Breathing Is A Wonderful Stress Management Tool – Here's a Simple Practice for You
Bring attention to your breath as you breathe.
For three breaths, let everything else go right and focus on your breath.
Now – Shift your attention to your exhalation. Breathe out. All the way, all the way out. Again. And again. Focusing, right now, only on the out breath.
Find the pause at the end of the exhalation. Linger there.
Notice how your breath will come in again, on it's own.
Breathe all the way out. To the pause. Rest in the pause, and let your breath begin again. Deeper and more full each time.
Breathe out. Let the breath come in.
Let it turn around. Rest in the pauses and let the breath turn around. Your mind focused on the movement of breath, out... in... and the pauses that follow the breath.
As your mind focuses on the breath, you may find that there's less stress. The thinking mind grows more quiet. Tension in the body begins to melt away. You may find yourself feeling more present, more centered, more balanced. Is that comfortable? Is that a foreign experience? Can you allow this experience to be one that is nourishing and simple? Nothing to work at. Just allow... tension and stress to subside as you focus attention on your breath.
Feeling anxious, worried, even fearful about current events. Those are natural responses to crazy times. By breathing with awareness, as I've instructed, above, you may find a pleasant way to navigate stressful events and situations. Try it. Take time to reflect.
What's happening? What's happened?
Please leave a comment, below about your experience. What did you notice? What results did you experience?
Thanks for giving this a try, and letting me know a bit about your experience with breathing to release stress.
Sharon Harvey Alexander, C-IAYT
And, if you'd like more information about how you're actually doing a wonderful service for the world by addressing your own needs, click here to read an article on the Becoming Better website.
A Covid-19 Self-Care Checklist
Written by Shelly Tygleiski for Mindful.Org
Besides disinfecting and washing my hands, I made a list of the best ways I could take care of my heart and spirit in these times, putting that proverbial oxygen mask on first before I tend to my family, my community, and the world.
Here are eight things that are on my extensive list:
1. Stick with my normal, daily meditation practice. It’s easy to lose track of time when the days blend into one another, but now more than ever, my twice daily meditation practice (20 minutes at a time) is so important. Also, I no longer have the excuse “I don’t have time” these days—all I seem to have is time, I just need to remain disciplined.
2. Maintain contact virtually by creating a schedule. Now is a great time to make sure that we check on the ones who matter to us, and those who we rarely get to see in person because they are so far away. However, it’s very easy to lose track of time—especially across time zones—so having a set schedule of times to check in, hang out and even eat “dinner” together can help to restore some social structure to the day.
3. Get outdoors. If you are blessed to live in a place where there are parks or waterfronts (that are not closed during the pandemic) and you can access them with walks, runs, and bikes, it’s a blessing that should not be squandered. Each day I commit to getting outdoors and moving for at least an hour, plus taking a barefoot walk on grass.
4. Give myself permission to cry. This is actually a point on my usual Self-Care Plan, which seemed appropriate to migrate over in these times. I know that I will inevitably feel sad, disheartened, or downright hopeless at times, but I also know that giving myself permission to feel these emotions fully and turn towards my suffering will help me release any pain or tension and help me see the sun through the clouds once again.
5. Create a venting-hour. Just like some families have adopted a “happy hour,” we’ve adopted a “venting hour.” It sometimes only lasts five minutes but being that we are all stuck together in close quarters for the next few weeks or months, we make sure that there is an “airing of grievances,” (just like in Seinfeld’s fictitious holiday, Festivus), so that nobody keeps anything inside. I found that it reduces the build-up of tension and makes sure that there is no resentment, which is possible for even the kindest amongst us.
6. Limit how often and through what means I access the news and information. I have personally noticed how I feel when I watch the news or hear certain people speak, so now, I limit myself to 30 minutes of news per day on the television with a news anchor and station I trust. Otherwise, I mostly get my news online by reading articles and transcripts of press conferences. I also make sure to not watch the news before I go to bed, because it can get me all worked up, which is counterproductive.
7. Be of service to others without depleting myself. Within a few days of people in my community being laid off, I started to get emails and see posts on social media from my friends and community members who were scared about having their basic needs met—food, medicines, and other essentials. I realized that because I did not share those concerns, I am in a position of privilege to help others and that I can use my platform to help neighbors, community members and even strangers. I put my grass-roots activism skills to work and launched the Pandemic of Love project, a mutual aid community that has connected more than 10,000 families in need with patrons who can offer help.
