get an earful from me, but instead of exploding with rage I just gently tell them to be more careful in future. They are going to remember my conduct for a long time, with some gratitude.
Can we always speak and act in ways that keep others happy and content? This calls for understanding, tolerance, and tact. If can we do this, the blessings will keep rolling in and we will always find ourselves in good spirits. Where there are abundant blessings, there is joy, health and loving relationships. Money cannot buy any of these.
There is another important aspect to money: the thought behind earning it. We work hard and put aside something, thinking that it will come in handy in the event of a serious illness. If we earmark money for that purpose, that is where it will most likely go, because that is the thought energy we have put into it, which will create that reality. Why not accumulate good wishes instead, which will keep us healthy?
We err in assuming that material success will help us have peace, joy and contentment. For these, we can spend some time taking care of our mind so that we know how to manage our thoughts and emotions. Once we have learnt this subtle art, life will be much easier and more enjoyable.
B.K. Shivani is a well-known motivational speaker and Rajyoga teacher.
THE BENEFITS OF CONCENTRATION
To have the mind remain stable in one thought is the highest level of concentration. If we develop this degree of focus, our attention and energies will be applied fully and accurately to any task, leading to easy success. The power of concentration automatically brings mental clarity, an elevated state of mind, and several other powers, including discernment, decision-making, and judgment. Because of this, if there is a difficult situation, even one individual with good concentration can find a solution to it.
When someone is deeply absorbed in one thought, they forget everything else and that thought is their world. Powerful concentration focuses our mental energy in such a way that we can convey our ideas to others clearly so that they can understand what we are thinking, and why. This helps to create concord and unity of purpose in a group.
It is one thing to attain such concentration by strenuous effort, and quite another to remain constantly and naturally focused. To achieve the latter stage, one needs solitude and long-term practice of focusing one’s mind. With dedicated and sustained practice one can acquire the ability to remain calm and focused even when there is commotion all around.
This ability not only helps us remain stable but also enables us to help others in times of distress. One whose mind is undisturbed and still is a source of hope and courage for those who are in the grip of anxiety, fear, confusion and depression.
Many of us think it is impossible to find time in our busy schedule to sit down and practise concentration. It is not that difficult. The key is to practise, even if for a short while, whenever we have time. When we do this repeatedly, the mind will become habituated to being focused, and concentration will gradually become easier.
Concentration power developed in this way keeps us tranquil even in a difficult situation. Furthermore, it prevents wastage of mental energy in unnecessary thinking. A focused mind is, therefore, a powerful mind that can do more in less time. Such a mind is the key to quick progress on the path of self-improvement.
B.K. Usha is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Abu Road, Rajasthan.
COURAGE AND HONESTY ENSURE OUR SUCCESS
Success means reaching such a constant level of positive thoughts that pure actions happen naturally. Pure actions are like good seeds which, when planted, produce healthy, sweet fruit. “As you sow, so shall you reap”.
Concern for the quality of my actions today ensures the success of my tomorrow. Virtues are the mainstay in this because success like this requires hope, and hope, in today’s world, requires courage. It is a matter of working from the strength of your convictions which is a spiritual kind of honesty. Balance these qualities and your path will be easy. You will move forward. Your success will be assured.
Courage alone does not bring success. If there is only courage, there will be ego. It is courage plus honesty which brings God’s help and that is what guarantees success. “God is getting it done through me”, “I am simply an instrument in this task”, these are honest thoughts that elicit God’s help and protection.
Humility is the result of such honesty and courage. A life of enthusiasm, courage, honesty and humility is inspirational. It is a way of helping others become successful, too.
WHAT DO I NEED TO DO NOW?
At this particular time, many people are asking themselves and others ‘what’s happening, what’s going on?’. Some time ago, in Australia, a radio host asked his listeners the same question and then asked them; given the calamities, diseases and conflicts in the world, did they think that it was just ‘business as usual’ or was it different. A few phoned in and said they thought it was the same as it had always been. However, a great many said, no, something is going on, there is something in the air – a deep shift in the soul of humanity – it is very difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is, but it is palpable. There seems to be a sense of deep anxiety about the future.
However, perhaps we are asking the wrong question. Perhaps the question should not be ‘what’s going on?’ but ‘what do I need to do now?’.
