Yoga helps beat the fear of coronavirus

Yoga helps beat the fear of coronavirus

Modern science lets us understand the workings of those yoga methods that have become the test of time, and help us relieve anxiety and relax

Being an Indian, for my physical well-being, I am inclined towards the traditional lifestyle and my passion for yoga comes before all. My faith in yoga helped me to discover something that I never imagined even in my fondest dreams. I and my family have lived in China for years but as pandemic Covid-19 began to rise, everyone at home started getting anxious day by day. Soon the situation became worse.

The Chinese Government called for complete lockdown and eventually we had no escape rather than to face it. The spread of Covid-19 has put the focus on building immunity, and yoga, I believe, if done properly contributes immensely to immunity building.

 When I was a child, my darling mother used to train me in yoga and taught me the essence of meditation. Since then I never missed a day to practice it and as it endured within me like a passion I have transformed many lives through yoga. I remember my mother used to tell me at every low in life that “yoga has all the answers”.

Many people expect physical benefits from yoga-like greater flexibility, balance, and strength. But only a few of them know that through practice over time, we can reap much broader benefits like positive emotional states and even deeper spiritual awareness. During the Covid-19 crisis as I had a lot of spare time for myself and yoga, I discovered many aspects of yoga beyond the poses that enhanced my quality of life.

I will share two of them here. A story of a debate between the warrior Arjuna and his charioteer Krishna is one of India’s most revered books, the centuries-old Bhagavad Gita (The Song of God). While the scene in the story is an actual battlefield, the essence of the story is how the sense of the battlefield within each one of us can be perceived—the constant struggle between our fears and desires. This text covers many separate but overlapping yoga styles but I want to concentrate on ‘karma yoga’, i.e. action yoga. The Gita calls us to live without dwelling on the consequences of our acts, simply to live without selfishness and with separation from the outcomes.

Examples of karma yoga are the medical personnel on the frontline of the battle against the coronavirus, who put aside their own fears for their personal safety to help others. Our actions, like theirs, should come from a central place where we use our intelligence and discernment to find the best course of action—without being distracted by fears and anxieties. One of the verses quoted most popularly in the Gita is “yoga is ability in practice,” but some may wonder how to attain this cool, selfless state of being in which our fear emotion does not overpower our thinking. Modern science lets us understand the workings of those yoga methods that have become the test of time.

The secret to achieving harmony and tranquility can be found in our autonomous nervous system (ANS), which inter alia operates largely unconsciously and controls our respiratory system. Two main branches of this system are the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), responsible for battle or flight reflex, and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), responsible for the remainder of the reflex and digest.

We can use yoga techniques that work on the vagus nerve which runs from the brain to the abdomen to stimulate the PNS to relieve anxiety and relax. Research has shown that various forms of Pranayama, or breathwork, lead to higher vagal tone, balancing the ANS. The heart rate normally speeds up when you breathe in and slows as you exhale. The higher the difference between the heart rate of inhalation and exhalation, the higher the vagal sound, and the quicker the body can relax.

One of the simplest ventilation strategies are deep conscious diaphragmatic breathing—or belly breathing—while slightly restricting the throat opening. The air first reaches the lower belly while inhaling, rises to the lower rib cage, and passes into the upper chest and throat called ‘ujjayi’, or triumphant breathing, it is usually done with a 1:2 inhalation-exhalation ratio. The inhalation is only from the exhalation through the left nostril from both nostrils, by closing the right nostril with the thumb. Start by inhaling for four seconds, then exhale for eight seconds, making sure the breathing is smooth and even. You will want to start practicing for five minutes and slowly build up.

Done correctly, when you begin to meditate, this technique will energise and calm the body. A type of meditation that is particularly useful for relaxing the nervous system is ‘yoga nidra’ (yogic sleep), a lying-down practice of mindfulness, in which the body is fully relaxed. For my fellow Indians who are facing the threat of coronavirus and the pressure of being isolated. I can understand your dilemma and can resonate with your fear. Yoga has a way out. Just keep calm and breathe on.

HOW IT WORKS

  • The secret to achieving harmony and tranquility can be found in our autonomous nervous system (ANS), which inter alia operates largely unconsciously and controls our respiratory system. Two main branches of this system are the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), responsible for battle or flight reflex, and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), responsible for the remainder of the reflex and digest.
     
  • Yoga techniques work on the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain to the abdomen to stimulate the PNS to relieve anxiety and relax. Research has shown that various forms of Pranayama, or breathwork, lead to higher vagal tone, balancing the ANS.
     
  • The heart rate normally speeds up when you breathe in and slows as you exhale. The higher the difference between the heart rate of inhalation and exhalation, the higher the vagal sound, and the quicker the body can relax

Sohan Singh is a yogi and entrepreneur, who has been spreading the essence of yoga among people of different race and beliefs