What skills can you bring to this moment in order to be of service? As always, it’s important to recognize and hold the boundaries that are safe for you. This is why your Self-Care Plan is so important. Offering help to others can give you meaning during this time of uncertainty. I know it has helped me stay on the side of hope, even when things seem hopeless.
8. When all else fails, ask myself: “What do I need in this moment?” This is my default question—the one I immediately ask myself when I sense that I am not feeling right, physically or mentally. I just pause, take a long, slow deep breath and ask myself this question. In this space between, I almost always find the answer.
Each day, invariably, I find myself looking at this list. It provides me with a measure of comfort, reminds me that I am in control, and that in times of crisis, I have the choice to either be my own worst enemy, or my best ally. I choose the latter.
Does Stress Run Over and Ruin You? Learn to Mitigate That TODAY!
Did you know that the word STRESSED is Desserts, spelled backwards?
Which is interesting because, according to Ayurveda, the sweet taste placates fire. It is one of the tastes that helps keep the pitta dosha in balance, and that can be helpful during the hotter months of the year, or any time fiery emotions erupt.
For many, stress fuels the fire. It's a common tendency, when one is stressed, to reach for a sweet treat. Which may add tinder to an already burning fire. Simple carbohydrates - a cookie, a pastry, a glass of wine. Oh, so delicious. Why not enjoy a little treat? I deserve it.
It's often an unconscious thing... maybe it has to do with your inner self wanting some form of comfort. Ingesting carbs, and sweets in particular, is a natural desire during stressful times. Yet doctors might tell you that it's not really good for you. So what can you do instead?
First of all, advice might be given to reduce stress. I'm sure you're aware that uncontrolled exposure to stress, as well as eating lots of desserts, can become problematic over time. By consciously choosing alternatives and learning to naturally counter the negative effects of stress through such activities as meditation, deep breathing, and spending time near or in cool, calm water, it is possible to balance the erupting heat in our body/mind, to rise up and grow stronger as a result of being stressed.
In this article, I'd like to explore how to do this a bit more. So please keep reading.
The term STRESS has been around since the 1920's, when Dr. Hans Selye took the term from physics and applied it to human health and development.
In the case of physics, stress refers to the force applied to matter until it breaks. In the human body, stress refers to our response to a perceived threat (real or imaginary) that may threaten our security or our body's equilibrium. The stimulus may be external or internal; mental, emotional, or physical. Like an object that can be stressed to the point of breaking, over time stress wears down our body/mind. The best way to counter the wear and tear of stress is to rest.
True, not all stress is bad stress. And it is possible to grow from, and even adapt in positive ways to, stress. By understanding what stress is doing to you, you can learn to manage it well and thrive.
Wouldn't you agree that we often grow stronger by positively navigating challenges? For that to happen, it's important that you learn to listen to and honor the signals your body sends. Honor the needs of your body and seek ways to appropriately counter the negative impacts of the stresses of life - be they physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual.
As mentioned above, Dr. Hans Selye was one of the first to research the human body's physical response to stress. He coined the term "General Adaptation Syndrome" to describe the three phases we go through as we adapt to stress.
The question that wasn't addressed at the time is ... what happens after exhaustion? Do we break down? Or do we grow stronger? Really, it's up to you!
Many people live their lives in the exhausted state. Consider mothers who continually strive to meet the needs of their children and spouse, even though they're feeling worn out. Students who pull allnighters before an important exam, and do that again, and again, and again, often end up exhausted, and then begin to think of that as the new normal. Those who drive long distances in a short amount of time, or pay little attention to the time they go to bed, or the time they wake up, and live purely by the whims of desire may be running on empty, yet not aware of the toll it's taking.
Does any of this seem familiar to you? Can you remember that last time you took a day off, or a nap? When did you last go on vacation? And even if you have had a recent vacation, were you able to let go and really rest? That can become more difficult the longer we hang around in the exhausted state. Our body/mind begins to think it's natural to have to push through tiredness all day long, only to drop into bed exhausted at the end of the day, and then have trouble sleeping. But there's a different way.
