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As pollution in the metros peak to hazardous levels, we are left to deal with its consequences on our health and mind. So what secrets does Yoga have to help us deal with the ordeal of increasing toxicity?
Not just physical health, pollution and traffic significantly decrease energy or the Prana, the subtle life force, in the body. Imagine coming home after driving for two long hours in heavy traffic, where you did not do much in terms of physical activity, yet you feel totally exhausted.
Not only on the physical level, pollution affects our mind as well. It reduces the efficiency, clarity and decision-making ability. Yoga restricts the effect of pollution where the physical aspect is concerned, at the same time keeping it healthy and more immune to the problems of pollution.
Gaurav Verma, Regional Director, Sri Sri Yoga helps us with some tips and tricks to manage the hazard with Yoga.
1) Pranayamas To Help You Breathe Through It
There are different kinds of pranayamas or breathing exercises that increase the capacity of lungs, make them function to their fullness and flush out the toxins from the system.
Some pranayamas can be done in a particular climatic condition (hot climates) like the Sheetali or Sheetkari Pranayam. There are also pranayamas which can be done in any climatic conditions and any place at any time. Some of these are given below-
A) Ujjai Breath- Ujjai or victory breath, taught in The Art of Living programme, requires the practitioner to breathe by constricting the vocal chords.
B) Nadi Shodhan- It is also called the alternate nostrils breathing. Nadi translates to subtle energy channels and Shodhan is understood as clearing. This breathing exercise clears your subtle nerve channels, balances the movement of life force through them, leaving you feeling calm and energized.
- Sit comfortably, spine erect and shoulders relaxed. Place your left hand on the left knee, palms open to the sky.
- Take the index finger and middle finger of your right hand and place it in between your eyebrows
- The ring finger and little finger will be on the left nostril, and the thumb on the right nostril.
- Press the right thumb down on the right nostril and gently breathe out gently from the left nostril.
- Next, breathe in from the left nostril and then press down the left nostril gently with the ring finger and little finger. Remove the right thumb and breathe out from the right.
- Again, breathe in from the right and breathe out from the left nostril. These steps make one round of alternate nostril breathing. Repeat the cycle for at least nine times. Keep your eyes closed all the time.
C) Bhastrika- Bhastrika or bellow breathing is a powerful breathing exercise that involves breathing out forcefully. This pranayama stimulates the tips of Naadis or nerve centres in the body and maintains the flow of blood circulation.
D) Kapaal Bhaati- This is a rapid breathing technique from the level of the stomach. This Pranayam uplifts the energy from Manipura Chakra or the naval centre to Agya Chakra which lies between the eyebrows. Literal meaning of Kapaal Bhaati is bringing the radiance to the forehead.
It prevents one to be affected by the pollution. With the help of pranayams, the lungs start working to their full capacity, and one can save oneself from various diseases like asthma, blood pressure, as well as restlessness and mental agitation.
• Keep your spine erect and sit comfortably in Sukhasana or easy pose.
• Place your palms on the knees, facing the ceiling.
• Take a deep long breath in and
• Exhale, while pulling in your stomach. In this step, pull your navel all the way back towards your spine. The exhalation should be forceful and voluntary.
• You can place your right hand on your abdomen to feel the contract.
• After the forceful exhalation, the inhalation is automatic. When you relax the navel, the body breathes in automatically. You do not make an effort while breathing in.
• Once you breathe in, exhale and again pull your navel in as much as you can.
• Each round consists of 20 such breaths. Practice 3 such rounds.
• While doing the practice, keep your attention on the abdomen region.
2) Building Immunity To Pollution
People differ in their capacity to deal with pollution on the physical and mental level. There are ways we can increase this capacity. It is a given that pollution also affects the immune system. You can retain your immunity by following Ayurveda and a healthy diet.
There are various schools of yoga teaching different methods like Kriya Yoga (practices like Sudarshan Kriya), Dhyana Yoga (meditation) and Hatha Yoga (perfected and steady physical postures) to be healthy and to save oneself from the increasing day to day pollution in the surrounding. They build immunity against pollution-related ailments over time.
3) Subtle With Sukshma Yoga
There are those days when you want to pull your hair apart, mince and tighten your fist? Well, tighten your fist a little more. In fact, tighten your whole body. Breathe out, squeeze your stomach in, frown and purse your lips together. And now, let go with a 'haa' sound. This is one of the many Sukshma Yoga (subtle yoga) techniques.
The differentiating quality of this Yoga for relaxation techniques is that they are simple, short and subtle. You can do it anytime and anywhere - sitting at home, at your workstation or while travelling in a car, bus or in an airplane.
Sukshma Yoga takes no time or preparation. These little exercises open up subtle energy channels and in a session as short as 7 minutes, you can feel a highly palpable difference.
Simple Sukshma Yoga instructions-
a) Pinch your eyebrows 5-6 times using your thumb and the index figure. Did you know that we use 72 muscles to frown and only half the muscles to smile?
b) Roll your eyes 5-6 times clockwise and then anticlockwise.
c) Squeeze your eyes tight and then open them wide. Repeat this for 10-15 times.
d) Pull your ears for 10-15 seconds. Hold your ears and move them clockwise and anti-clockwise (as if riding a cycle) till your ears become hot.
e) Move three fingers (first, middle and ring finger) from the jaw line to chin and massage your cheeks. You could keep your mouth open as you do this. Did you find knots in the space between your jaws? This is a place where stress hides.
f) Open and close your jaw 8-10 times. Open your mouth and move your jaw side-to-side 8-10 times.
g) Rotate your neck. Breathing in take your head back and breathing out touch your chin to chest. Rotate your head in clockwise direction. Breathe in as you go up (first half of the circle) and breathe out as you return to the starting position (second half of the circle). Repeat this 5-6 times in clockwise and then anti-clockwise motion.
h) Shake your hands for 2 minutes. If you are wondering with what intensity you need to shake, watch how dogs and cats shake when they don't want water to stay on their bodies. They just shrug it all off and move on. So shake, shake, shake your hands and slowly bring them to a halt and sit still.
4) Yoga Brings Responsibility And Education
It could be that you may desperately want to change the situation and bring more public awareness about planting trees and pollution control. You may release advisories and direct messages to this effect. All of this will fail if people are not ready to act.
What you cannot do by preaching, Yoga can do by kindling self-awareness among people. This is so because Yoga brings a sense of responsibility. When one is aware and calm, he is left with more mind space to think and solve problems of the community as well. Yoga automatically kindles a sense of service.
About The Author:
Gaurav Verma, regional director, Art of Living Yoga is a senior international Art of Living faculty, who has taught the advanced Art of Living workshops like the Happiness Program, Sri Sri Yoga (level 1 and 2), Advanced Silence retreats, Youth Leadership Training Program, Apex (Art of Living's flagship program for the corporates) in several countries like US, New Zealand and countries in Europe, and the Middle East.