Finding our Rainbow in Edgy Times:
I fell in love with the song “Over the Rainbow, " many decades ago. It was comforting to listen to the soothing voice of Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole on the radio, as he sang while strumming his ukelele. This song was composed in 1939 by Edgar "Yip" Harbug, son of Russian-Jewish immigrants--amidst growing hostility towards Jewish people. It brought hope in troubled times.
Once again, as we wade through troubled waters, this song evokes emotions of hope and dreams. The COVID-19 pandemic has flung us into a foggy world of uncertainty, confusion, and grief. Many yoga teachers like me, who taught classes for the love of human interaction and to make a difference in human lives, have suffered equally. In this changing global landscape, where lives have been lost, livelihoods are disappearing-- sorrow looms, anxiety rules, and mental health is at risk.
However, in the face of change, human spirit, compassion, and resilience always emerge stronger. This is evident in our new ways of living! In a matter of 2 months, we have seen a multitude of online business offerings, Universities and Schools have quickly shifted to creative distance-learning methods, and family gatherings/weddings are taking place via Social Media platforms! Unfortunately, despite our resolve to overcome challenges, anxiety and fear often lurk in the shadows of our optimism.
For thousands of years, sages and wise men have laid out a path for keeping ourselves calm and resolute, especially when confronting adversity. They put-forth practical and spiritual techniques to remove mental unrest. Yoga was taught to dedicated disciples, who were 'ready' to undertake a journey into self-realization.
The power of a yoga practice for me is such that no matter how I feel before I start my yoga class, I always leave my class feeling open and free from within! Agitation is replaced by calmness, my worries/sorrows seem to dissolve. After many years of yoga practice, I have learnt to ‘let-go’ of mental baggage that weighs me down!
Ancient Hindu and Buddhist philosophy widely acknowledges that human life will experience sorrow, DUKHAM or DUKHA (sadness) in this world, which is a manifestation of their Karma. Suffering is inevitable, but how we manage it is entirely up to us. The change we are all currently experiencing is causing sorrow/suffering. To make better sense of this misery, we must examine it under the lens of a concept called Anitya (impermanence) Bhavana (feeling) or feeling of transitoriness in life.
“What was in the morning is not at midday; what was at mid-day is not at night, for all things are transitory (Anitya). Our body which is the cause of all kinds of human effort is as transitory as the scattering clouds. All our objects of pleasure are changing. Wealth is as transitory as a wave, youth-like a cotton particle blown off in a whirlwind; and opportunities like the fleeting dreams. Why should I be attached to anything when nothing is permanent and everything is changing?” The pondering over the transitoriness (Anityata) of all things is called Anitya Bhavana, (YogaLife Institute, Mumbai, India).
When nothing in life is permanent, why do we let anxiety take over our lives? Our thoughts, attitude, and actions determine our behavior and consequences that stem from it. Can shaping our thoughts and re-molding our perspectives, lighten our pain?
Having a firm yoga practice can help us steer through unchartered territories of life with strength! Physiologically, yoga postures along with mindful breathing can increase our vagal tone and activate our para-sympathetic nervous system. This soothes our overactive state of mind, releases stress and relaxes us. Because this yogic approach has been powerful in addressing mental health, many mental health specialists are now using the philosophy of Yoga Sutras and Yoga practices in conjunction with Cognitive Based Therapy (CBT) to treat several mental health issues ranging from anxiety, insomnia and depression.
Yoga of life teaches us to work from ground up, gauging our thoughts and our daily conduct with compassion, assessing our decisions with awareness, and addressing pain not by suppression but by evaluation of root cause of suffering.
Yoga of movement teaches us to become aware of our breath as we flow into postures/asana. Our breath makes us receptive to the present moment, the only place where life is happening!
Yoga of Silence/Meditation allows us to sit with ourselves in silence.
Several meditation modalities exist, like mantra/japa meditation, breath meditation, loving-kindness meditation and more, that can guide you through this process of self-discovery. Find the one that resonates with you and connect to the colors of rainbow within!
Sleep plays an important role in keeping us healthy and stress-free. Check out my upcoming workshop on 'Better Sleep' for yogic strategies on sleeping well and restoring your energy.
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Author : Deepti Gupta
All of us have a story to tell. Turning life's experiences into stories is empowering and fulfilling. I feel fortunate to have a platform where meaningful discussions can materialize. Thanks for joining me! Here we wander not to get lost but to self-explore!