On Mar 20, I woke up in the middle of the night on a serene island, south of Thailand, with a pit in my stomach that I will get locked out of my home in Dhaka, away from my family, without a time limit. I was in Thailand for follow up medicals and the usual yoga, meditation etc that we love to be on the beach for. The media was continually rolling out the news about the rapid spread of the coronavirus, number of cases going up exponentially in Italy and elsewhere, WHO was now calling it a pandemic, airports being shut down, travellers being stranded etc -- and yet, I felt untouched.
I was on the ocean with good food, soaking up the sun on the beach, spending evenings at reggae bars and not having to deal with the usual throngs of loud tourists. I was doing yoga and meditation for hours, feeling uber calm and positive. I couldn’t be more relaxed when I went to bed. But then there I was, at 3am, wide awake, staring at the ceiling and my heart racing. No idea where this sudden panic came from. This is what an anxiety attack looks like. Sometimes it’s your conscious mind, uncertain and fearful about the future, that causes anxiety, and sometimes, such as in this case, it’s your subconscious mind, where you hide your fears reasoning with yourself, through logic. You never know what will trigger it, or when.
Anxiety attacks were not new for me. I had suffered for many years from what started as simple work related stress or panic attacks to later turning into an anxiety disorder, one of the reasons how I devoted myself to yoga.
The first step to addressing stress and anxiety is to come to the present moment, and change what you can control, and not dwell on what you cannot control. No matter how much your mind races to negative thoughts of the uncertainty of the future, you redirect it back to the present, here and now. So I flew back out to Dhaka on the first flight I could find, to be with my family.
As soon as I arrived, my chats and emails were flooded with students, friends, peers seeking help with their stress and anxiety. Health, work, relationships -- pretty much anything to risk your wellbeing was now exposed.
By now, you have already heard like a broken record, how important it is to exercise, yoga, meditate, reduce screen time etc. Even for my seasoned yoga students, it was difficult at first to tame their minds and form that discipline -- to not get sucked onto the fear. After three months of the isolation, we are still experiencing a roller coaster of emotions of sadness, uncertainty, anxiety, acceptance and peace and then back on that roller coaster again.
There is, however, one solution that works every time with calming the mind, relieves tension, tiredness, stress, anxiety, better sleep, balancing the right to the left hemisphere of the brain etc.
Alternate nostril breathing/Nadi Shodhana (Sanskrit):
• Sit in any comfortable seated posture. Use a pillow or blanket if it helps to make the pose easier. Try to keep the back tall. Put away any distractions such as cell phones.
• Using the right thumb, close the right nostril, and inhale as slowly as you can through the left nostril, then close it with your ring finger. Pause. Open and exhale slowly through the right nostril.
• With the right nostril open, inhale slowly, then close it with the thumb. Pause. Exhale through the left nostril. Once your exhalation is complete, inhale through the left. Pause before moving to the right.
• Repeat this pattern. Begin with five to ten times and build it up to five to ten minutes.
What is absolutely essential is to maintain a healthy respiratory system, where alternate nostril breathing will help a great deal. It is always advisable to take preventative actions for those who experience the symptoms mentioned above, as well as everyone else. Something as simple as not experiencing sound sleep can escalate to much more serious conditions.
Caution: If your nasal passages are blocked, wait until they are clear. If you experience shortness of breath or high blood pressure, consult with first with a certified yoga teacher.
It is very easy to spiral into fear, and personally, deep down, that is what I have been struggling with. It is important we put our health first and to remain in the present moment. If the little voice in your head still tells you during your self-care, that you should reach for the phone, or hop onto social media during that dedicated time, tame that mind to tell yourself that none of the other aspects of your life would exist, if you are unhealthy. Your body is the only home you soul resides in, take care of it.
For further specific advice on holistic health, feel free to follow Flow with Eza on social media and stay tuned for further articles.