Tag Archives: Yoga

Doubt, Negativity and the level of Prana

There are times when our minds become doubtful. All of a sudden, things look different. We start doubting people, situations, and intentions and finally start doubting ourselves (our capabilities, qualities, achievements etc). Sometimes this passes quickly, but at times it gets lodged firmly in the mind, difficult to shake off. When prolonged, this leads to psychosomatic disorders.

But where does all this doubt come from? It’s interesting to see that you were perfectly at peace with some situation till one fine day where you begin to ‘sense’ something wrong. A doubting mind soon develops negative tendencies and the negativity feeds on to doubt back. This could also lead to depression.

Typically we attribute ‘doubting’ to personality traits, thinking problems or even certain situations. But it’s interesting to see the point of view of Yoga. Yoga suggests that mind becomes doubtful when the Prana level goes down. Prana is what’s called the life force (or mental energy) which is alive in everyone. When your prana levels are low, that is when you feel down, disinterested in things, lethargic and develop a negative attitude in life.

So Yoga suggests that to keep doubts and negativity away, all you need to do is to keep your Prana levels high.

How do you do that? According to Yoga, there are four sources of energy: Food, Sleep, Breath and Meditation. Paying attention to them (if not all, at least one or two) will help you keep your energy.

Here is a brief overview of the four:

  • Food – According to Yoga, there are three types of food
    • Sattwik – Whole some food E.g Fresh fruits, vegetables, milk, cereals. They give lot of energy (greener the vegetable, more the prana)
    • Rajasik – This group causes lot of agitation in the mind. E.g Tea/Coffee, Spicy foods
    • Tamasik – That depletes energy and makes you dull and lethargic. E.g Alcohol, mushrooms, non vegetarian food, garlic, fried food, frozen food, refrigerated food etc.

If you are eating Tamasik food regularly, it can make you become very lethargic. Change your diet a bit and go for Satwik food. 

  •  Sleep : It’s important to have sufficient amount to quality uninterrupted sleep. If you have sleeping problems, sort it out. (See the post Tips for a good nights’ sleep )
  • Breath :  Look at your breath. Is it deep or shallow, is it long or short. A bad breathing pattern will fail to reenergize your body and mind as required. If you are badly down, completely devoid of energy, get on to some Pranayama practices. Things will turn around quickly. (Suryanamaskara is also a profound technique) Or try some aerobics. Paying attention to breath also brings some amount of present moment awarensss. 
  •  Meditation: A great source of energy. Needs some practice but can keep you really charged. There are several schools and techniques, choose what you find suitable for you.

Putting attention in these four sources for a few days, you will have a better prana level and even if you have been down for longh, you can see that in few days mind turns around.

H.H Sri Sri Ravishankar says in a talk – Doubt is always about positivity. When someone says “I love you”, you ask “really?”. But when someone says I hate you, you don’t question that. You don’t doubt your anger or depression, but you doubt all the positive qualities in you….

Also see Doubt and conditioning of the mind for the worse

What does yoga offer for right-left brain coordination?

Adding a note to my earlier post Right brain or the left brain? Does it really matter?.

The ancient sages of India had explored literally everything that could influence the mind and conciousness positively. Looks like they were aware of the importance of coordinating the right and left brains for better functioning of the mind and better awareness.

There is a simple technique called Yoni Mudra (A mudra is a  posture  that is used to channel energy to a specific part of the body) which is used in meditation, to achive this. Externally this is meant to balance the energies between right hand and the left hand. But interally this helps to balance the right and left parts of the brain. Yoni mudra is performed using the hands as shown below in the picture.

Yoni Mudra

How the mudra meditation done?

Just sit cross legged with the spine erect, hold your hands in yoni mudra (thumbs are facing the ceiling and the hands below your navel with elbows bent outwards) and take deep, joyful ujjai breaths. Do few rounds. This can be integrated with other yoga practices, or can be done alone. Typically a mudra is practiced after raising the enrgy level in the body through yoga or pranayama or even a physical activity like jogging

When do you want to balance your left and right brains? When one of them is really dominant. That is either you are too logical and lack creativity or you are too sensitive and emotional and can’t approach things logically.

Note: In some texts, yoni mudra refers to a different posture. I think just a termonilogy issue.

Also see the post on story telling to make the brain more creative

Tips for a good nights’ sleep

There is nothing like a good sleep. In my post on brain, I had mentioned how important it ‘s from the point of  memory consolidation.