Since Selye's day in the 1920's, scientists and researchers including Harvard based Herbert Benson, MD (The Relaxation Response, 1974 and Beyond the Relaxation Response, 1980), Bruce Lipton, PhD (The Biology of Belief, 2005, The Wisdom of Your Cells, 2006 and more), and Joe Dispenza, DC (Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself 2012, You Are the Placebo, 2014) tell us there's a fourth step in the stress response. It's the one that brings your efforts full circle. The one that allows you to grow stronger, rather than break down in the face of stress. That very important step is REST.
I'm not sure if this concept is the perfect way to describe what's going on with the stress response, but I'll use it anyway. Have you ever engaged in weight training, perhaps with the intention to tone your muscles or prepare for a physical event? The muscles you are working go through this very process (or is it all in the mind?!?) .
First, there's alarm, raising the question of "what's up"? Then there's some resistance: "Why can't we just continue to sit on the couch, binge watch Netflix and eat ice cream?"
But your resolve is strong. And you may be noticing results. If you keep at it, your muscles start to look more toned, more defined. Maybe you've lost a few pounds, too. That's a good thing, right? But what do you do when you start to feel tired, or sore? Like many, I'm sure you like the look, and you're noticing progress, so you continue to weight train. You may even add more weight now. You like the results.
At the same time, if you keep pushing and your muscles or even your whole body feels tired for longer periods of time, it may begin to break down. You may notice that you feel tired more often than you feel strong, vital and alive. But you haven't reached your goal. Some part of you wants to keep going. And the exhaustion sets in.
Exhaustion suppresses the immune system. You become more vulnerable to colds, experience faulty digestion, and even poor sleep, among other things. If you have a natural proclivity to disease, it sets in. No longer are you able to fight off a virus if exposed. Is this the state you want to be in in order to fend of CoVid 19? No. So give yourself permission to rest. It doesn't mean become a couch potato, necessarily. Keep up with health promoting habits, but let yourself off the hook now and then.
Wondering how can you mitigate the stress response and rise up? How can you stay strong, and stay healthy too?
You need to rest. To factor quality down time into each day. Into every week. To embrace the value of rest means you need to let go of the belief that pushing through fatigue will help you achieve your goals.
Pushing through stimulates the flight or fight response in our body (as does breathing through the mouth). The tendency to push through is common in our country, and may be a contributor to the addictive personality.
We like accomplishing things. We learn to be busy. We learn to like being busy. We forget how to rest. It becomes harder and harder to rest.
The stress response triggers a hormonal cascade in the mind/body that can lead to adrenal fatigue. So take a break. Enjoy a bit of ice cream. Play with a puppy. Get out in the garden. Find ways to savor the sweetness of life, regularly, and before it's too late.
Adrenal fatigue is a term used to describe a collection of symptoms including brain fog, general tiredness and lack of energy, a craving for salty and sugary foods, body aches, nervousness, sleep disturbances, fatigue and digestive upset. It results from a prolonged exposure to stress and the excessive secretion of cortisol and other stress related hormones. Which, in time, also raises blood pressure. Gradually, the tiny adrenal organs, which sit atop the kidneys, wear out.
That's the thing. It's not that this happens right away. It doesn't happen overnight. It can take years.
Unfortunately, over time this situation can lead to organ failure, and even an early death. So if you want to live a long and vital life, you'd be wise to work quality rest into your schedule. Daily. A cat nap. A slow walk in nature. A leisurely meal of fresh and wholesome food. Nose breathing. These are the keys to rejuvenating a tired body/mind/hear/soul.
Does this make sense? Do you have questions about how to do this? Reach out! The work I do is designed to help you find balance. To help you grow stronger by moving through - not simply avoiding - stressful experiences, and also incorporating soothing practices that are beneficial, balancing and life promoting.
If you are struggling to remain peppy, positive, and perennially inspired to live your best life, please reach out. Let's work together to develop a wellness protocol that will purposefully counter the stress effect and bring harmony to your life.
Life is short. Do you want to continue to run a short fuse? Miss out on the joy of relationships and the beauty of the world around you? Or do you want to step up, rise up, and make your life better today?
Click here and let's explore what you need.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. If you've learning something, or would like to contribute more to this article, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you!
