“A mental disorder characterized by abnormalities in the perception or expression of reality. It most commonly manifests as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking with significant social or occupational dysfunction. Onset of symptoms typically occurs in young adulthood, with around 0.4–0.6% of the population affected. Diagnosis is based on the patient’s self-reported experiences and observed behavior. No laboratory test for schizophrenia currently exists”.
The above paragraph is a description of Schizophrenia taken from Wikipedia.
Yes…the words in bold aptly describe my sister’s “weird” behaviours. She has had schizophrenia for close to 20 years. It’s really hard to describe the challenge of having to live with people who are mentally unwell. It’s more than just painful and stressful. I would have gone into depression if not for my regular yoga practice for the past 8 years. My sister talks to herself, yells in the public, is awake when others are asleep (thus affecting our sleep), always suspects that there are people out there who want to harm her….etc. I had fought with her before….especially when she “abused me verbally” (she is very good at that). I remembered hitting her with a broom many years ago during the lunar new year. I slapped her whenever she “bullied” my parents. But there was a sense of guilt whenever I got physical with her. I have to admit that there were times I wish she is dead. End of agony for her and the family. Period.
Most people said schizophrenia is an incurable medical condition (Question: Isn’t it worst than any terminal illness? At least there is a closure for terminally ill patients.). My sister will have to take medicine for the rest of her life (that’s what the doctor said). She is young and intelligent but her life is worst off than my elder brother who has down’s syndrome. My brother is happy in his own ways and I love him very much. A cup of coffee or a piece of biscuit will bring smile to his face. That simple. Happiness is obtained by living a life of simplicity and freedom. I know my brother will not live very long and I will do anything that makes him the happiest person every day. 😀
Back to my sister…can Yoga help to alleviate the symptoms of Schizophrenia?
I did a Google search on “Schizophrenia” and “Yoga”. Some interesting information:
- Sufferers will often swing in mood from the extremes of rajasic, chaotic energy to the dull inertia of a tamasic state. They may feel apathetic, low in motivation and be affected in speech, movement and thinking.
- Physiologically, it seems that there is an overreaction of the neurotransmitters in the brain at the synapes, highlighted by an imbalance of chemicals (mostly hormones in the blood – adrenalin, leucine, serotonin and catecholin are possibly four such chemicals).
- On an energetic level, there appears to be an imbalance in the ida and pingala nadis, causing some of the bizarre reactions.
- Schizophrenic will often feel low in self-esteem, confidence, motivation and energy. A yoga class needs to be well within their capabilities, energizing for the body, mind and emotions, and supportive and encouraging. The person’s competence can vary from week to week so the teacher needs to be adaptable and encouraging, no matter what happens.
- During times of extra stress, sufferers can become extremely introverted, their thinking and movement become slow and erratic, and actions can be irrational. Students need to be encouraged to extrovert themselves but not to the extent where they withdraw completely. If a practice is too confronting, they may just walk away.
- Visualizations, mental activity, practices beyond the students’ abilities and those of an introverting nature should be avoided. Meditation should only be attempted under experienced guidance.
What are the suitable yoga practices for schizophrenic? Some suggestions from the web:
- Asanas that are excellent in the beginning stages are the pawan muktasana (wind relieving pose) series, relaxation poses, simple standing asanas, marjariasana (cat pose), and shashankasana (hare pose). With some experience, the student could move on to more challenging asanas such as the vajrasana (thunderbolt pose) series, and standing and bending asanas. The trikonasana series is particularly good for building confidence and a positive attitude. Doing surya namaskara in progressive stages can slowly build up one’s ability to practise the series.
- Pranayama practices have an introverting effect. However, they can also be calming and centering. These practices should not be done for long periods of time, and the teacher needs to be very aware to balance them with something dynamic. Yogic breathing is a good practice for encouraging relaxed respiration. The breath is often short and shallow during states of dissipated energy and psychosis. Bhramari is useful for reducing anxiety, anger and tension. Kapalbhati allows the mind to rest from thoughts and visions. Ujjayi and the cooling practices encourage tranquility. Nadi shodhana is an excellent practice for calming chaotic emotions and is also useful to balance ida and pingala nadis.