But some of us have problems with our sleep. I have faced three types of issues with sleep. Let me describe them and the fixes I have found:

  1.  Can’t get sleep easily, you are tossing your self in the bed
  •  This could be because of a stimulation. Doctors advice to avoid exercises, yoga, pranayam, coffee, smoke etc at least 2 hrs prior to going to bed (anything that stimulated you). Also avoid reading things that can excite you; same holds good with TV programs. If for any reason you are excited physically, try the following:
    Lie on your back with hands on either side of the body. Stretch your entire body (start with your toes, then legs, angle, lower leg……..till head) and relax it with a Haaa….. sound. Relax. Repeat three – four times. (it should take about 20-25 seconds for one cycle)You will get a good sleep
  • This could be because there is a thought running in your mind. This could be about a problem you have at work, or some thing wrong you have done ..whatever. You are caught in the trp chewing on the thought. How can you get out ?
    One way is to just listen to the ticking of a clock (brings you to the present moment….)
    A better way to really clear your mind, try this: Sit up and start talking loudly and continuously. The only condition is that don’t use any language that you know. Just go on talking for few minutes. Stop. Observe your mind for a while and go to sleep. You will sleep like a baby.
  • Deep abdominal breathing always helps (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diaphragmatic_breathing)

2. Can’t maintain the sleep, you wake up in between.

  •  One common situation is that you wake up (mostly in the early mornings 2 – 4 am) and find yourself chewing on a problem that has been bothering you. If this happens, take my word for it, it’s not a good sign. This is a very clear indication that you are getting in to stress. Seek help. Btw, the talking technique above will help you flush your mind
  • The other common issue is a continuously disturbed sleep with lot of dreams (I used to tell my wife, it was as if sleeping in a cinema). I think typically this happens when you disturb your sub conscious mind. Could be that there was an incident that troubled you deeply, or you took a real strong decision or you are trying to change a deep rooted pattern. Normally they don’t stay, just leave them and they will vanish. And normally you don’t feel tired after such a night.
  • Another problems I think is having subtle fears in the mind. Not just fears about job loss or health issues, it could just be in the environment. You might just feel ‘insecure’ at the bottom of your heart.

3. You don’t feel fresh when you wake up in the morning

  • This used to happen to me often when I was a smoker and used to drink. Even if I slept like a log, I would be so lethargic in the morning and this would also pull my mid down. After I have given up alcohol and nicotine , this is a not a problem.
  • But I found some thing interesting. When I started doing some creative stuff (link), I slowly started looking forward to each day. And I wake up pretty early these days feeling fully rested. Therefore to have a great sleep, have a purpose in life and look forward to every new day.

Have a good sleep and a great day ahead!

Right brain or the left brain? Does it really matter?

Science has now agreed that there is a right brain and a left brain and in most of the people one brain dominates (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lateralization_of_brain_function) The left brain is the logical guy responsible for reasoning and all the logical activities and the right one is the creative one. People who are right brainers tend to be more creative, emotional kind.

Recently I was reading something on memory consolidation. Studies reveal how the permanent memory is getting built. For e.g when you are reading an article, it is your left brain who is absorbing it (The right brain can’t tolerate these boring stuff, so it takes you a for a short break; that’s when you day dream while doing something..)But what is absorbed by the left brain is not written to your ‘permanent memory’. This process takes place during sleep and is now called memory consolidation(here also not everything is written, the left brain drops what’s not important, like your lunch menu..). So if you don’t get a good sleep, some of the events of the day might never get stored in your memory.

 On the other hand, what’s absorbed by the right brain directly gets in to your ‘permanent memory’. But the right brain doesn’t really like boring articles, books, presentations etc. It needs passion, colors, expressions, involvement and all that weird stuff you can imagine. Look at the learning pyramid  for eg ; more it becomes right brainy stuff, more the retention.

I think as small children, we were all right brainers. Then the education system started making us more logical (at some point we felt ourselves that every thing needs to have a reson), then the environment around us and finally the job. It is not surprising that a majority of SW engineers in India do not have a hobby (sorry I don’t count browsing, chatting, orkutting…)And we keep wondering what happened to life? Why is it so monotonous ? Why is it so dry?

The good news is that the right brain is not dead. It just needs some attention and pampering. And you can see the creativity (and joy – true creativity is always associated with joy..) coming back again. Start doing something creative – painting , writing, music, crafts, sculpting, dancing..something that you find interesting. This will also give you the High you need  !

Tough now there is a lot of hype about right brain and stuff like intuition , insight etc, I think at a middle management level and below right brainers will have a tough time. Because our institutions demand logical reasoning for opinions and decisions, which a right brainer is very bad at. Partly also because many top executives (who talk of stuff like intuition etc) don’t really understand what it means to have a insight which looks logically stupid.

Now the golden question is – is there a way to enjoy the best of both ? A mind both creative and logical could be deadly; and we have seen people (though rarely) like that. I think the answer is in Mindfulness . When I first tried  to understand Mindfulness, I could make out that it is bringing something together. What was it – I thought it to be conscious and the subconscious mind. But that wasn’t true.  I think it is the left and the right brain that mindfulness brings together.  I think the awareness gives you a choice to get both the perceptions (or the best one) from both the brains on an issue at hand.

I am not really sure at the moment. This is again a hunch. But soon I am going to give it a try, will tell you my experience.

