Pranayama and Dealing with Tattoo Pain

     Random cool tattooed yogi [1]

First world problems, I know. What with all the world’s best doctors and scientists hard at work developing links between yoga and its effectiveness for use in treatments of REAL pathologies, it’s granted that more inspired topics are to be regulated to the backburner, and the scientific community at large can surely be forgiven for overlooking this potentially very fruitful area of research.

But such is. And we can’t all be engaged in solving life’s big problems, need some of us to engage in the little ones as well. Like ya know, dealing with tattoo pains. We all do our own part, eh?

 

Pranayama

So a quick recap on pranayama. That’s the thing you do (or try to do) during your weekly yoga classes right;

Controlled breath in. Controlled breath out. Hold for 6 counts. In… out… 

In…. out….

Stretch out your breaths, until the thoughts ease off from your mind. Your heart slows. Your muscles relax. Time unwinds, consciousness eases, softens and fades off into the background.

Going to go catch some samadhi’s. [2]

In yogic practice, breath represents (or ontologically supervenes on) prana (lifeforce). Regulation of the breath entails regulation of your lifeforce. When I stretch out my breathing, I draw out my life force. As I harmonize my breathing, I clear up my vital energies, and prepare my mind-body to transition into the next stage of heightened consciousness.

Pranayama brings about pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses and an inward turn of consciousness). Pratyahara further facilitates progression towards dharana, dhyana, and the superconscious samadhi. 

Now, I’d love as much as anyone to reach this samadhic enlightenment. But a dude’s still gotta navigate all the toil and toil and tribulations of samsara, ya know? Eventual self-actualization defo stays in the books, but I’ve a scheduled needling appointment soon, and I’d really like all the help I can get for that next marathon session coming up.

 

Pranayama and Pain Management

I think anyone who has gone for one of those hardcore Yin Yoga classes can immediately relate to the pain-management benefits of controlled breathing during a long drawn out and particularly excruciating frog, lizard or king pigeon pose. Fold deeper, keep breathing. Push deeper on each exhalation, breath into those knots and tight areas. Fold deeper. A bit more. A bit more And then the insane bastard actually comes over and pushes you balls deep into the stretch, into that white abyss of pain. Gotta love those Yin classes.

Don’t let that smile fool you. This here is the true face of pain. [3]

Going to geek out a little bit here on the physio-neurological basis for the efficacy of pranayama on pain management. For those not entirely turned on by latin gobbledygook, skip straight ahead to the next pretty picture below.

For the rest of you intellectual types; regulated breathing leverages the bidirectional affect between (para-)/sympathetic state activation and directive electric signals originating from the central nervous system (“CNS”). Conscious activation of segments of the overall (para-)/sympathetic response (i.e. the slow, deep breathing part of an overall relaxed state) in turn triggers the unconscious sensory neurons transmitting parasympathetic activation back up the CNS into the brain, who then plays catch up by transmitting further motor signals down the spine out the rest of your peripheral nervous system. Upregulation of the parasympathetic (relaxed muscles, slow breathing, steady heartbeat) state opposes the rival sympathetic state activation (fight or flight; erratic heartbeats, cold sweats, jitters, pain sensitivity, tensed up muscles). By a parallel and identical process, similar activation towards the sympathetic state can be achieved through conscious exercise of rapid forceful breathing (e.g. kapalbhati), which transmits back up to the CNS, back down to the sympathetic nervous system as so.

I picked most of this from wikipedia by the way, so I know what I’m talking about.

Now there’s a good bit of research attempting to close the final leg from (para-)/sympathetic state activation and pain sensitivity. The interface between subjective mental experiences (the feeling of pain) and neuro-physiological body states has always been a bit tricky to bridge. Observed behavioral responses and subjective reporting of pain would to be sure show some difference when obtained from a sympathetically activated individual or a para-sympathetically inclined one. It’s one thing to observe behavioral responses, and another to conclude that the pain was experienced mentally, internally as more painful; am I just overreacting, or am I really feeling more pain? 