- Yoga nidra needs to be kept very solidly in the body sensations, inducing relaxation and awareness without stimulating visualizations or excessive mental activity.
- Practices that are unsuitable for schizophrenic are those of a very introverting nature. Eye exercises, forward bending asanas without backward bending counterposes, pranayama, and prana vidya are examples of practices that are introverting. Visualizations should be avoided and also the students’ capabilities should not be exceeded.
The only problem I have now is….I really don’t know how to get her started. 🙁
Giving birth is something women have been doing for centuries but it seems, today, we have forgotten how to do it. With our modern lives, where everything is fast and easy to get, we forget the most simple and natural things. We want to decide the sex, the date and even the time of the birth of our child and we forget to listen to our body, to nature. We think with our intellect instead of letting our instinct talk. We hear everywhere, in stories and from other women how giving birth is about pain and we get scared. Our brain is conditioned even before experiencing; we believe that giving birth is going to be painful, we panic and a lot of us capitulate and let the doctors be in charge of everything. We become complete spectators of our own bodies. And birth becomes a surgical act instead of being natural.
My first experience of giving birth was like that; I felt like I wasn’t deciding anything and all my wishes went out the window once I set foot in the hospital. I was disappointed. I felt like I had missed something. I was not going to let this happen again, I wanted to stay in control, so I decided to search for other possibilities. One day, being pregnant for the second time, I heard about HypnoBirthing®. It is a unique method of relaxed, natural childbirth education, enhanced by self-hypnosis techniques. It provides the missing link that allows women to use their natural instincts to bring about a safer, easier, more comfortable birthing. As a birthing method, HypnoBirthing® is as new as tomorrow and as old as ancient times. Marie F. Mongan, the author of the book method said: “We believe that every woman has within her the power to call upon her natural instincts to bring about the best possible birthing for her baby and herself”
This method will prepare you a few months before your due date to move through your limitations, fears and expectations, it will prepare you to relax and control your breathing. You will learn how to naturally stimulate your body to auto-reduce the pain with body hormones. When a woman is about to give birth and starts having surges (contractions), she needs to be relaxed and positive thinking to be able to breath deeply and let her body open with the rhythms of the surges. If she is scared and contracts when the surge arrives she will be working against her body. The breath is the key for the body to open. By letting the breath flow with the surges we are working together with nature to stretch the pelvic bones open. If on the contrary, we contracted and hold our breath, while the surge is trying to open our bones we are contracting our muscles against it and that’s when the pain is strong.
In the Raja Yoga Sutras 1.2 by the sage Patanjali, you will learn that controlling the mind is not possible without controlling the prana (vital energy, breath), as the two are intimately connected. We can easily see the connection if we observe the breath of a person engaged in a deep thinking or meditation. The breathing will be slow and calm. Alternatively, when the mind is affected by negative emotions, it will be seen that the breathing becomes irregular and unsteady. By withdrawing our attention from the external environment and by focusing inwards on the breath and sensations, you still the mind and increase your awareness of the body. When you are confident and you trust your body, the baby inside you will feel it and work with you to come out easily. The mother together with her child accomplishes birthing.
The HypnoBirthing® method will also talk about how visualization is important. During labor, it’s crucial to visualize your body relaxing, your hips slowly opening and the baby moving down, you see yourself strong, confident and graceful. You can picture yourself as a rose button slowly becoming a fully beautiful flower, as each surge is a petal opening. When your mind is focusing on a calm and gentle scenery, it’s easier for you to go deeper in the concentration.
I feel giving birth in peace and in full awareness is very important for the child being born and the mother to be. This little baby has been nurtured for 9 months in the womb, in constant intimate relationship with his mother; and suddenly he is pushed out from his warm and safe place, so it is best if he feels accompanied along the path. He will come into the world gently and surrounded by love. And for the mother, to be going through birth, to be feeling her body and her baby working together will make her invincible.
Opening Mantra 1 : Asatomaa
This is the first part of the opening mantra we recite before our practice. After you are familiar with the words, let’s recite wholeheartedly with sincerity.
