The COVID-19 pandemic has created a perplexing situation as it prohibits us from traveling freely and going anywhere, where the public at-large is used to convening for edutainment or work. In this period of pervasive uncertainty, we can’t go the movies or favorite cafe, hang out at the mall, badge into the office, or venture into the usual array of public places. Instead, we are now forced to indefinitely confine ourselves indoors embracing virtual reality, cohabitating with digital devices, or interfacing with family members dwelling under the same roof.
So, the paradox of where should we go to encounter new people for shared experiences to be posted on our Instagram is overshadowed by the monotony of a day-to-day routine that lacks the titillating /splendiferous adventure of our pre-pandemic world. This ultimately gives rise to a desire towards a number of frivolous thoughts. Given this state of affairs, some may think that perhaps its’ about time that we learn how to pause for a moment to find a way to level up and ‘Go inwards.’ As you take time for cerebral reflections, this can be achieved by practicing calm meditative techniques that helps mitigate the stressors that trigger anxiety.
In addition to these social constraints, a lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, and chronic stress further compounds the threat towards our peace of mind and general wellbeing. These factors create adverse co-morbid conditions that are known to worsen during periods of restrictive or protracted confinement. In this state, our natural instincts are paralyzed and our ability to act astutely are frozen. To restore the equilibrium and sustain wellbeing, it is imperative that we find effective ways to reset our spiritual balance and embark on ‘The journey within.’
Looking at what’s happening right now as a result of the globally instituted mandate of “social distancing” which arose from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a parabolic reflection of the paradox of modern relationships. In fact, many consider social media a peculiar perforation because it actually seems to disconnect us from each other. It has also exposed the void of primal connections and has shed light on the extreme degrees of loneliness that is being experienced by many citizens in our digital world.
Further, given the magnitude of depression and high levels of anxiety that is being manifested during this crisis, it is becoming essential to find effective ways to incorporate mindful introspection and adaption of integrative approaches towards physical, mental, and emotional wellness. In fact, this pandemic has also created a pivotal moment for the healthcare industry. It has identified the need for exploring a range of non-traditional and complimentary therapies to better address the need for palliative care. The practice of mindful techniques can be used to mitigate some of the self-defeating behaviors and the emotional relics that impede towards our wellbeing.
To achieve equanimity, we must take a moment and reflect ‘inwards’ to calm and clear our head-space, which ultimately helps to achieve physical balance, gain emotional stability and enhance mental clarity. Yoga provides a swift and effective way to annihilate mental and emotional stress, and revitalize the energy level in the body. The long-term benefits of yogic practices help to increase overall wellbeing, as it gets the energy flowing through stretching, reflecting, and breathing freely. Together these processes serve to relieve accumulated stress by allowing the practitioner to tap into their inner-energies and attain higher possibilities.
Children’s ability to discern between “right and wrong” – regardless of race, religion, national origin, gender, body size, sexual orientation, learning differences or other impairment helps them to grow up with respect for others.
“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Children are not born prejudiced. It is the adults in their lives who provide impactful lessons about right and wrong. Expressions of hate, intolerance, fear, disgust, or distaste towards an individual or group based upon a particular quality sends a strong message that kids are likely not to forget. Kids also learn a great deal by observing how we respond whenever we encounter instances of bias. Beyond modeling appropriate behaviors and effectively responding to difficult situations, we must actively teach children to appreciate and embrace their own uniqueness, heritage and diversity. These are some important determinants about the best pathway to overcome false constructs and the social illusions that divides us.
The invisible COVID-19 virus has become the scourge of the earth, wreaking havoc on society and contributing to sickness and loss of life across the planet. This situation has spiraled into a pandemic – the likes of which has not been experienced since the Spanish Flu that annihilated a percentage of the Earth’s population a century ago. It’s no wonder that many of us have become paralyzed by fear. When we are anxious and/or fearful, we lose the metaphysical balance due to our inability to manage chaos, triggering a neural tremor that results in physical and/or emotional instability.