Nevertheless, I’ll just throw out here the bits we wanted to hear; the experimental controlled trigger of pain and its association with activation of the sympathetic nervous system. [4] Pranayama and its promising use in patients with pain related pathologies. [5]

Tattoo Pain Chart [6]

But anywho, some personal n=1 experience has informed me that that long, deep breathing REALLY helps during the particularly wee sensitive bits in the ink session; Nice long slow breaths in the green. Some REALLY HEAVY DEEP BREATHS as we move on to the red. Take a 5 minute breather to help clear your mind, then that existential dread again and that moment of panic right as the needle homes into your skin…!!!!!!!…!!…haaaaaa…… Oohh yer fluffin beautie.

Granted there are probably even more niche areas for controlled breath applications out there. Like getting a covid/flu jab. Like when going for a foot massage. Or going to the dentist. Don’t know anything about those, I’m trying to write for the everyman here.

Calm mind through long slow breaths. Reversal of cause and effect. A real wonder of science, that pranayama.

 

Takeaways

– Slow, controlled breathing makes me less of a fidgety beech during tattoo sessions. 

– There’s a bit of science backing the idea that pranayama can help with pain (or at least its management)

– Bit of pranayama would probably help with my spiritual side too, enlightenment and all.

 

Will end off with a bit of #inkspiration, because dayum, some of these pins look mighty fine. 

 

One day, I too will be able to be like that. [7]

 

[1]: https://thetattooedbuddha.com/2016/09/04/the-tattooed-yoga-project-building-community-through-art/ 

[2]: https://www.indiadivine.org/prana-and-pranayama/ 

[3]: https://www.surfertoday.com/surfing/how-to-do-frog-pose

[4]: Neuroanatomy, Parasympathetic Nervous System, Jacob Tindle; Prasanna Tadi.[2020]

[5]: Yoga: Can It Be Integrated with Treatment of Neuropathic Pain, Telles S. · Sayal N. · Nacht C. · Chopra A. · Patel K. · Wnuk A. · Dalvi P. · Bhatia K. · Miranpuri G. · Anand A. [2017]

[6]: https://www.facebook.com/rxtattoomd/posts/tattoo-pain-chart/453490595301962/ 

[7]: https://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1617350

 

Practical Application of the 3 Gunas in Food and Fishing

“Every battle is won before it’s ever fought.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The three Gunas describes 3 basic qualities or tendencies that groups states (harmony, activity, chaos), attitudes (positivity, self-centeredness, apathy) and dispositions (peacefulness, dynamism, ignorance) that is generally encountered together in daily life.

This system provides a useful conceptual framework to help understand, categorize and leverage in our life’s undertakings. The following details my attempt to outline a practical application of the 3 Gunas framework in the (hypothetical) feeding, capture and post-catch management of a really hot guy/(s).

It is my hope that this contribution to the yogic community will provide an aspirational yogi at least some help to attain their happiness, or at least bring the rest of us a little amusement in hearing about how the capture attempt goes.

 

Three Gunas & Food:

The following table handily summarizes the categories of food that promotes the respective attitudes. Identical tables, charts and infographics can very easily be found through a quick check with Google.

   
Figure 1: Food that promote the 3 Gunas [1]

The long and short of it is that the eating certain types of food will promote certain kind of energies. Managing the types and proportions of food you eat will assist to regulate your energies (sattva, rajas, tamas); eating chicken if you’re a tamasic kind of person who needs a bit of energy, minimizing spicy food and downing some nuts if you’re the rajasic sort who needs to prepare for a presentation, etc etc.

The standard application prescribes the active evaluation and choice of food types to facilitate the yogi’s own life practices. Numero Uno. Yours truly. The one and only.

But that’s boring. Managing [2] others based on your esoteric yogic guru super-wisdom is where it’s at.

[1] The Gunas in Yoga – Understanding the Significance, [https://yogacentral.in/2017/09/12/gunas-yoga-significance/], YogaCentral [2017]

[2] /məˌnɪpjʊˈleɪʃ(ə)n/. Verb. The action of manipulating something in a skilful manner.

 

A Very Practical Problem

You’re you. You’ve just trudged through an exhausting week of meetings, emergencies, client/customer management and snide passive aggression from your bosses/colleagues over the past five days.

