Nowadays, more health workers are encouraging people to incorporate wellness practices such as prayer, meditation and yoga among others, into their daily routines.
Fr Emmanuel Sekyewa, from St Sophia Orthodox Church in Kibuye, Kampala, says: “Meditation is a moment of prayer and confession that is done individually. The time spent in meditation differs from one individual to another.”
Father Everest Mutambi from Buhimba Catholic Parish, Mbarara Archdiocese, describes meditation as a moment of silent prayer and isolation. “In the seminary, we are taught to meditate for atleast 15 minutes daily. Meditation is convenient because it can be done anywhere. All an individual has to do is find a solitary and secluded place and quiet their thoughts down,” Fr Mutambi says.
There are different types of mediation. According to Tanamayi Vaiyapuri, a volunteer at Sadhguru School near Fort Portal, Uganda, meditation is a generalised term which can cover different states and practices. “For example, I have received different types of meditative practice through Sadhguru (a yogi, mystic and visionary humanitarian).
Shambavi, a 21-minute practice - is one of these, and explores the basics of our everyday existence from the perspective of life and its mechanics. It imparts practical wisdom to manage your body, mind, emotions, and the fundamental life energy within, and includes various meditations and rejuvenating and balancing yoga practices.
Isha Kriya is another simple but powerful meditation which takes just 15 minutes and Simha Kriya, which improves immunity and lung capacity, specifically at this crucial time of the virus. Both practices take less than five minutes and are available to learn free online.
All meditative practices share a key objective, that of turning inward and exploring the deeper dimension of who we are; and naturally the side benefits are becoming calm, peaceful and joyful,” Vaiyapuri explains, adding that these simple online meditation techniques are taught to help especially with the stressful lockdown.
The word ‘yoga’ means union, where you begin to experience the universality of who you are. Physical yoga postures of the body known as ‘Hatha Yoga’ are to prepare the system both physically and energetically, and to bring a balance which allows the body to become still for meditation.
“When we practice Classical Hatha Yoga daily, major functioning systems in the body, both physiological and energetic, are revitalised and improved, leading to a deep sense of ease,” says Vaiyapuri.
Dr Balla Turyahumura, a general physician, has been practicing Isha Yoga since 2013 and has experienced tremendous physical and emotional benefits.
“I studied Inner Engineering (Isha yoga) in 2013 and I have continued to be a regular meditator. I enjoy robust health despite my advanced age (62 years). For instance, I do not have any of the non-communicable ailments associated with old age. Several times, I have been told that my blood pressure is similar to that of people decades younger than me. I attribute this to meditation having enabled me to change my lifestyle,” Dr Turyahumura says.
He says regular meditation has removed that strong urge to over-eat or drink. “I have no compulsion to eat certain foods such as a lot of red meat. My anxiety, fear, anger, hatred, jealousy are greatly reduced and therefore, I live a relaxed life. I can spend 15-17 hours comfortably without food (only drinking water) which has also contributed to my overall health. Generally, I am happy despite the difficulties created by things we cannot control such as coronavirus,” Dr Turyahumura shares.
Vaiyapuri says Hatha Yoga or meditation has allowed her to be able to perceive life with a certain clarity of mind and navigate through tough situations effortlessly.
“I was able to actually understand how my body and mind function. With regular meditation, I was able to reduce my need for sleep and increase my energies to perform better at my work. Because of feeling fresh and energetic all day, the time I would take to finish a task - for example preparing for a lesson for my students would reduce. If I happen to be in a tight situation, instead of stressing out, I am able to think through and find a solution with a balanced mind set,” Vaiyapuri relates.
Two studies published in 2008 and 2012 examined how Shambhavi Mahamudra (an integrative system of several breathing techniques that incorporate multiple limbs of traditional yoga or the yoga described by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras) supported cardiac health. The studies showed that participants had a more well-balanced Cardiac Autonomic Nervous System and an overall increase in Heart Rate Variability (HRV) during the practice. A higher HRV has been linked to better immunity to stressful situations, and is said to bestow a greater survival advantage on individuals.
A lower HRV on the other hand has been linked to various heart diseases such as coronary artery disease, hypertension, chronic heart failure and myocardial infarction.
A study presented at the 20th Congress of the European Sleep Research Society, Lisbon, Portugal revealed that that consistent practice of the Shambhavi meditation has a positive impact on quality of sleep.
A study by a team from the Université de Toulouse, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behaviour, UC Irvine and the Indiana University School of Medicine looked at how Isha Yoga practices improve performance in attentional tasks due to better allocation of attentional resources, an ability to sustain attention and focus, faster re-allocation of attentional resources, greater cognitive flexibility and a reduction in automatic response. The study observes that these improvements are likely due to structural, anatomical and functional changes in meditators’ cognitive systems as compared to control groups drawn from the general population.
A team from the Indiana University School of Medicine, revealed practicing kriya decreases the effects of menstrual disorders such as Dysmennorhea, psychological symptoms such as irritability, mood swings, crying spells, depression and arguments, breast swelling and tenderness and bloating and weight gain. There was a decrease in the incidence of severe menstrual flow and a decrease in the irregularity of the cycle. There was a reduction in the need for medical or surgical interventions, and a reduction in the number of instances of impairment at work.
Learn to meditate
Father Everest Mutambi, from Buhimba Catholic Parish, Mbarara Archdiocese, says setting aside time for formal meditation is an important way to establish a routine and get comfortable with the practice.
“This time should not be spent thinking about other things but rather empty your mind of everything,” he explains.
Although meditating on your own is an essential part of a complete practice, you can also seek guidance of an experienced teacher.
Inner Engineering Online incorporates meditation, self-reflection and practical wisdom to manage your mind and emotions and is offered free to all health workers in recognition of their selfless contribution in this challenging time of Covid-19.
Additional reporting from: isha.sadhguru.org