Everyone is experiencing more psychological stress because of the Coronavirus. While shopping, my friend said she could see the stress in people’s eyes. This past week, I felt stress and frustration several times. I had to be strict and tell myself to “be a calm-ass!” I reminded myself that situations and feelings are temporary.
When I feel frustrated, it helps to look at the big picture of life. I need to ask myself, “What am I afraid of?” Frustration is another form of anger, and anger is another form of fear. Right now, there’s a lot of uncertainty and fear about the future. We all need to take one day at a time.
Along with my frustration, I’ve had a careless attitude. The issues around the Coronavirus doesn’t help (and it’s not an excuse to be rude or unkind). I must not let myself go down that path. I must keep my integrity and not give up on what’s important in life – like being kind, helping people, and making the world a better place.
Several things help me to feel more balanced and less frustrated, like increasing my self-care, be more mindful (do more yoga and meditation), and spend time in nature. I need to remind myself to be gentle with myself and others. We live in a unique and challenging time, and we need to be role models for others.
Om (or Aum) is a sacred sound and symbol. Om is the universal sound, the first sound of creation. In the yoga sutras by B.K.S Iyengar (1993), “Aum is called Pranava, which stands for the praise of the divine and fulfillment of divinity.” Iyengar continues to say, “Sound is vibration, which as modern science tells us, is the source of all creation. God is beyond vibration, but vibration, being the subtlest of His creation, is the nearest we can get to Him in the physical world. So we take it as His symbol.”
I have been using Om in my pranayama practice. Yogic breathing is called pranayama in Sanskrit. Brown et al., (2005) defines pranayama as “meaning both control of energy and expansion of energy” (p. 189). In other words, Brown says that the breath is energy, and we have control over it. Brown (2005) states, prana is defined as breath or life force. According to Iyengar (1996), “pranayama by nature has three components: inhalation, exhalation, and retention. They are carefully learned by elongating the breath and prolonging the time of retention according to the elasticity of the torso, the length and depth of breath, and the precision of movements” (p. 33). Iyengar’s point is to learn to hold the breath for longer periods of time to increase the volume of oxygen in the body.
Breath links the body and mind. Yogic breathing techniques can be used to balance the autonomic nervous system and have a positive effect on stress-related disorders. When individuals are under stress, they restrict their breathing and decrease the amount of oxygen coming into their bodies (Wilkinson, 2002). Yogic breathing techniques increase the volume of oxygen in the lungs and help the body to relax and the mind to focus.
When I chant Om, I repeat it three times with a long expiration. Chanting Om has complex effects on the brain; especially in the Wernicke’s area and the thalamus (Brown, 2005). According to Brown et al., (2005), “Even just mentally chanting Om showed decreased metabolism, decreased heart rate, and increased peripheral vascular resistance in seven experienced yogic meditators” (p. 195). Chanting Om also increases the synchronicity of particular biorhythms in the brain (Zope, 2013). D’Antoni et al. (1995) state that “mantra production frequently employs the phonemes, m, and n, which are thought to evoke pleasant associations and feelings of release” (p. 309). The chant Om has the phoneme m in it.
Om is magical. I have experienced its effects on my mind and body. I am an emotional person, and sometimes I have a difficult time controlling my emotions. According to The Art of Living Foundation (http://www.artofliving.org), “rather than allowing the emotions to alter the breath (and cause physiological changes which may prove unhealthy), one can skillfully use the breath to transform one’s emotional state.” When someone is angry, the breath is short and quick. And when someone is sad or upset, the breath is long and deep. Om can be used to control the breath and balance the emotions.
I had a little health scare this past month. I found a few pink, scaly spots on my face. I was worried that I might have skin cancer. So, last week I went to the dermatologist. I made a plan that I would silently use the Om while I sat in the office, and during the consultation and treatment. I was surprised how chanting Om helped me to be calm and feel centered. I did not get upset, and my heart rhythm was strong.
I found out that I do not have skin cancer. I have Actinic Keratoses. It’s a common skin disorder from years of sun exposure. Actinic Keratoses is considered precancerous. If left untreated, Actinic Keratoses may turn into cancer. I am treating my spots (with liquid nitrogen), so hopefully, I will not get skin cancer.
I am counting on the magic of Om to balance the biorhythms in my brain and in my heart. I have to admit; I was scared that I was going to die from skin cancer. Deep breathing and prayer helped me connect with God and the universe. Life can be scary, so we need to learn to breathe through it.
Brown, R.P., & Gerbarg, P.L., (2005). Sudarshan kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: Part I – Neurophysiologic model. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 11(1), 189-201.
Brown, R.P., & Gerbarg, P.L., (2005). Sudarshan kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: Part II – Clinical applications and guidelines. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 11(4), 711-717.
D’Antoni, M., Harvey, P., & Fried, M. (1995). Alternative medicine: Does it play a role in the management of voice disorders. Journal of Voice, 9(3), 308-311.
Iyengar, B.K.S. (1966). Light on yoga. New York, NY: Schocken Books, Inc.
Iyengar, B.K.S. (1993). Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Hammersmith, London: HarperCollins Publishers.
Wilkinson, L., Buboltz, W. C., & Young, T. (2002). Breathing techniques to promote client relaxation and tension reduction. Journal of Clinical Activities, Assignments & Handouts in Psychotherapy Practice, 2(1), 1-14.
Zope, S.A., & Zope, R.A., (2013). Sudarshan kriya yoga: Breathing for health. International Journal of Yoga, 6(1), 4-10.
This past weekend, I went solo camping with my dog, Liam. I spent two nights alone in a private, hike-in site. One day, I spent some time with a good friend who lives close to the campground. We went kayaking and ate around the campfire.
Several years ago, I did solo camping. It can be kind of scary sleeping alone in the wilderness. I calm my mind by telling myself that I am safe. I also do things that I enjoy like, reading, building a campfire, or meditating. Since I am a woman, I carry pepper spray too.
Going solo camping has helped me face my fears, encouraged me to be self-reliant, expanded my appreciation of beauty and simplicity, and gave me the confidence to be myself.