You’re dragged your miserable self down to a fancy bar on a Friday night. You meet this cute guy, struck up a discussion and immediately hit it off. You two had an engaging discussion of the Bhagavad Gita and Sankhya philosophy because you’re both kindred modern enlightened new-age spiritual liberal types like that.

You somehow worked up the courage to invite him back to your sweet (hypothetical) bachelorette pad for a nice meal together. You have just opened your fridge at your generously stocked kitchen when you snapped a little out of your martini-tipsiness;
“Oh sh~eesh. I have no idea what I should cook here.”

What is a girl/non-binary/liberal-male to do?

 

Scenario 1: Mr Tamasic
“Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Mr Tamasic is quite a looker. Unfortunately, he’s also a tad bit apathetic, lethargy and slow on the uptake. Left on his own, this fella doesn’t seem to have the initiative to really step/stand-up, hold himself erect, and really bring things forward tonight.

In this case, you want to cook up something to really ramp up his rajasic energies (Passion, desire & attachment), and a dash of stattvic (Truth, Intelligence & consciousness) to open his eyes to what a treasure he is missing out on if he doesn’t hustle and seize the damn opportunities when they’re standing right in front of him.

Here’s a couple of nice recipes to get his blood boiling:

– Indian Chicken Curry (Murgh Kari): https://www.simplycook.com/recipes/murgh-kari-for-2
– Tamarind Fish Curry (Asam Pedas Ikan Pari): https://www.nyonyacooking.com/recipes/asam-pedas-ikan-pari~ByZH_viDfcZQ
– Lemon Daal (Nimmakaya Pappu): https://blogexplore.com/food/curries-gravies/nimmakaya-pappu-lemony-dal-recipe/

 

Scenario 2: Mr Rajasic
“When strong, avoid them. If of high morale, depress them. Seem humble to fill them with conceit. If at ease, exhaust them. If united, separate them. Attack their weaknesses. Emerge to their surprise.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Mr Rajasic is a total hottie. Unfortunately, he also appears just a tad bit hot-headed, impulsive, wilful, and maybe a little wild. While you’re interested to secure a little more than just the passing acquaintance with this eligible bachelor, you’re worried of the seemingly considerable risk of a one-night stand, a passing fancy, and/or a pelvic fracture/sore hips the next day.

We really want to tone down Mr Rajasic’s rajas over here. Really load up on the tamas to get him nice and satiated. A lot of red meat, some mushroom sauce, a few bottles of red wine for extra romance. Hold the coffee, garlic, and for God’s sake, do not feed the man any spicy curries.

Try one of these recipes:

– Steak with mushroom gravy: https://cafedelites.com/ribeye-steaks-with-mushroom-gravy/
– Juicy Steakhouse Burger: https://www.onceuponachef.com/recipes/steakhouse-burgers.html

 

Scenario 3: Mr Sattvic
“The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy, so that he cannot fathom our real intent.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Now, Mr Sattvic is an intelligent (and very attractive) chap. He says all the right words, makes all the right moves, makes you laugh with his witty jokes, fascinates you with his insightful observations. Unfortunately, he might be just a little bit too clever, able to sniff out your plans and check all your advances. Can’t have that upsetting the balance of power in your future relationship.

Where we’d usually promote the consumption of sattvic food, here we want to do the exact opposite; stuff the fella full of rajasic and tamasic food to throw him off balance;
“Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.” – Sun Tzu

Here’s a couple of nice dishes to obfuscate, obscurate, and enfeeble:

– Butter Chicken (Chicken Makhani): https://www.indianhealthyrecipes.com/butter-chicken/
– Paneer Tikka: https://www.indianhealthyrecipes.com/paneer-tikka-on-stove-top/
– Aloo Chaat: https://www.vegrecipesofindia.com/aloo-chaat-recipe/
– 5 Minute Chocolate Pudding: https://laughingspatula.com/5-minute-chocolate-pudding

 

Back to Basics: Self-care

Of course, being busy with whipping up specially tailored epicurean gastronomical miscellany is no excuse to neglect the proper care and maintenance of player one. In between juggling 4 frying pans, 2 stewing pots and a smoking oven that’s just about the trigger the fire alarm, one should make sure to whip out a solid sattvic main to keep yourself primed and alert during the coming meal.

