Relax: breath holds the key

April 27, 2020 11:22 pm | Updated April 28, 2020 12:17 am IST

Dr. Rajendran.

Dr. Rajendran.

There is not a day that has gone by in the recent past that hasn’t featured the new ‘C word’ at least once in every conversation worldwide. Some of these conversations are informative while others are loaded with rumours. So, what should we do? Let’s face facts first. We are facing a pandemic. It is a difficult time all around but we need to have a winning attitude.

External help comes from the government in the form of lockdowns and putting protocols in place. Internal help, on the other hand, comes from within us. Staying positive in trying times like these is paramount. With a calm mind, make a plan of how best to spend your time during the lockdown.

In rehabilitation medicine, there are five main aspects to the American Heart Association protocols that we follow — Diet, Relaxation, Exercise, Attitude, and Motivation. Since diet and exercise are covered in abundance these days, I am going to shift the focus on the other three.

Look at motivating historical incidents where people have overcome all odds to make a bad situation better.

Here’s one: Let’s take the example of LJ Flanders, author of Cell Workout, a training guide that will help you understand how to train without the need for any gadget except your own bodyweight to get fit. In 2011, Flanders found himself sentenced to prison. Inside a 6 x 8 feet cell, he began to think of ways to use his time productively and he decided that he would become as fit as possible. He signed up for a personal training course that taught him a lot and he created an exercise manual.

Unlike Flanders, you are not in a prison or a place with limitations. You have your house, you have your freedom, most of you have the time; the only thing you probably lack is a plan. And to put together a good plan for your health and happiness, you need to have a calm mind.

A recent study conducted by Stanford scientists indicates the link between breath and states of mind. Appropriate breathing has a powerful effect on stress reduction. Bonus news is that it also supports immune functions and helps rapid recovery from illness.

Count from one to four as you inhale through your nose. Pause for two counts. Then purse your mouth and mentally count from one to six (or one to eight if comfortable) as you exhale. Repeat for a few minutes and enjoy slow, rhythmic breathing.

Focus your mind on a single word, or sound. Mentally repeat the chosen sound over and over, finding rhythm and cadence that feels best to you. Adopt a passive attitude toward the process, particularly with regard to how well you’re doing. If your mind wanders, gently re-direct your focus to your chosen word each time. After 15–20 minutes slowly get back to normal state feeling refreshed and energised.

Progressive muscle relaxation is an effective and widely used strategy for stress relief that creates a state of deep relaxation by involving alternate tensing and relaxing of muscles. This technique helps people who are often so tensed throughout the day that they fail to even recognise how being relaxed feels like. Tense each muscle group in arms, legs and body to about 25-50% of max capacity. Hold for a few seconds as you continue to breathe and then slowly release the tension as you focus on the pleasant contrast between tight and relaxed muscles. Once you have covered the entire group of muscles in the body, sit quietly for several minutes and enjoy the feeling of a relaxed body before you slowly open your eyes. So, beyond the external support that we expect from our political authorities, let us gear up to cope with the circumstances.

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