The Brahma Kumaris have an understanding of what is needed now, but it is important to remember that each of us has our own journey, and we need to respect the journey of every individual because not everyone is on the same one. However, it is interesting that 80 per cent of people do believe they are more than just a body. This belief is key in understanding what is needed and what is unfolding.
We understand that there are three eternal energies. The individual soul, a point of consciousness with no dimension and completely indestructible. The Supreme Soul, who in form is exactly the same, and the material world. The whole story, from the beginning, through the middle to the end, depends on the interplay of these three eternal energies. We call this interaction, life. As things change during the interaction, we put a label on the changes, and call them, time.
Eternity is a fascinating concept and in terms of time, the only possible motion of eternity is a cycle. This is a widely held belief among ancient peoples and religions. So, what is the story of the soul through this cycle of time?
We understand that there is a ‘springtime’ of the world of matter, the earth, and of the souls who are present at that time. It is a world of truth and beauty. This is followed by a ‘summertime’, when more souls are present and still enjoy a world of peace and love. As time passes the energy of the souls gradually depletes and then they begin a search, that lasts through the next age of ‘autumn’, looking for a way to return to the perfection that has been lost. That is the era of the arrival of all religions and religious founders offering some kind of solace.
Finally, the earth enters the age of darkness, of ‘winter’, where nothing is what it seems when chaos and suffering increase as the souls become more and more lost and embedded in the world of matter, bodies, objects, creating attachment, and fear of loss.
That is the time for the Supreme Soul, God, to educate souls as to who they really are and how to return to the state of this consciousness filled with love. This is the age of the confluence of the old and the new and arrives at the time of the deepest darkness and suffering.
All the soul has to do is to recognise the truth of being eternal, and connect in yoga with the Supreme Soul to heal the self and the world. What I need to do now is to live a simple, pure life, let go of the past and prepare for the future.
Charlie Hogg, based in Sydney, is the National Coordinator, Brahma Kumaris, Australia.
GURU MANTRA GURUDEV SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR
THE EIGHT TYPES OF WEALTH
One of the greatest illusions created in the world is wealth. There is so much disparity in the world. There is no logical reasoning or explanation as to why someone is born in Africa and suffers for a piece of bread, while there is surplus bread elsewhere and is often wasted.; why some dogs enjoy the comfort of a home while others are strays on the streets?
Wealth is something that is bestowed on you. There are eight types of wealth.
Wealth as material comfort: The first type of wealth is what we commonly understand as wealth – material wealth. Just being born in Ford’s home, somebody acquired all that wealth without any effort. Why does this happen when somebody else had to toil all his life to make money? Why do some people inherit while others do not?
Wealth as health: Just having money is not sufficient. Some people may have a lot of money but they cannot eat well. They may have diabetes or high cholesterol. That wealth is nothing. Some people do not have money, but they have enough to eat and they are healthy. Like many farmers in India: they don’t have any money but they have plenty of food with them. Anyone who goes to them is fed; they can feed the whole town. They can sleep well.
Wealth as success (Vijaya Lakshmi): Some may be born into a very wealthy family, but they face failure in whatever they do. They are never successful in whatever they undertake.
Wealth as courage: One must see life as an adventurous game and should play the game without worrying about the outcome, whether you win or lose. But if one is afraid of making mistakes or doing anything, one lacks the wealth of courage. If one lacks the wealth of courage, there is no fun in life, even if the person has a lot of money. Someone may not have any money, but if they possess courage, they reflect wealth.
Wealth as friendliness: The fifth type of wealth is friendliness, having a caring attitude, having a sense of belonging. One may have the other types of wealth, but will still feel as though they are in a tight compartment, without a sense of belonging. That is what happens at most parties. Many rich people go to a party just to show off how rich they are, but they feel out of place. You find sugar-coated misery there. Everybody is so stiff. It’s like a war field actually. Parties are like a competition ground or battlefield; everyone is carrying a shield. That is no wealth at all.
Wealth as skill: Another wealth is having different skills and talents. Some people write well, some are good in debating, some have a knack for music, some have a wonderful voice, some cook well, some are talented in bringing up a child, in administration, and still others are talented in completely different things. They put their maximum efforts to achieve what they want yet they fail to achieve their goal. Effort is not enough to achieve one’s goal.