Probably a small pretty salad, a plate of fresh fruits and a nice pot of herbal tea. Just tell your wondering meal buddy that you’re on a diet. Maybe leave the washing for tomorrow.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad: https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/a19885314/mediterranean-chickpea-salad-recipe/
Fruit platter: https://divascancook.com/how-to-make-a-fruit-tray-beautiful-fruit-platter-idea/
Homemade Herbal Tea: https://www.acouplecooks.com/herbal-tea-recipes/

I don’t think we have had enough Art of War quotes. Here’s one more for good measure:

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

 

P.S. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

King of Asana

Headstand or Sirsana is often known as the king of asana. This pose may seems unachievable for new yogi but it is a balancing posture with a firm foundation (crown of the head, forearms and wrists). However, it is something you do not want to rush into as you need a certain level of strength to achieve without hurting yourself. 

How to go into Headstand

i. Sit in Thunderbolt Pose

ii. Create a stable base 

     – Measure out the appropriate elbow width by placing opposite hands at the inside base of your upper arms, keep your elbows in this position as you place them down on your mat. Bring your hands together to create a triangle shape with your forearms and interlace your fingers

(wikihow)

iii. Place the top of your head on the mat inside your hands

iv. Lift your hips and straighten your legs

(wikihow)

v. Walk your feet toward your head, bringing your hips above your shoulders

(wikihow)

vi. Gently bring your knees in toward your chest (once you are stable, straighten your legs)

 

Muscles & Joints involved

As we go into the pose, the rotator cuff muscles and serratus anteriors shorten while the triceps brachii stabilizes. Our shoulders are the source of strength and support at the foundation. As soon as we come into the headstand position, we rotate and protract the shoulder blades in an upward direction (towards the hips). The serratus anterior is the strongest muscle for carrying out these actions involved in Salamba Shirshasana (Yogawithsapna)

Safety and Precautions

Doing a headstand incorrectly can injure your neck. If you have injuries affecting your neck/ spine, you may need to avoid the pose until fully healed.

It’s about the journey, not the destination (A cliché, but so true)

A little hesitant to use this quote because but it definitely is a wise truth.

I have never thought about taking up yoga till my best friend invited me to a trial class class about 2 years ago. It started out as a way to get some exercise, but it has turned out to be so much more.

During my practice, there were so many pose I wanted to achieve. But this is also the reason why it stopped me from practicing for some time. I was discouraged when I was unable to to achieve and I actually gave up out of frustration. I started back on mat during circuit breaker where virtual classes were introduced and that was when I realized i missed those practicing and I want it back.

And this time round, my goal is to become more connected to myself and to resist focusing on the outcome but to embrace both my strengths and weaknesses. One way I realized is to set an intention before the the class. An intention that allow me to focus on during the practice and when I step off the mat. 

 

My yoga journey and Patanjali’s teachings

One of my key recent learnings has been Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga.

The Eight Limbs are:

  1. Yama (Restraints)
  2. Niyama (Observances)
  3. Asana (Posture)
  4. Pranayama (Breath Control)
  5. Pratyahara (Withdrawal of the Senses)
  6. Dharana (Concentration)
  7. Dhyana (Meditation)
  8. Samadhi (Pure Contemplation)

Each limb provides useful guidance on its own, but collectively they provide a roadmap to living a meaningful and purposeful life.  The structure offered in these teachings has resonated strongly with me –as looking back on my own yoga journey, I’ve unknowingly sought out and struggled with them in my own ways. 

 

My journey with yoga started from injuries.

In high school I became an avid gym-goer and amped up the intensity when I joined my university’s crew team. However, being keen and excited about weightlifting didn’t mean not getting injured  –actually it happened probably too often. Chiro visits and massage therapy became a regular part of my life from the age of 20. I saw specialists but their assessments and treatments always felt superficial.

I first took up yoga to help with these injuries. I didn’t want to listen to the doctor who told me I shouldn’t necessarily have expectations to run or jump again at my young age. I wanted to focus on my spine to build up strength, stability and regain flexibility. Away from the weights, the low impact nature of yoga offered me an active approach to healing.