Sharon Harvey Alexander, C-IAYT
A Message For These Times From the Hopi People.This moment that humanity is going through can be seen in two ways - as a portal and as a hole. The decision to fall into the hole or go through the portal is up to you.
If you spend your time consuming the news 24/7, with little energy, nervous all the time, with pessimism, you will fall into the hole. But if you take this opportunity to look more closely at yourself, rethink life and death, and spend your time taking care of yourself and others, you will cross the portal.
Take care of your homes, take care of your body. Connect with your spiritual house. When you are taking care of yourselves, you are taking care of everything else. Do not lose the spiritual dimension of this crisis; have the eagle aspect from above and see the whole; see more broadly.
There is a social demand in this crisis, but there is also a spiritual demand - the two go hand in hand. Without the social dimension, we fall into fanaticism.But without the spiritual dimension, we fall into pessimism and lack of meaning.
You were prepared to go through this crisis. Take your toolbox and use all the tools available to you.
Learn about resistance from the indigenous and African Peoples; we have always been, and continue to be, exterminated. But we still haven't stopped singing, dancing, lighting a fire, and having fun. Don't feel guilty about being happy during this difficult time. You do not help at all being sad and without energy.
You help if good things emanate from the Universe now. It is through joy that one resists. Also, when the storm passes, each of you will be very important in the reconstruction of this new world. You need to be well and strong. And for that, there is no other way than to maintain a beautiful, happy, and bright vibration. This has nothing to do with alienation. This is a resistance strategy.
In shamanism, there is a rite of passage called the quest for vision. You spend a few days alone in the forest, without water, without food, without protection. When you cross through the portal, you get a new vision of the world because you have faced your fears, your difficulties.
This is what is asked of you: Allow yourself to take advantage of this time to perform your vision-seeking rituals. What world do you want to build for you? For now, this is what you can do - find serenity in the storm. Calm down, pray every day. Establish a routine to meet the sacred every day.
Good things emanate; what you emanate now is the most important thing. And sing, dance, resist through art, joy, faith and love.
Words of White Eagle. Shared by Robyn Lavender.
If your mind wanders, or your body aches; if your sleep is disruptive or your relationships eruptive... You may find relief a breath away.
We all know that breathing brings air into and out from our lungs. And that gasses, like carbon dioxide and oxygen, are exchanged in the process. It is this action that keeps us alive. Thankfully, this activity happens whether we think about it or not because it's a part of our body's autonomic nervous system.
Did you know, however, that if your breathing mechanics are faulty, and you attempt to take a deep breath to calm yourself down, you may, inadvertently, keep the stress response firing? One reason for that is because air is only traveling into the upper lobes of your lungs. Also, you're most likely not taking time to absorb prana.
What is Prana?
Think of the effect sunlight has when it shines upon the leaves of a tree. It stimulates growth. Prana works in our bodies in much the same way. It brings vitality to every tissue, every cell.
It must be that Indigenous People's knew this long ago, because the refer to Prana as the Great Spirit. It is similar to the concept of Chi in Chinese Medicine. Consider it as life force. As a healing, nurturing, enlivening energy that fosters unparalleled vitality.
Five ways to Increase Prana In Your Body:
1. Breathe into your belly (diaphragmatic breathing).
2. Eat fresh and nourishing foods.
3. Hand out with fun friends who make you laugh!
4. Spend time outdoors, and take time to absorb sunlight every day.
5. Exercise moderately to increase circulation and respiration.
As summer approaches, we have more opportunities to get out doors, eat fresh food, and move our bodies (appropriately distanced and with a mask, if needed, of course). I encourage you to incorporate a few of the ideas from the list above into each day. And please let me know the result!
Yours, in health and well-being,
Sharon Harvey Alexander, C-IAYT
It's almost summertime. And the living is... crazier than ever, right?
What's one to do?
There are people who will tell you to yell, scream, shout, or beat a pillow. Others advise crying, or running away. Some people freeze or turn a cold shoulder. Others push through or get more active when confronted with adversity. Do you have a typical response? If you asked a neuroscientist, a psychologist, or a stress researcher, they would explain that there are four standard reactions to stress:
• Fly away
• Freeze or
• Tend and Befriend
Each of these reactions has a unique relationship to several key hormones in the body, including adrenaline and oxytocin. Regardless of what might be your predominant tendency, each of the above reactions can pull you out of balance and leave you feeling exhausted in the end. An unmitigated stress response can lead to trouble with your organs, tissues, and even whole biological systems.
