The current Pandemic of Covid 19 has presented many challenges in front of us for which we were completely unprepared. The energy of fear and anxiety is palpable in the very air we breathe in. Understanding the effect of this stress and adopting ways to reduce stress with Mindful Eating, Yoga and Meditation will keep us in balance and harmony. It is even more important that pregnant women take extra care to manage their stress as they are making a new life.
The human brain’s primitive part is called the “Amygdala” and this is also known as the “Fear Centre”. This part of the brain magnifies the danger and look to escape by going into “Fight or Flight” mode. This response of the body to a perceived threat is meant to help us and pass quickly but most of us are collectively spending a very long time in this mode which causes our sympathetic nervous system to secrete Cortisol hormone (Stress Hormone). The cycle of negative thoughts, feelings and sensations can automatically trap us in a permanent bad mood. Researches show that our brain remembers these bad mood loops. As a result, it suppresses our immune system and affects our vital organs and people start to experience digestive issues, anxiety, depression, High blood pressure, sleep problems and weight gain etc.
The good news is that we can choose to change our response by paying attention to our bodies and mind and boost our immune system. If we bring our conscious awareness to these thought patterns and start observing them and letting them pass without being attached then fewer triggers are available for stress response and it will break the cycle of rumination. By doing this we activate our Prefrontal cortex of the brain which is responsible for executive function and when functioning properly it gives us a cool, calm mind. Albert Einstein’s prefrontal cortex was incredibly well developed. Many studies in Neuroscience have found that the brains of Meditators have well developed Prefrontal cortex (PFC) just like Einstein. Developing the PFC area of the brain with regular meditation has tremendous benefits including less anxiety, better decision-making ability, emotional regulation and good mental health. in short, we can say Meditation cools and quiets the Brain’s primitive “Fear Centre” Amygdala and researches have proven that the amygdala becomes less active for regular meditators. Meditators get fresh brain generation a process called “neurogenesis” which synchronises the brain hemisphere. Doing Meditation just mean mental exercise to keep the mind healthy.
We apply the principles of Mindfulness to eating our food and call it “Mindful Eating” of course it is important what we eat but we already have this information and know which food nourishes our body. According to the ancient Ayurveda system of Medicine food has been divided into three categories according to their effect on the energy of our body. These 3 types are:
Satvik Food- Satvik food is the food that contains the energy of Sattva a term in Sanskrit meaning pure, vital, conscious. Satvik diet includes seasonal foods and fruits, dairy products, nuts, seeds, organic vegetables, legumes, whole grain and nonmeat based proteins. All food that is cooked at home with love and devotion is considered satvik food. This can also be referred to as a Yogic diet.
Rajsik Food- This includes food that gives quick energy and if consumed in moderation these foods are neither good nor bad. The energy created from this food is stimulating so they are also called stimulant foods such as coffee, tea, homemade sweets, biscuits and dark chocolate.
Tamsik Food- This food brings lethargy and is called sedative food. According to Ayurveda consumption of Tamsik food is harmful to the mind or body. Example of this food is processed and canned food, alcoholic beverages, blue cheese etc.
Mindful Eating includes the practice of Mitahara from yogic literature meaning “Moderation in eating”. A diet plan is useless unless people’s behaviour changes around food. Now when we are spending so much time indoors we are less active and consuming negative news along with food. We learn to pay attention to our food while eating which is only possible when we remove all distractions and have exclusive time for eating. Mindful Eating is process-oriented rather than outcome-driven for losing weight, although while developing awareness around eating habits will lead to many benefits for maintaining a healthy body. In a yogic way we describe the most outer sheath of five suttle layers of the body is called “Annamaya Kosha” meaning Food Body so we are what we eat, if you ate Banana and Yoghurt then after digestion and absorption it became part of every single cell of your body so you are that banana and yoghurt in your food body.
Along with paying attention to our mind with meditation and nourishing the body with mindful eating, we must energise the body with the regular practice of yoga. Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “Yuj” meaning union of body, mind and soul. It is much more than making those fancy poses with your body. The ancient practice of yoga is thousands of years old and has stood the test of time. Patanjali the Father of yoga has described in eights limbs of Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi a systematic way of practising yoga for maximum benefit.
Covid 19 situation is the way it is and, we must accept it non judgementally knowing this is a situation beyond our control and mindfully see our role in the bigger picture, then we can not only look after ourselves but also support others who are struggling to find solutions. Yoga and Mindfulness practice can create calm in the storm.
Aparna Shukla is a Founder of Shubh Connections, Ireland, She is a certified Mindfulness MBSR from Mindful Academy Solterreno, Spain. She is a qualified Yoga Teacher and regularly facilitates Mindfulness & Meditation workshops for her global clients.