You can harmonise and transcend your mental afflictions and modifications through yogic psychology, writes ANANDMURTI GURUMAA. Depression is a common complaint among many people today. So, almost every other person tends to be on painkillers, tranquillisers, sedatives or other medication. Body and mind are connected. What bridges them is the breath. Now, when mind is in stress, sorrow, grief or fear, a corresponding effect is seen in the body — it starts to tremble. For example, when one hears the news of a relative’s demise, immediately the breath starts to become shallow and its pace starts to quicken — one is almost breathless with anxiety. Neurons from the spinal cord reach the brain and when fear and trauma occur, the entire body gets shaken up. The trembling in turn affects our breathing, making it erratic. The heart starts pounding and the pulse starts racing. Blood pressure escalates and most likely, a heart attack could ensue.
But there’s hope! This is where yoga comes to our aid, giving us a most simple yet powerful tool and technique to manage body and mind, no matter how challenging the situation. More than 2,500 years ago, Rishi Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutras, delineated how intricately body, mind and breath affect each other and how we can manage, harmonise and ultimately transcend our mental afflictions and modifications.
Life Is Precious
In a situation of intense fear, the quickest, safest, simplest way out is to just sit with spine erect and take a long, deep breath, slowly releasing it through the mouth. This should be done for a short time and then one can return to inhaling and exhaling through the nose.
This is the beauty of yoga psychology. No harmful medicines, no side effects, for the benefits of deep breathing are manifold. Now for those who never do any spiritual practice or meditate, they can easily get depressed, weep at the slightest mishap or come down with panic attacks. Then doctors prescribe sedatives — sleep the pain away! And slowly, the body becomes a toxic waste dump. Is precious life meant to be wasted like this?
Imagine — you have a lovely house, a Ferrari, a beachside bungalow, a flourishing business, a wonderful family and, yet, fear is gnawing away your insides. Another scenario — exam results are out and a disappointed student jumps to his death, simply because he has failed. What are the values we are giving our children? Should every child not be taught how to deal with fear and anxiety? Yoga science should definitely be part of the school syllabus and every child should be taught how to sit with spine erect and breathe correctly — equal inhalation, equal exhalation, slow, steady and deep.
It’s fine that prayers are done in the school assembly but in all honesty, does it help them to deal with and dispel their fear? Our society teaches the child to fear. Taunting parents, threatening teachers, peer pressure and constant comparison make life miserable for children who then resort to bribing teachers, cheating and copying, just for grades and percentages. Thus, we teach children to become dishonest, fearful and deceitful at a very tender age and then wonder why society is going down the drain. When a child is thus punished and tortured, fear remains in the subconscious mind all his life.
When medication as well as stress and depression affect breathing, making it shallow, the ratio of oxygen to carbon-dioxide goes haywire. Correspondingly, enough oxygen does not reach all the organs. Thus when the mind is disturbed, it leads to incorrect breathing, causing disease and ill-health. Unconsciously, unknowingly, one tenses the body and holds the breath in times of perceived stress. This leads to trembling and weakness in the limbs, in fact all over the body.
One has to be actually taught how to breathe correctly! During inhalation, the stomach should expand, protruding a bit due to the movement of the diaphragm whereas during exhalation, the stomach should move inwards. But most people do the opposite and this actually damages health if continued over a long period of time. The solar plexus is where we tend to hold our deepest emotions; therefore, it is important that the breath should flow smooth and easy in this region. Yogic breathing is full lung breathing, involving expansion of the chest as well as the stomach.
Now, if we have cultivated the practice of paying attention to the breath during any activity we perform, breathing starts becoming harmonious. We remain grounded in the present moment. And then, in times of crises, we remember that the breath is the tool which will stabilise both body and mind. So, breathe your depression away.