Fear is a strong primitive autonomic response emanating from high levels of anxiety. Fear wreaks havoc, distorts our thoughts, produces uneasiness, discomfort, and disharmony within our body. The essence of fear is a construct based on false evidence appearing as reality. This projection may manifest as a broad range of dysfunction inducing waves of addiction (e.g. alcohol or drug abuse), allergies, behavioral changes, depression, emotional distress, acute nervousness, headaches, malaise, panic attacks, and increased tension. These stress vectors significantly contribute to the underlying cause of various diseases and chronic illness.
It is important to understand how our body’s unconscious reaction to the perception of an imminent threat and/or danger from the pandemic can trigger adverse reactions and threaten our respective well-being. Prolonged exposure to uncontrollable dynamic events (e.g. social distancing, isolation, and quarantine) creates anxiety and enormous stress which weakens our immune system. When our emotional and physical health is compromised – we are at greater risk and more vulnerable to pathogens and disease. Thus, the practice of yogic techniques can help practitioners to better cope with challenging life situations as it requires a constant audit of our behavior in response to the actions.
Adopting yogic practices, pranayama, and meditation techniques, introduces positive lifestyle changes which enable one to develop the skills needed to overcome self-imposed artificial limitations. These same techniques serve us to manage uncontrollable, external events which may have the same physical and mental impact as internally created stress. Regardless of the source of stress, together these mindful practices help to reduce the body’s vulnerability to various disease, viruses (e.g. COVID-19), and chronic illness.
Yoga helps develop strong mind-body connection, promoting the ability to neutralize the underlying causes of stress – whether it is triggered by internal or external factors in the environment. Yoga helps to lower the stress hormones that compromise the immune system. It conditions the lungs and respiratory tract by stimulating the lymphatic system to secrete toxins from the body. It brings oxygenated blood to various organs in the body to ensure their optimal function; particularly important for the body’s ability to resist infection from exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
Pranayama works on the nervous system which controls essential body functions – heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, and affects the autonomic nervous system by regulating breathing. Controlled breathing reduces stress levels and boosts the immune system. Mindful breathwork comprised of deep inhalations and exhalations channel more oxygen into the blood. The increased oxygen level in the blood improves the performance of the nervous system ensuring this vital pathway continues to operate at its peak performance.
Meditation is a technique that helps to control stress, decrease anxiety, and improve cardiovascular health. Meditation is a way to relax tension. Mindful meditation is achieved through self-discipline. This can be developed through focused observation of the connection between our body, mind, and our thoughts. Obtaining a higher state of awareness can be achieved through discernment, knowledge, and self-awareness.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, it’s crucial that we learn how to effectively manage our prana energy in order to make our body less susceptible to sickness and disease. One can remove blockages and balance their prana by adopting positive lifestyle changes, such as cultivating positive thoughts and incorporating physical activities. Lack of prana can lead to depression, stress, and anxiety. Positive thinking generates prana; whereas, negative thinking or emotions drains your prana.
One can balance, conserve, channel, increase, and purify their energy by adopting the practice of pranayama. Pranayama is an intentional practice of restraining and expanding the breath. With greater awareness to the breath, and through certain breathing techniques, one can help succor the physical, emotional and mental imbalances to achieve optimal health. The focus should not be limited to increasing your prana energy – but also find ways to conserve prana, by limiting expenditure of your prana on frivolous thoughts or low value activities.
A distracted mind is known to deplete your prana; hence you must consciously examine your actions and behavior in order to assess how best to manage your prana. Physical activity centered around mindfulness and controlled breathing techniques develops a higher level of prana and helps promote ones’ immunity. Controlled breathing causes higher energy levels to flow throughout the body, thereby inducing higher wavelengths – affecting our thoughts and feelings to improve our overall wellbeing. As the body becomes more attuned and in harmony within, you can achieve a heightened state of wellness.
The universe consists of energy. Therefore, one can connect through the energy forces, using the same vibration and frequency with which you desire to connect. For example, happiness and health are emotional conditions that also requires energy. Energy is the basic source of strength and vitality which is a requirement for sustaining one’s physical and mental activity. Our breath serves as the primary pathway to harmoniously align the energy forces thereby serving to enhance our awareness of the sacred body, mind, and spirit triad.