Wealth as dignity: The world is full of lessons if only we observe it with full awareness. Be as humble as the grass. Then nothing can touch you – nothing. No one can humiliate you. In the eyes of the Divine, it is those who serve creation who are true kings and queens. Walk like a king and be a perfect servant!
Wealth as memory of the source: We only know that we were born; we don’t even know how we were born. Somewhere onwards from three or four years of age, we start understanding things around us. Our memory is very short; it appears this is our only life. We are not aware of our source. The moment we become aware of our source and our infinite past, our whole life changes. It’s just like someone suddenly realises how wealthy he or she is. Immediately our style of walking changes. This is the awareness of the source.
MEDITATION MANTRAS FOR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS
Women today are independent, confident, exude strength and have the potential to carry out every task at its best. Proving equal ability as their male counterparts, they have now ventured out into running successful businesses. However, being a woman entrepreneur has its own set of challenges. Some quick meditation mantras can guide women in this challenging journey. At times when you feel overwhelmed with responsibilities or feel all alone amidst difficult situations, a few minutes of sitting alone with yourself can recharge and rejuvenate you more than you can ever imagine.
Besides, meditation adds many more skills to women entrepreneurs’ kitty.
JUGGLING HOME AND WORK BECOMES EASY
Sometimes, juggling home and work can be taxing, especially for businesswomen who don’t always work in 9-5 shifts. A few minutes of meditation during the day can hone the skill to multi-task effortlessly. You will feel fresh and energized to carry out both the duties equally well and also find more time for yourself!
MEDITATION MAKES YOU A NATURAL LEADER
As a businesswoman and leader, you are a role model for your employees, so it becomes key for you to act with a cool head in all situations as well as remain approachable for your team. Meditation helps polish the intrinsic qualities of a leader: inner confidence, strength, foresight, clarity and an unbiased approach to act in the larger interest of the organization.
RIGHT DECISIONS AT THE RIGHT TIME
When you meditate regularly, see how your intuition becomes so strong that you naturally start making the right decisions that benefit people and organizations in the long run.
CREATIVE SOLUTIONS TO CHALLENGES
As a woman entrepreneur, you are sure to come across challenges at every step, but it is important to be able to find appropriate solutions, again in the larger interest of the whole company. This spontaneity is a skill which meditation helps develop. Meditation instills enthusiasm and zeal in women so that they don’t look at challenges as roadblocks and are prepared to tackle them with an open mind and fresh perspective.
LEARNING MIND MANAGEMENT
Management forms an essential part of every organization – be it health (ensuring that employees are healthy and productive), financial, or employee management. But the mantra for the smooth functioning of day-to-day operations is mind management – that is extremely important for a cordial work environment. As a woman entrepreneur, meditation teaches you how to keep your mind calm, relaxed and centred, which reflects in your behaviour with others too. Only then can you inspire people to work together with you.
BEING ASSERTIVE RATHER THAN AGGRESSIVE
Being a woman entrepreneur, you may sometimes find yourself getting aggressive with your employees to get work done or make them listen to you. Meditation can teach businesswomen the skill to be polite yet assertive. You will see an innate strength develop in yourself to bring a diverse bunch of people together and move ahead as a team. You will be able to give your team a pleasant, organized and satisfying working experience.
Conflicts are natural to every organization and you have a great responsibility to resolve them. How do you negotiate win-win terms in such situations? How do you make people listen to you who are set in their own ideas of right and wrong? This requires a combination of skill and presence. Both these qualities develop naturally in women with meditation. When you meditate, you also develop the patience to listen to all parties with an open mind and make unbiased decisions.
CREATING A HARMONIOUS, PROGRESSIVE SOCIETY
As women, we are born compassionate and so women entrepreneurs should use this innate quality to create a harmonious and progressive society where people are happy, prosperous and contented. Meditation helps us develop this intent and work towards it. As Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “The role of women today is of utmost importance. In fact, it is the only thing that determines whether a society is strong and harmonious, or otherwise. Women are the backbone of society.” (Inspired by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s wisdom talks and based on inputs by Bharathy Harish, Sahaj Samadhi Meditation Teacher.)
Pritika Nair is a senior writer at The Art of Living.
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