Ancient Wisdom traditions, however – and in particular, the fields of Yoga & Ayurveda - espouse a different approach to handling stress and uncertainty. One where you learn to step aside, witness what is going on, and from a less attached perspective, make choices about how to most effectively engage. You become a detached observer of the various reactions going on around you, and within you. This allows you to choose appropriate responses to any particular situation without compromising your health. As a professional yoga therapist and reiki master teacher trainer, I am steeped in the practice of observation. As a matter of fact, that “super power” helps me effectively craft practices tailored to the unique needs of my individual clients, and even weave together beneficial classes for groups of students so that each person leaves feeling better than when they arrived. I like that super power, which I have fine tuned over many years, as it allows me to guide people to a place where they, too, can find stability and peace and learn to respond with compassion to events around them instead of reacting out of fear. Even in tumultuous times, like the one we, collectively, find ourselves in now.
The tools I use help intelligent yet tapped out, stressed out people cope with uncertainty, anxiety and fear in a life enhancing way rather than in ways that tear the body down. They build you up, instead of reduce the mind's ability to focus, interrupt quality sleep, and run you through a whole host of negative emotions. They have their roots in ancient wisdom, and are backed by modern neuroscience.
What happens is that, instead of:
• Fighting... We move. Gently. Mindfully. And in alignment with our body/mind's structure and condition.
• Flying away... We remain present by breathing through the situation.
• Freezing... We meditate.
• And even though “Tending and Befriending” can be very nice, we learn to affirm our own value first and offer ourselves compassionate self-love, which fuels our journey to offer support to others.
That way, we can stand steady and offer more effective support to others when it's needed.
There are many great articles on the web about the benefits of the tools I use. They revolve around yoga principles and philosophy, mindfulness, meditation, breathing and healthy living practices (see some of the articles, referenced for you below). I invite you to search out more information if you're curious about how movement, mindfulness, and meditation can elevate the quality of your life.
At the same time, the benefits increase tremendously when you work with a seasoned practitioner. So if you're looking for tools to help you manage stress in a healthy way, or want an effective and natural antidote for a troubled mind or challenging sleep patterns, you'd be best served by working closely with a knowledgeable professional. Like me. I would be happy to help!
Please email me or call me if you'd like to explore how my work might help you find calm, feel stable, and enhance your self-confidence to carry you through these crazy times, and beyond, with more ease and grace. I am happy to talk on the phone to see if we might be a good fit for working together, and all my sessions can happen virtually.
Even during the time of CoVid, I am on a mission to minimize dis-ease across the planet, one breath and one person at a time so that each of us can live a vibrationally elevated life.. If you'd like that, too, reach out. I'm here for you. And meanwhile... May you find practices and a lifestyle that promotes less tension and greater levels of joy for you and yours as the summer season unfolds.
Yours, in health and well-being.
Sharon Harvey Alexander, C-IAYT
Points of Interest from Recommended Articles:
1.) By simultaneously getting us into better moods, enabling us to be more focused on the present moment, and by encouraging us to give ourselves a break, yoga is a very effective stress reliever.
Li AW, Goldsmith CA. The effects of yoga on anxiety and stress. Altern Med Rev. 2012;17(1):21-35.
2.) Yoga, practiced in a more gentle and integrated form (ie, with an ethical and spiritual component) may provide additional benefits over yoga practiced as an exercise regimen.
3.) A 3,000 year old tradition, yoga, is now regarded in the Western world as a holistic approach to health and is classified by the National Institutes of Health as a form of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). The word “yoga” comes from a Sanskrit root “yuj” which means union, or yoke, to join, and to direct and concentrate one's attention. Regular practice of yoga promotes strength, endurance, flexibility and facilitates characteristics of friendliness, compassion, and greater self-control, while cultivating a sense of calmness and well-being. Sustained practice also leads to important outcomes such as changes in life perspective, self-awareness and an improved sense of energy to live life fully and with genuine enjoyment. The practice of yoga produces a physiological state opposite to that of the flight-or-fight stress response and with that interruption in the stress response, a sense of balance and union between the mind and body can be achieved.