The universal appeal of yoga also allowed it to be one of the few activities that I could do anywhere as I’ve moved around with my career. DC, London, Hong Kong –and now here at Tirisula in Singapore, I’ve been fortunate to find active yoga communities and great teachers to learn from in each city.

Through these various life moves, a large part of why I’ve stayed with yoga is the confidence it has helped me develop as I grow capable of doing new asanas, coupled with the sense of calm and feeling refreshed that I always have at the end of each class.

A deepening desire to expand what I was finding within the classroom into my everyday life has promoted an evolution of my practice.  In particular, this has been with an increased focus on incorporating meditation in my personal life, and on asserting myself genuinely and confidently in my professional life. 

 

Learning the Eight Limbs…

When I look at the Eight Limbs, they prioritize many of the same values I have been trying to develop in myself to be a happy and productive adult.

Yamas and niyamas are restrictions and disciplines that I see as beneficial in shaping how I approach myself and others. Asanas and pranayama are key to keeping a healthy body. The higher limbs outline an approach to developing clarity of mind. 

As I forge ahead on my quest for self development, learning the Eight Limbs has been encouraging and welcomed, as they provide structure to an approach I was trying form for myself.

Misconceptions about the Dog

Downward facing dog (DFD) is probably the most commonly cued pose and often the “resting” pose.

COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS

Heels are supposed to touch the floor

Not exactly! A student with tight hamstrings or short Achilles tendon* may find heel-to-floor contact challenging. Hamstrings are attached to the sit bones and if they are tight, pelvis will be pulled into a tucked position which strains the lower back. If you have tight hamstrings, save your hamstring stretching for poses that will actually change the length of the muscles instead of pulling other body parts out of alignment and causing unnecessary strain. A student with less range of motion in his/her ankles (reduced dorsiflexion) may not be able to have heel-to-floor contact.

*Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the body. When the calf muscles flex, the Achilles tendon pulls on the heel. This movement allows us to stand on our toes when walking, running, or jumping. Despite its strength, the Achilles tendon is also vulnerable to injury, due to its limited blood supply and the high tensions placed on it (https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/picture-of-the-achilles-tendon#1)

Legs have to be straightened

There seems to be an understanding that the “correct” form” of DFD must be done with straight legs. Student tend to straighten their legs when comparing to others. This may cause rounding of backs and taxing the hamstrings. A bent-knee down dog is as much a down dog as a straight-legged down dog. 

In conclusion, don’t worry about trying to get the heel-to-floor contact. The “correct” form should be the one that best serves you and at any moment. If your hamstrings are tight, it is ok to bend your knees as much as required as long as you maintain a long spine with pelvis tilted up towards the ceiling.

How to do Downward-Facing Dog - Adho Mukha Svanasana – Alma Story (https://www.almastory.com/)

Go forth and have a more sustainable DFD 🙂

Yoga’s Origin Story: 

Yoga is very special in the sense there is so much more to it than just the practice. Theres a rich deep-rooted cultural history to it, and I was curious to find out more as it would been touching base with my own roots.  

Yoga originated in India, over 5,000 years ago. It was initially mentioned in the Vedas, which are sacred ancient scriptures used by priests. Within Hinduism, there are six schools of philosophy encompassing the world views and teachings. 

These were: 

  1. Sankhya: the duality of consciousness and matter
  2. Yoga: emerging from the prior, the practice of Sankhya through meditation, contemplation and liberation
  3. Nyaya: Logic, sources of knowledge
  4. Vaisheshika:  empiricist, atomism 
  5. Mimamsa: Orthopraxy, accurately interpreting the ancient sanskrit Vedas
  6. Vedanta: The final segment of knowledge in the Vedas

Yoga is one of the schools of philosophy in Hinduism, preserved by the sages and adapted to fit a diverse audience by practicing through the five basic principles: Exercise (Asana), Breathing (Pranayama), Relaxation (Savasana), Diet (Vegetarian), and Thinking and Meditation (Vedanta & Dhyana). Given its strong link to the religion and practiced by the priests in temples from years ago, my obvious next question was: 

Is Yoga a Hindu practice? 