By focusing on the connection between the body and mind through mindful breathing, one can generate positive energy, thus leading to a higher sense of spiritual awareness. Many diseases, addictions, and bad habits are attributed to a deficiency in one’s prana, requiring stimulation to rectify these energy deficits. One must develop the ability to become aware of downward spiral movements which occurs whenever prana energy is low, as this state reflects an imbalance between the emotions and the intellect.
There is a direct correlation between behaviors that serve to enhance prana or deplete prana energy which is derived from the senses and/or actions. To be healthy and happy, one must learn how to balance their energies. One can attain balance by changing their attitude and the way they function in adverse situations. The goal is to regulate energy levels to achieve a harmonious state in order to attain equanimity. When this higher state of awareness is achieved, one can gain optimal health and peace of mind – for he, who has gained control over his breath, shall also gain control over the activities of the mind.
If you cannot make good individuals, how can you make good nations? Mental health disorders are the most common health issues faced by our nation’s school-aged children. One in five children suffer from a mental health or learning disorder, and majority of chronic mental disorders begin in childhood, based on the 2016 Children’s Mental Health Report.
Children struggling with mental health disorders are at risk for poor outcomes in school and in life. Outdated approaches to discipline are only making matters worse, as it leads to chronic diseases, metabolic syndrome and hypertension. Stress and anxiety cause physical responses in a child’s body, and when faced with a stressful situation, the natural stress response goes haywire, resulting in fight or flight response mode.
The aim of education is to help the child develop intellectual, aesthetic, emotional and moral traits, and the communal life and impulses out of their own temperament and capacities. It is the attainment of human excellence and perfection, not just in any field of knowledge or activity, but life in totality. Which means nurturing of the qualities of head and heart in a way congenial towards the growth and development of the child.
In practical life, this has to be translated as qualities of truthfulness, righteous living, purity in personal life, self-confidence, integration of body, mind and intellect, love and compassion towards all living beings. Therefore, the students need to learn the competencies and skills necessary to build resilience, and effectively manage their emotions, behavior and relationships with others.
Schools play a pivotal role in providing students with the opportunity to gain greater social and emotional awareness and to practice interpersonal skills as they learn and grow, and to thrive in the face of negative events, challenges or adversity. Value-based education has now come to the fore, as we need to examine the education context to address important elements such as values, morals, principles, ethics, beliefs, as they embrace all domains of the child’s life – physical, emotional, vital, dynamic, intellectual, ethical and aesthetic.
In order to equip our children to face moral conundrums in the future, we must foster personal and social codes of conduct, and instill principles of prohibitions and abstentions to help them decipher the right from wrong. Therefore, true education must reveal what is already present in the ‘developing being’ and enable them to naturally blossom in joy and luminous kindliness, which encourages the good.
The efficacy of yoga as an intervention technique prevails in its ability to help children develop a sense of equanimity. Yoga is not only a process for leading towards astounding hidden personality of human being by bringing mastery over the body, mind, intellect and emotional faculties, but also a powerful tool to manifest the potential within one-self. Yoga is an art of living, as it improves quality of life, a healthy life with physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being, and leads to overall holistic development of body and mind.
Changing the world sounds like a far-reaching order. So, where does a person even begin? The answer is closer than you might think. It all starts within. If we want the world to change, the first and foremost thing you have to change is your own-self. Without individual transformation there is no such thing as universal transformation.
An inclusive society, free of fractious divides and exclusion, starts with the individuals inner-transformation. When we have established a sense of harmony, equanimity and joy within, we become more than the limited individual vision of ourselves. It is then that we can perceive beyond differences of gender, race, ideology and religion.
“As human species, we shall blossom into our fullness and fulfillment only when divisions in the name of race, religion, caste, gender and nationality are obliterated from our minds and hearts.”
It is time for individuals to ‘go inwards’ and create an inclusive world – as they embark on the journey within.