4.) The following evidence-based material is a synopsis of information taken from an excellent article that can be found on HealthLine.com (see reference, below).
Thirteen Evidence Based Benefits of Yoga
1. Can Decrease Stress
Summary: Studies show that yoga can help ease stress and lower your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which also improves quality of life and mental health.
2. Relieves Anxiety
Summary: Several studies show that practicing yoga can lead to a decrease in symptoms of anxiety by emphasizing present moment awareness which calms the mind, lowers blood pressure, and elevates “feel good” hormones.
3. May Reduce Inflammation
Summary: Some studies show that yoga may reduce inflammatory markers in the body and help prevent pro-inflammatory diseases.
4. Could Improve Heart Health
Summary: Alone or in combination with a healthy lifestyle, yoga may help decrease risk factors for heart disease, including lowering blood pressure, and decreasing cholesterol,
especially the “bad” LDL.
5. Improves Quality of Life
Summary: Some studies show that yoga could improve quality of life and may be used as an effective adjunct therapy for some conditions because it improves sleep quality, enhances spiritual well-being, improves social function and reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression.
6. May Fight Depression
Summary: Several studies have found that yoga may decrease symptoms of depression by influencing the production of stress hormones in the body.
7. Could Reduce Chronic Pain
Summary: Yoga may help reduce chronic pain in conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and osteoarthritis.
8. Could Promote Sleep Quality
Summary: Yoga may help enhance sleep quality, thus reducing the incidence of many diseases, by effecting melatonin levels and positively impacting several common contributors to sleep problems including anxiety, depression, chronic pain and stress.
9. Improves Flexibility and Balance
Summary: Research shows that practicing yoga can help improve balance and increase flexibility by practicing for just 15-30 minutes a day.
10. Could Help Improve Breathing
Summary: Yoga incorporates many breathing exercises, which could help improve breathing, lung function, and vital capacity which is especially beneficial for those with lung disease, heart problems, and asthma.
11. May Relieve Migraines
Summary: Studies show that by virtue of stimulating the Vagus Nerve, yoga may reduce
migraine intensity and frequency, alone or in combination with conventional care.
12. Promotes Healthy Eating Habits
Summary: Yoga encourages mindfulness, which may be used to help promote mindful eating and healthy eating habits.
13. Can Increase Strength
Summary: Some studies show that yoga can cause an increase in strength, endurance and flexibility.
According to HealthLine.Com, the Bottom Line is that:
Multiple studies have confirmed the many mental and physical benefits of a yoga lifestyle (that which incorporates movement, mindfulness, breath awareness and meditation into each day).
Incorporating that into your routine can enhance your health, increase strength and flexibility, and reduce symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety.
Finding the time to practice yoga just a few times per week may be enough to make a noticeable difference when it comes to your overall health and well-being.
Covid 19 – What is it? How can I keep myself healthy during this global scare?
CoVid 19 stands for Coronavirus Disease, originating in 2019.
Co = Corona, Vid = Virus, D = Disease.
While still in the early phases of transmission here in the US now, it is moving fast, and we are being asked to socially distance ourselves to reduce the spread of contamination, in particular the respiratory droplets on which the virus travels.
Covid 19 is a coronavirus. It is a part of a family of viruses that affect both people and animals (though my husband says he heard on the radio that dogs can not be infected. Real news or fake news? I don't know.). This family of viruses consists of over 100 different types of viruses, many of which have been around for a long time. This particular fast moving strain has never before been seen in humans. It is a viral respiratory disease which can only be detected with testing.
The virus spreads person-to-person by droplets originating in a cough or sneeze. I have heard that this virus is heavy, so that it only travels between three and six feet before falling to the ground (although last week I read that it can travel up to ten feet). Regardless, an effort needs to be made to prevent contaminating others by fully covering your cough or sneeze and not touching common surfaces until you've washed your hands well and by distancing yourself from others, too.
When you have symptoms, you are at the highest state of infection. Though people can have the virus, and be asymptomatic.
Symptoms are comprised of a combination of three particular elements:
-shortness of breath.
If you experience these three symptoms together, it is recommended you get tested if you think you have been exposed.
While this is a new virus, the practice of Yoga and Ayurveda have, for millennia, offered effective tools to prevent infection from respiratory viruses like it, including influenza (the flu).
