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It is understandable to be flooded with worry about the developing pandemic of the coronavirus (COVID-19). News and social media feed the frenzy and the world is abuzz with uncertainty. Preparedness and precautions are recommended, necessary, and helpful, but did you know that medical experts have found that fear and anxiety actually weaken the immune system? Guiding yourself to be a beacon of calm during these unsettling times provides numerous benefits for yourself and others.
Fortunately, you can take an active role in overcoming fear and anxiety and other overwhelming emotional states. The physical practices of yoga and mindful meditation can actually help boost the immune system. According to Yoga Journal Magazine, “Yoga helps lower stress hormones that compromise the immune system, while also conditioning the lungs and respiratory tract, stimulating the lymphatic system to oust toxins from the body, and bringing oxygenated blood to the various organs to ensure their optimal function.”
Yoga practices can help you stay calm—and staying calm is one of the recommendations for keeping the “greater good” during the outbreak of COVID-19. The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, recommends four ways to “keep the greater good” during this difficult time of the coronavirus outbreak. Jill Suttie, who wrote the piece, describes that it is important to look to those who are helping for inspiration and optimism, stay calm and focused, show gratitude, and remember our common humanity and show compassion. Yoga can help you with almost all of these recommendations!
Yoga practices intentionally help you stay calm and focused and practice compassion toward yourself and others. During these panic-inducing times, you may ask, “How can I stay calmer and make wiser choices?” Suttie says, “One way is to use whatever tools you have at your disposal for keeping a cool head—like practicing mindfulness, which has been shown to both lessen emotional reactivity and help us make better decisions.” So! Turn to the ancient practices for well-being that have been shown, historically and contemporarily, to help us maintain health.
Even though local recommendations may suggest that you stay home from the yoga studio (or your local gym) if you are feeling well, you can certainly practice yoga on your own at home. Various online yoga resources such as Glo, YogaAnytime, or The Happiness and Bliss Online Yoga Kula provide easy access to a meaningful practice. You could put on a yoga video by your favorite instructor. Or you can create your own yoga space at home and practice solo. Linked here are some helpful tips for creating your own home yoga practice. Meditation, of course, can also be practiced anywhere, anytime.
Even though we are collectively going through this challenging time, it’s also true that stress isn’t all bad. According to psychology professor and author Kelly McGonigal, “New research shows that stress can make us stronger, smarter, and happier—if we learn how to embrace it.” You can transform anxiety into courage and take it upon yourself to boost your own immunity through healthful practices such as mindful handwashing, rest, and gentle yoga.
What follows is a simple yoga sequence designed to induce calm and promote immunity.
Each of these poses, practiced on their own from one to five minutes, can help relax the body. Practicing these poses together as a sequence will prolong the beneficial effects of restoring the nervous system. Try practicing these poses by yourself at home or with your family or a friend if everyone is feeling well.
This pose is practiced by coming down onto the ground and resting in a prone position. The closeness to the earth makes this posture grounding and calming. The gentle pressure of the abdomen against the earth can be relaxing. The soft pressure on the forehead stimulates the pineal gland, or energetically, the third eye, and helps induce a calming response. Think savasana, but upside down.
This pose is practiced by kneeling on the ground and nestling your hips back toward your heels while bowing forward. The closeness to the earth makes this pose grounding. The gentle pressure of your abdomen against your thighs and the folding forward action can be reflective and restorative. The soft pressure on the forehead stimulates the pineal gland, or energetically, the third eye, and helps induce a calming response.
This pose is practiced by reclining onto your back and turning both legs in one direction. The supine nature of this pose allows for grounding and a sense of stability. The gentle pressure of the twisting action helps nourish the vital organs in the abdomen with fresh oxygen-rich blood. The twisting action also helps relax the hard-working back muscles that help support the spine. There is also the intention to “twist the issues out of your tissues” that can help you feel a release of anything that may feel “stuck” physically, mentally, psychologically, and spiritually.
This pose is practiced by reclining onto your back and hooking one foot at a time into a yoga strap or belt. The supine nature of this pose allows for grounding. The release in the backs of the legs and groins from these stretches attends to the root chakra, and helps initiate a sense of stability. You could place a blanket beneath your low back and head for added comfort.
Practice these grounding, calming, and restorative poses to maintain your own health and immunity during this stressful time. You will help yourself and others by staying positive and healthy. The ancient practices of yoga and meditation will guide you on your way to calm.