Note : Also see

Tips to beat depression

There are times when one gets depressed; often due to a sudden change in life. Quitting smoking is one such. In my previous attempts to quit smoking, I was depressed for weeks and didn’t know what to do. I tried to get medical help, but couldn’t tolerate those anti-deps. As a result, I relapsed and was again in the trap.
So before I finally quit, I tried to find out things that could help me fight depression. Here is a list of what I found working for me. If you are trying to fight depression, you will find them useful. You may not want to do all of them; pick what suits your kind of personality:

  1. Awareness / Mindfulness :
    1.  There is an age old technique buddhist technique called Mindfulness. Extremely simple but profound. The crux of Mindfulness is not to fight depression, but to understand it. Find more details in Wikipedia. I would also advice you read a great practical book on Mindfulness – Mindfulness in Plain english http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html
    2. This will also help you become aware of those –ve thoughts that slowly pull you down
    3. If the depression is caused by a ceratin event / conflict, this will help you understand it better, from a different perspective
  2. Fall in love : Not for everyone. But a great way to get the needed High
  3. Deep breathing : Definitely helps. Do it periodically in between your daily chores. Also will help you stay mindful
    1. Try ujjai breathing
    2. Mudra pranayama
    3. Bhastrika pranayama
  4. Cultivate contentment and gratitude in life – When you are depressed, mind takes a negative attitude- you feel you have not made it, you feel life has been unfair to you. Learn to be content and feel grate ful to what you have
  5. Socialize – Take time out and have fun with your friends. Do not withdraw in to your own cocoon.
    1. Spend time with people you love/like/respect
    2. Avoid people whom you dislike / or you compete with / or who are in general negative
  6. Reclaim your creativity – When was the last time you did something very creative? If you had any such interest and you had abandoned it in your school, time to reclaim. This is probably the single most powerful technique to beat depression. It could be painting, sculpting, cartoons, poetry, stories, craft, landscaping; anything creative that you like. If there is nothing, find something new. Learning something new is also a great experience. (Note: I do not recommend things like reading, browsing, chatting…for creativity. Don’t fool yourselves)
  7. Roar like a lion – Simply get to a room and roar like a lion with all your might. Do few rounds, lie down on your back and relax with your eyes closed.
  8. Reciting Om and Gayathri Mantra – Ancient sages have learnt how to use sound to achieve great things. Just try chanting Om or Gayathri mantra few rounds a day.
  9. Talk to people who have a larger perspective of life – Sometimes the cause for depression is that you have a very narrow perspective of live and events confined by your small little mind. Talk to someone who can show you the bigger picture
  10. Dance – A simple but working method. You don’t have to be a classical dancer for this.When you are down, get in to a room, play some music (instrumental I would prefer..) and dance. Swing your body, let the music move through your body. About 5-6 minutes would do. Lie down and relax for few minutes with your eyes closed.
  11. Sing – Sing hum a tune that you love. See the difference
  12. Travel– Travel to new places, a good way to be fresh again.
  13. Watch hilarious movies – Nothing like a good laugh
  14. Jokes – Read some jokes. You find plenty on the net these days. Grab a Calvin and Hobbes book and keep at your desk. Avoid the kind of –ve ones that your mind can identify with.
  15. Exercise – work out regularly. Do graded weight training. Jog 2 miles in the morning. Will keep you fresh and fit
  16. Laugh – When you wake up in the morning, go to the mirror and just laugh. Laugh with your whole body and mind. Whoever has tried it will vouch for it.
  17. Be in the Sun – I have no clue how this works. But I have experienced this. Just stand in the sun for sometime (mornings better) and feel the difference
  18. Suryanamaskara – From perspective if yoga, depression happens due to low levels of ‘Prana’. There are several techniques in yoga to boost up your prana. One such ancient profound technique is Suryanamaskara. Easy to practice but very very effective..Do couple of rounds regularly
  19. Read articles on positivity – There is lot of stuff around. Pick some good stuff, I would recommend experiences of people who have overcome such difficulties in life
  20. Identify a purpose in life – Sometimes depression is also caused by a lack of purpose in life. Set small objectives and work towards it.
  21. Self talk– The most important ally in your fight against depression will be your mind. Talk to your mind (not self hypnotizing please…)Tell your mind that you do not want to be depressed and ask for help. Listen to your mind and your consciousness. You will get the direction.
  22. Have that great smile on your face – Fake it till you make it. You will soon.

Things to avoid:

–          Do not go around telling people that you are depressed. Tell it to only those who really need to know (may be your manager for e.g)

–          Avoid meditation – it will make you more introvert (also some yoga techniques like bramari, trataka..)

–          Be careful what you watch and what you read. There is lot of negative stuff all around, and it’s easy for your mind to respond to subtle clues. Even be careful with newspapers.

–          Avoid negative people – no second thoughts. If you feel someone is pulling you down, don’t think twice.

–          Don’t pack your day – Slow down, have enough time for you

Hope this helps. Let me know your experience.Good luck