They may help with CoViD 19, too, by preventing an accumulation of mucus and keeping your lungs, heart, and digestive tract resilient and healthy.
The following basic guidelines comprise a natural and holistic way to boost immunity and prevent infection:
Breath-based Mindfulness and Meditation (focusing on your breath to ground and move stuck energy, and spending time developing healing, positive thoughts) are fantastic tools to engage with at this time. If you'd like suggestions on a practice tailored specifically for you, ask me. That's what I do!
How do CoViD 19 symptoms differ from the Common Cold or Flu?
While each are virus based, they come from different sources. Typically, the common cold is more mild and of shorter duration than the flu, and probably less of a risk than CoVid 19.
A cold may occur after exposure to sudden cold conditions, and during seasonal change. One is especially susceptible to this in the early spring when the weather is often finicky and the body’s internal thermostat has yet to adjust to environmental changes. Other factors that decrease immunity and contribute to the common cold include poor diet which feeds the virus; sluggish digestion which has a hard time eliminating it; and, a sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise which leads to reduced circulation, especially in the heart and lungs.
From the Yoga perspective, the symptoms of a cold reflect the body's need to periodically discharge excess toxins. Normally, we handle this discharge without issue – through our lungs, lymph, and bowels. But when accumulation has not been released effectively, it can lead to coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, fever and sweating in an attempt to rid accumulated waste products.
The flu, or influenza, is a more severe form of the common cold. It is is highly contagious. Hand washing is your best defense, in addition to coughing/sneezing into your arm, knee, or other area that can contain and not spread the germs. Use these practices to prevent the spread of CoViD 19, too.
An acute cold can be averted by natural means by keeping the pranic energy of the body high and taking time to rest. Finding ways to balance daily strain, stress, and trauma with adequate rest and recovery is important. Doing this as soon as you notice a change in your overall well-being insures that the body's physiological functions maintain harmony and balance and can fight off exposure. Meditation - always a beneficial tool - is one of the best tools to help you harmoniously handle the stressors of life, and keep energy balanced!
Maintaining proper digestion can also help to ward off cold or flu. It may also help in the case of CoVid 19, too.
If you notice a loss of appetite, try fasting for 16-24 hours, or until your appetite returns. Experiencing a dry tongue or darkened urine? Add lemon and a pinch of Himalayan Salt to your water, and drink lots more.
Shifting pains in the back and limbs? Rest, stretch, or roll out tired muscles and soak in a warm Epsom salt bath. At this time of global pandemic, it's natural to be holding more tension in the body. Resting, stretching, hydrating are helpful tools for everyone!
Remember that a cold (flu, and COVID, too) is very contagious in the early stages, especially when sneezing is prominent. Voluntary isolation and rest during this period is an important step to keep it progressing and/or spreading.
As mucus and inflammation build, they provide a breading ground for infection. This may lead to an irritating flow from the nose, mucus in the throat, inflamed or red eyes, a decreased sense of smell and taste, and possibly a sore throat.
If the inflammation extends into that Eustachian tubes, your hearing may be temporarily impaired as well. Use of a neti pot (warm saline nasal flush) can help to keep the sinuses clear. It's important to remember not to flush your sinuses if they are quite stuffy, as this only pushes the virus trapping matter deeper into the body.
Usually, if you give yourself plenty of rest, stay warm and hydrated, and ease up on heavy meals for a while, these conditions can subside within just a few days. Is that the same for CoVid 19? No one really knows.
Other natural remedies include engaging with an energizing pranayama (breath) practice, enjoying a cup of hot tea with warming spices like ginger, pepper, cinnamon, and... as said before, resting quietly.
Practicing silence offers you a break from the energy required to carry on a conversation. Why not consider this time of “sheltering in place” as a chance to take a mini retreat? To that end, you might consider participating in a media fast - turning off outside stimuli for a day or so in order to tap into the healing wisdom of the body and let that boost your physical and creative energies.
Could it be that's exactly what the earth has been asking for, too? That we, humans, reduce our impact by driving less, consuming less, polluting less, and considering the impacts of our behaviors on our natural resources and other people more.
The times, they are a changin'.
This CoVid 19 situation may be a global call to rest and refocus on our priorities. Upleveling your self-care practices is always beneficial. Finding ways to help clean the environment may also warrant your attention now.