Within Yoga, there are some mantras involved, and even the chanting of (alongside its history) makes me question – are we practicing a religious form of exercise? The use of repeating mantras or chanting is to adjust vibrations of all aspects within our being and penetrating into the depths of our unconscious. This is understandably useful and vital in meditation and other aspects of Yoga as we connect with our breath and elevate our self-growth. The word, mantra means to free the mind – very much in tune with the concept of Yoga yet also commonly used in Hindu prayers. 

Perhaps with external influences extracting Yoga as a form of exercise, it diluted the significance and link of it to the religion. Yoga was introduced to the west when Swami Vivekananda visited the states, translating the yogic texts into English and describing Yoga as the science of the mind! Thus forth, Yogis were welcomed to the west, and one such guru was Shri Yogendra who strived to research and produce scientific evidence of the yogic benefits in the medical realm. This was wildly successful and since then Yoga has been moulded over time, to adapt to different ages and physical abilities. With the power of globalisation, yoga has a lot more expertise now! But it also facilitates the spread of misinformation and/or omits its significance originating from India, discounting potential other benefits of doing yoga (in place of any form of exercise). 

I would love it if we could continue spreading the knowledge of Yoga, while paying homage to its historical significance. From my understanding, while there are links to religion, I do believe it is highly spiritual rather than a religious practice. In religion the focus is on God while in spirituality it begins with your own spirit, within yourself. नमस्ते।

Love is in the air!

Anahata – the heart chakra!

Anahata, the fourth primary chakra, in the heart region, the 9th bone at the thoracic, has the element of Air, is a smoke-colored mandala. In Sanskrit, Anahata means “unhurt, unstruck, and unbeaten”. Anahata is often called the “heart” center, symbolising the qualities of compassion, acceptance, universal love, selflessness, and devotion that are associated with the awakening of this center. How I personally perceive the heart chakra, when aligned, is one of strength, resilience, courage, and of course, love!

 

In the current situation that we live in, many might not feel love, acceptance, compassion towards others. COVID-19, stressful jobs, highly demanding lifestyle…. We are taught by many motivational speakers to train our mindset – THINK POSITIVE! GET BACK UP! WE TRY AND WILL BE BETTER! But competing with all these, going with all these, most of us are not aware of how the different chakras work. I chose to write about Anahata because the matter of the heart is complicated. With a “good” heart, we can do so many things for ourselves and for others.

 

When the Anahata is well aligned, one will feel love, compassion, and happiness. There is a sense of willingness and openness to challenges and situations in life, in connections and relationships with others. It allows us to see goodness and love, finding ourselves, accepting ourselves, bringing true self-love.

 

What if the heart chakra is blocked? One will experience the total opposite of the above. Such as holding grudges, dwelling on past relationships, having trust issues, feeling shy and lonely, commitment issues, defensive, afraid of being rejected…. Signs of blocked Anahata can be shown through the body as well. Examples of bodily illnesses could be poor blood circulation, high or low blood pressure.

 

How to open Anahata:

  • Yoga heart-opening asanas that lead to back bending, without the head touching the ground such as Urdhva Dhanurasana (wheel pose), Ardha Ustrasana (half camel pose), Purvottanasa (reverse plank pose).

Picture source: https://www.ekhartyoga.com/resources/yoga-poses/upward-plank-pose

Picture source: http://- https://www.ekhartyoga.com/articles/practice/pose-of-the-week-wheel-pose-urdhva-dhanurasana

Picture source: https://www.ekhartyoga.com/resources/yoga-poses/camel-pose

 

  • Chanting the mantra “YAM”
  • Singing/crystal bowls
  • Wearing rose quartz crystals
  • Repeating positive affirmations such as “I am loved, my heart is opened to love, I live in a state of gratitude.”
  • Keeping a gratitude journal (write 3 things to be grateful & thankful for each day)

Learning about Anahata has made me aware of my own feelings, reminding me to be grateful. When we are grateful, we have no time to be upset. These two emotions cannot work together. Be grateful always! <3

How pranayama is helping COVID-19 sufferers

Pranayama is the practice of breath regulation. The benefits of a regular pranayama practice have long been recognized within the yoga community, and with the on-set of the COVID-19 pandemic, pranayama is increasingly being discussed as a vital tool for treating ailments brought on by the novel coronavirus.   

