How we are using yoga, meditation, and western medicine to build immunity and protect ourselves from the coronavirus.
We are publishing three articles on how to maintain health and have the best chance of preventing illness during the pandemic of Covid-19.
The first article (this article) will discuss the two best yoga meditations to build healthy, resilient immunity that can give you a better chance in the fight against a virus.
The second article details how to build the four pillars of health from both Eastern and Western perspectives.
The third article recommends Eastern herbs and Western supplements that Jayne and I are using to support our health and immunity and which I recommend to my students and clients.
Yogic theory tells us that the key to staving off viruses is to make your life force (vitality, prāna) stronger than the life force of the virus, otherwise your immunity (agni) can’t cope and the virus wins.
If you can follow the advice in the articles, you will increase your immunity and resilience.
We live in interesting times!!!! Global warming, mass migration and epidemics crashing through the borders of nation-states, and financial disruption. All this distress can weaken your immune system, making you prone to illnesses, such as the coronavirus. These are all boundary issues.
People dream about getting into their yogic practice and improving their diet and sleep. Prior to the virus spreading, this may have seemed a luxury that you can take up when “you have time”. However, today a healthy lifestyle that conserves energy and builds vitality-prāna is crucial to developing strong boundaries that either prevent the virus from entering or if the virus does get in enables you to combat it.
If you haven’t been building your prāna, now is the time to start. Within a few weeks of practicing energy building meditations along with some lifestyle modifications (suggested in the second article), you will feel more relaxed and more robust.
If you are suffering from chronic illness your life force (prāna) and your agni (digestive fire, immunity) are both not working properly.
Build prāna and agni
The key to gain the best advantage, and to prevent a virus from taking hold or from becoming a severe illness, is to build your life force–prāna and your immunity–agni.
Prāna flows in the body like the wind (prāna vāyu). Healthy prāna flows smoothly and is like a cool breeze on a summer’s night. Unhealthy prāna either blows too strong, too weak or erratically. Prāna can be blocked by physical and mental tensions many of which may be unconscious. One of the best ways to cultivate prāna is by yogic breathing techniques (prānāyāma) and prānic healing meditations.
The word agni means fire and has a special reference to your digestive fire and to the sacred fires used in Indian rituals to send mantras and prayers to the gods.
Agni is the foundation of your cellular intelligence, your immunity, which is your body’s capacity to determine what is healthy for you and what is not. If your cellular intelligence is healthy then your agni can “burn up” what is not healthy to protect you. Prānic meditations, consuming fresh foods and caring for your digestion are essential to good health.
Prāna and agni have a special relationship. Prāna is like the wind that fans the flame of agni. If your prāna is weak or erratic your agni will be weak or erratic. If there are blockages due to tensions, prāna can’t flow to maintain a healthy agni. Your fire will go out.
If prāna is blocked in a part of your body, e.g. in your chest, you are likely to suffer from respiratory and heart disease, such as asthma (blocked airflow) and blocked arteries; if prāna is not flowing in your belly you will suffer from digestive problems and be unable to use prāna, your breath, to fan your digestive fire. You will not be able to build a strong resilient body.
Your immunity depends mainly on cultivating a healthy digestive fire, the fire that warms your blood, which in turn sends food to nourish every cell in your body.
Yogis in India
Yogis have always said that most diseases start in the stomach, and modern science is now showing that poor eating habits and a lack of good bacteria are at the root of increased inflammation and many acute and chronic illnesses. Inflammation is the soil that nourishes viruses, bacteria, and toxins.
When I was traveling in India in the early 1970s, I met several yogis who claimed that they could digest any poison because, they said, they had increased their agni, their digestive fire to superhuman levels. Although I never actually saw them consume poison, I also never saw them become sick. On the contrary, they were glowing with health, even in the harshest environment.
As part of my yoga therapy training, I was lucky to have the opportunity to ask them about their methods for increasing both prāna and agni, because I knew that they are interdependent and that the ability to consciously manage both is the key to health. Even if you get coronavirus, yogic theory states that if your prāna and agni are strong you have the best chance to fight off the virus.
Yogic techniques to increase agni
Apart from simple lifestyle measures such as eating and sleeping well and getting adequate exercise (which will be covered in our next article), agni can also be regulated via postures (āsana), breathing techniques (prānāyāma) and meditation.
In terms of the benefits of yoga postures. (āsana), the Hatha Yoga Pradīpikā, one of the great and classic yogic texts says,
“The practice of the spinal twist (matsyendrāsana) increases the digestive fire to such a great capacity that it is the means of removing diseases and thus awakening the serpent power.” (Ch1, v27)
The best prānāyāmas to practice are alternate nostril breathing (nādī shodhana), bellows breathing (bhastrika) and throat or psychic breathing (ujjayi).
Yoga Nidrā and Prāna Nidrā
Sleep is the foundation of good health. Even one night of poor sleep decreases the ability of your immune system to fight viruses by 70%. If you are not getting enough sleep and you need to rest deeply, then Yoga Nidrā is the most important relaxation meditation. It enables complete rest and recuperation. It is a passive technique in which you simply take your awareness through the layers of your body and mind, removing tensions, contractions, and blockages to prāna.
Prāna Nidrā, like Yoga Nidrā, is practiced in the lying position. It both relaxes the body and mind and recharges prāna. Using a very subtle form of throat breathing, ujjayi, you send prāna throughout the body, to relax contractions, unblock any passages, and build resilience. It is used in advanced yoga therapy for many chronic conditions.
Both ujjayi, (throat breathing) and Prāna Nidrā (lying prāna circulation) are taught on the Prāna and Prānic Healing MP3/CD.
Both techniques increase agni.
Image by Bruno /Germany