Doing these things now make the difference between all of us growing weaker or growing stronger.
May we all, collectively, move through this crazy time with ease and grace.
I wish you all the best, now and always. If you need support, please reach out. I have the training and wisdom to help you elegantly navigate stress and thrive – in body, mind, heart, and soul.
I'd like to help so you don't have to suffer.
Sharon Harvey Alexander, C-IAYT, CRTT
Stay healthy this spring. Here's how:
Immunity is affected by seasonal change.
Beat the Corona Virus. Explore the following ideas today, and stay strong and healthy as we move into and through the spring season.
Seasonal changes and travel both have a weakening effect on our bodies, making us more susceptible to infections, including respiratory issues. Coronaviruses, in particular, affect the respiratory system and may bring on symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath. Many of those infected recover without serious complications. However, the virus can progress into pneumonia and bronchitis in sensitive populations including children, the elderly, and those with previously compromised immune systems. The best approach to avoid being infected is to build your immunity. Giving more attention to your self-care practices now, and changing them up to reflect the seasonal change, can take you a long way in terms of boosting your immune system, and supporting you in feeling your best now and in the months to come. Here are a few ideas to consider from the Ayurveda tradition:
Click here to watch a video and try out a fun cleansing breath practice.
Click here to listen to a soothing chanting song by Snatum Kaur called the Angels are Listening, and enjoy a brief "time out".
(Ask me about the perfect EO to add to your drinking water and massage oil now!)
Ayurveda is the traditional yogic system of medicine. The word means The Science of Life and is based on the idea of maintaining balance in each of the body's systems through proper a diet, herbal treatments, and breath practices tailored to your unique constitution. Paramount to Ayurveda are the Six Tastes: Sweet, Salty, Sour, Bitter, Pungent, and Astringent. Each taste has a unique relationship to the doshas, and contributes to overall health.
According to Ayurveda, the six tastes should be a part of every meal. This ensures that each of the major food groups, and those nutrients specific to them, are consumed on a daily basis. Pungent, Bitter, and Astringent tastes increase or exacerbate Vata. Sour, Salty, and Pungent tastes strengthen or exacerbate Pitta. The Sweet taste strengthens and exacerbates Kapha. To soothe or calm a dosha - which is what is attempted through the practice of Ayurveda - you want to avoid eating too much of those tastes that exacerbate a particular dosha, especially during the time of year or the season of life when a particular dosha tends to be elevated.
To cultivate balance, consider these guidelines:
Vata = the elements of Air and Space; the fall and early winter season; the ending season of life, from approx. age 60+. Calm the Vata Dosha with Sweet, Sour, and Salty tastes and warm, lightly cooked foods.
Pitta = the elements of Fire and Water; typically runs through the summer season into early fall; the time of life when one is establishing herself through career, family, and other adult responsibilities, typically the ages between 27 & 57 yrs. =/-. Placate the Pitta Dosha with Sweet, Bitter, Astringent and cooling foods.
Kapha = the elements of Earth and Water; the season runs from late winter through early summer, when the ground is wet and perennial plants are starting to grow again; childhood is the kapha season of life. Mitigate excess kapha dosha by avoiding sweets, and adding more pungent, bitter, and astringent raw foods to the daily diet.
Examples of foods in each taste category include:
Sweet - carbohydrates (grains like rice, all kinds of sweeteners and sugar, fruits, root vegies) dairy, fats, amino acids.
Salty - all kinds of salt, sea weed, pulses
Sour - fermented foods like yogurt, hard cheeses, citrus and other sour fruits, tomatoes
Pungent - spicy foods with volatile oils like hot peppers, ginger, garlic, cumin
Bitter - fresh leafy greens, dandelion, brassicas
Astringent - tannins found in tart foods like beans, lentils, pomegranate, green apples
To feel vibrant throughout the changing seasons and to maintain good health, consider incorporating each of these tastes into your daily diet. Doing so may leave you feeling more satiated, content, and balanced.
Questions - please schedule a consultation to determine your unique wellness personality and learn more about how to apply Ayurvedic Wisdom into your daily life.
Wishing you a healthy, happy, and joyous life, today and every day!
Sharon Harvey Alexander, C-IAYT