The mantra is part of the pavamana prayer, which is the closing chant of chapter 3 in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, part 1:
असतो मा सद्गमय
तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय
मृत्योर् मा अमृतं गमय
ॐ शांति शांति शांति
Asato maa sadgamaya
Tamaso maa jyotirgamaya
Mrityor maa amritamgamaya
Ōm shanti shanti shanti
Lead Us From the Unreal To the Real,
Lead Us From Darkness To Light,
Lead Us From Death To Immortality,
OM Let There Be Peace Peace Peace
– Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.28.
When the mantra (verse) says: “Lead me from the unreal to the real,” “the unreal” means death and the “real,” immortality; so it says, “From death lead me to immortality,” that is to say, “Make me immortal.” When it says: “From darkness lead me to light,” “darkness” means death and “light,” immortality; so it says: “From death lead me to immortality,” that is to say, “Make me immortal.” In the verse: “From death lead me to immortality,” there is nothing that is hidden.
In a nutshell, the whole meaning of this invocation is to unreveal the ultimate truth, and remove the maya (illusion) which is blinding us.
Last Thursday, i came in contact with a person who has been doing Yoga for 10 years. She was under the guidance of a “so called” yoga teacher cum engineer. He conducts classes for about 60 to 100 people at any one time, free of charge.
She has been suffering from back ache for the last 5 years. Each time she practices yoga and the day after, she feels pain. I noticed that her lips have also started turning dark (not from smoking or drinking). If you have been practicing for such a length of time, you should not feel any pain at all.
Closely examining her postures, i realised that her alignments of postures have not been corrected and the teacher have not noticed this. Sadly, without corrections and proper alignments, her back ache has been aggravated. Now, her nerves are also giving her problems and leading to excruciating pain.
Please take note of instances of such and correct your students’ postures as soon as you come in contact with them.
Bhastrika means bellows breath.
In this type of Pranayama the lungs expand and collapse like bellows of the blacksmith.
This pranayama consists of quick inhalation and exhalation and produces a lot of heat within the body. It can be performed with slow, medium or fast pace as per your capacity. However, people who suffer from high blood pressure, hypertension, pregnant women, cancer, diabetes, lung problems are not advised to proceed with the practice. Women go through their monthly menstrual periods are also not advise to practice.
The technique to perform this pranayama is as follows:
- Sit in any meditative position with spine and head erect
- Inhale quickly so as to expand your chest i.e. lungs are filled with air
- Without retaining the breath quickly exhale the breath
- Again inhale the breath and exhale as before
Perform such quick rounds of inhalation and exhalation slowly and steadily without putting too much pressure or force. Practice 10 rounds of 10 quick inhalations and exhalations which total to 100.
Practicing this pranayama leads to glowing health and skin, clears sore throat, increases lung capacity, clears doubts and mental pain, helps in depression and so on.
Note: This pranayama should be practiced with proper guidance from a well qualified yoga teacher. The author is not responsible for any injuries whatsoever that may arise from following the steps given above without proper guidance from the author.
I just came back from Mysore, India where I’ve stayed there for a month. It is a small ‘city’, well, it’s not like a urban city with tall and glassy buildings you would have imagine if you have not gone to India.
The thing that struck me is that in urban cities, where we are trying to save the environment by reduce, reuse and recycle, but ironically, we are contributing to a lot of trashes consciously and subconsciously. We use disposable wooden chopsticks, plastic spoons and forks, styrofoam boxes for takeaways, plastic boxes for soups, etc. Talk about reducing waste. In India, just the banana leaf is disposed off, which is organic and bio-degradable. No cutlery required as we use hands to eat.
The climate in Mysore is wonderful (in Dec). It is slightly cold in the early mornings and late evenings, but during the day, it is dry and not too hot. The quality of air is quite good at places with green trees. Although in places like the bus stand, Deveraja market area is quite polluted.
Mysore could be much better off if there is a device which can convert or reduce the smelly fumes emited by the rickshaws (like tuk-tuks in Thailand).
Without the air pollution by the traffic, I thought there is a higher oxygen content there. 2 examples to proof my point:
1) The matchstick stays lighted for a longer time
2) I feel much more energetic and lighter practicing the Ashtanga Vinyasa Primary series there compared to in Singapore.
Or have I put on weight after eating too much of high carbohydrates Indian food?
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