Fitness Magazine

Yoga Jeevana (Yogic Lifestyle) During the Pandemic

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Ram

Yoga Jeevana (Yogic Lifestyle) During the Pandemic

The Garden Steps by Pierre Bonard

Yoga jeevana (jeeva=life; jeevana=living/lifestyle) is a traditional yogic lifestyle that is a key to a happy, healthy, and abundant life. If you are looking for more clarity and balance in your relationships, home, and work life, or if you wish to take your busy, always-at-the edge, stressful life to a life of balance and harmony, a yogic lifestyle might just be the answer. A yogic lifestyle allows you to nurture positive emotions, have a clear mind, and maintain a healthy body. Optimal health and fulfillment arise from attention to all three levels of our human experience: physical, mental, and emotional. Yoga jeevana relies on a comprehensive, personalized program that includes virtuous habits and behavior, harmonious observances, optimal diet, quality sleep, an affirmative disposition, and selfless service. This comprehensive yogic lifestyle is meant to bring clarity to the emotions, calm the mind, and strengthen the body, thereby sustaining the emotion-mind-body nexus. In essence, yoga jeevana is a guide on how to achieve balance and harmony at the level of mind, body, and emotions. While this may appear generic, yoga jeevana comes in handy especially during this pandemic to combat the stress and malaise, to improve attitude and health. The question is how to apply some or all of the yoga principles and lead a yoga jeevana in this pandemic?Emotional and Mental BodyEmotional and mental health are an important part of overall health and wellbeing. They affect how we think, feel, and act. They also affect how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. One of the most common protections against virus infections is quarantine. However, social isolation often causes psychological and mental disorders including acute stress disorder, exhaustion, detachment from others, irritability, insomnia, poor concentration, indecisiveness, fear, worry, and anxiety. Due to the pandemic that continues unabated, most of us are carrying with us an enormous amount of negativity, which weighs us down and clouds our perception. The emotional and mental stress associated with the COVID infection is overwhelming and has resulted in fear and worry about our own health and the health of our loved ones, our financial situation or job, or loss of support services we rely on. The shelter-in-place, total lockdown and other public health actions (social distancing, mask, business closure) has led to a lot of people feeling isolated and lonely, triggering emotional issues. Failure to detach from these emotions results in a spiral loop of negativity and mental stress that makes individuals more susceptible to infection-associated morbid conditions. Coping with the emotional and mental stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger. This is why yoga jeevana involves cultivating good emotions, harmonious thoughts, and mental clarity to reduce stress and conflict and promote a fully functional life. A steady and regular practice of Pratyahara (The Fifth Branch of Yoga: Pratyhara), Pranayama (Pranayama: A Powerful Key to Your Nervous System), Dharana (Samyama: The Trinity of Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi), Dhyana (Meditation and Compassion), and Karma yoga (Accidentally Karma Yoga) is a key to manage emotional disturbance and overcome negativity. Good mental practices also involve strengthening brain structure and function, and, in addition to the above practices, it is also achieved by incorporating the principles of Yama (The First Branch of Yoga: The Yamas) and Niyama (The Second Branch of Yoga: The Niyamas (Your "To Do" List)). This yogic lifestyle will reduce emotional and mental stress, improve sleep, enhance mental clarity, and help individuals to make precise and wise decisions.Physical BodyOur Western highly competitive work culture and societal lifestyle behaviors promote physical inactivity and sedentary behavior. This situation is further aggravated by the lockdown/shelter-in-place measures to control the spread of the pandemic, resulting in most of the people working from home. The physical inactivity due to sustained quarantine and social distancing lowers the ability of organs systems to resist to viral infection and increase the risk of damage to all the systems in the body. A large number of people are in home quarantine for an extended period of time and this recommendation poses a significant challenge for remaining physically active. The emotional and mental stress coupled with changes in diet, lack of exercise, a virtual work atmosphere, and poor sleep takes a toll on the physical body as well.Yoga jeevana recommends including good eating practices, physical exercise (any kind), and regular tuning of the body to nurture one’s physical health. Good physical practices are explained well in five of the eight limbs of Yoga philosophy: the Yamas (Yama Drama: Considering the First Branch of Yoga), Niyama (The Second Branch of Yoga: The Niyamas (Your "To Do" List)), Asanas (The Third Branch of Yoga: Asana (Being in the Flow), Pranayama (Diving Deeper into Prana) and Pratyahara (The Fifth Branch of Yoga: Pratyhara). These good physical practices will nourish all the organs and body systems, and help to gain strength and improve immunity. People who incorporate these practices are more stable physically and are likely to feel energetic, empowered, and positive about their direction in life. Thus, yoga jeevana is simple, affordable, user-friendly, and creates a more positive health environment even in the midst of a pandemic and the benefits are sustained. Here are10 practical suggestions for strengthening the emotional, mental and physical bodies in the midst of the pandemic:
  1. The next time you hear or see an emergency service vehicle, close your eyes briefly and silently wish that the vehicles and its occupants reach their destination safely (dharana, dhyana and Karma yoga).
  2. The next time you see or hear a firetruck or an ambulance, direct your meditative energy towards the injured individuals and silently wish that they receive help ASAP (dharana, dhyana and karma yoga).
  3. Try to see the good in everything and everyone. Appreciate and give thanks to those around you for who they are, even if they are imperfect (yama, niyama and Karma yoga).
  4. Be honest and straightforward in business, at work, and in your personal life. Work with integrity and do not cheat, deceive, or circumvent to achieve a task (niyama).
  5. Avoid using negative language (like “life sucks”) that builds the negative emotions and dulls your sense of gratitude (yama and niyama).
  6. With shelter-in-place, now is the time to learn a new language or to play a musical instrument. Not only does this strengthen the neural connections, it also promotes happiness and joy. Wind instruments, in particular, promote diaphragmatic breathing and require powerful airflow. Playing a wind instrument actually engages the mind, abdominal muscles, lungs, and heart, a perfect example of exercising the brain and body (pranayama, dharana, dhyana).
  7. Engage in the above tasks with attention, focus, and awareness to reap the greatest benefits. 
  8. When you sit to eat, pay attention to what is on the plate and activate your senses. Notice the colors of the food as well as the textures. Pay attention to the tastes and smell of each ingredient. Listen to the sound of the food as you chew. Do not entertain any negative thoughts and be conscious of what you are eating. This is mindful eating (niyama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana). 
  9. Working from home is now the new normal for many. Notice if your work requires for you to sit for long hours. For every 2 hours of sitting, take a break from work and do some light stretches for 15 minutes. Check out this mini yoga series.
  10. A lot of my colleagues are complaining about poor sleep in this new normal setting. Remember, good quality sleep builds emotional, mental, and physical immunity. So developing a routine can serve as one of the best natural sleep remedies. Do your best to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, since this works well with your internal body clock and helps to improve sleep.

For more information on Good Emotional Practices, Good Mental Practices, and Good Physical Practices, see Ram's book Good Living Practices which is available as a paperback on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Copperfield’s Books, Target, and other online bookstores.
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