The mysteries of ‘Long COVID’

While COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory illness, the virus has been found to potentially affect long-term nearly all organ systems and the nervous system.  A study published by the UK Office for National Statistics found that roughly one out of seven people who tested positive for COVID-19 experienced symptoms for a period lasting longer than 12 weeks.

Common symptoms in long COVID sufferers include fatigue and shortness of breath, but some also report heart palpitations –a sign that the body’s “autonomic nervous system” is out of balance. This is the body’s control system that critically regulates heart and breathing rate and triggers the “fight-or-flight response” when being confronted with a perceived threat. Carrying out seemingly mundane tasks –like loading the washing machine or sitting up in bed –have been reported as setting heart rates racing.

Prescribing Breath-work

An article published by The Atlantic earlier this year documents the observations and success of a team of researchers and doctors at Mount Sinai in the U.S. with prescribing breath-work for treating these symptoms. Notably, in formulating their course of treatment, the team remarked –

“long-COVID patients were breathing shallowly through their mouths and into their upper chest. By contrast, a proper breath happens in the nose and goes deep into the diaphragm; it stimulates the vagus nerve along the way, helping regulate heart rate and the nervous system.” 

This prompted the realization that in treating long-COVID patients –

the diaphragm and the nervous system had to be coached back to normal function before further reconditioning could start.”

Within just a week of starting patients on the breath-work course, all patients within the program were reporting positive improvement.

As discussed in the article, the Mount Sinai team’s theories about why the breath-work ultimately was so helpful touches upon many of the widely-discussed benefits of pranayama. In particular, they noted  –

  1. Breath-work allows patients to consciously control their heart rate;
  2. In helping to regulate stress, breath-work may benefit the immune system;
  3. Proper breathing is crucial to the lymphatic system, which plays a key role in eliminating toxins and waste.

Considering for example the pranayama practice of Anulom Vilom (alternate nostril breathing), it is documented as improving lung function, increasing oxygen saturation levels, reducing sympathetic activity and correspondingly stress and anxiety.

While we all hope not to be in the situation where we must use breath-work for rehabilitation from an illness, these findings are a positive reminder of the power of controlling our breath and its healing effects on the body.

瑜伽的体式练习

结束了瑜伽导师培训课程后,我才正式的去了解自己的身体构造。我在练习瑜伽体式时只一味的想把体式做到位,但没有意识到身体上的深浅肌肉、关节、五脏六腑与体式有多大的关系。

            能够掌握身体构造的知识,会让练习瑜伽者更能把注意力集中在人体的大肌肉群来做出特定的动作,再使用较小的肌肉来调整动作,以便安全有效的达到体式的正位而又不会造成其身体部位如肌肉、关节、骨骼的伤害。还有呼吸系统让我们把呼吸转化为能量而流动到我们身体里每个细胞而激活。在瑜伽里有很多的扭转、弯曲、后弯、前倾的动作,我们可以通过这些动作来刺激五脏六腑它们有效的发挥功能。

             就与轮式来论吧 !梵文名称 Urdhva Dhanurasana 在这个高难度的动作里所要注意的肌肉就包括了大腿的前侧股四头肌、后侧的膕绳肌、腹直肌、腰大肌还有手臂上的三角肌、肱三头肌、肘后肌也包含踝关节、膝关节、髋关节、肩关节、肘关节、腕关节。它们都是息息相关的而又各自发挥去完成这个任务。我初时练这个体式时,曾经让自己的重量强行推向头部和手臂,而使上半身难以抬离地面,重力就会转移在手腕上。而且髋关节无法轻松地伸展,腰椎被迫过度活动。就这样我的手腕和腰椎受伤了🤕️,后来经过老师的引导,现在能掌握还满好,施力时不会费劲了!而且这个体式还能够增强心肺功能。                    

                  总结是,瑜伽练习者能够掌握对人体解剖的学识,更能够发挥到体式的形成还可以增进身体健康。也能够帮助其他学员在练习体式不受伤害。