This post was updated on June 12th, 2020
Hope you are safe, locked out securely in your home and venturing out only if there is no other solution. There are two types of people in this world (ok, maybe in India), those who enjoy staying at home for extended periods and those that can’t even stay put for even 24 hours. A lockdown is hard on the latter, but it does not mean those who love staying at home are actually enjoying it. They are usually introverts, keep to themselves, think a lot and consequently worry a lot. The lockdown is not easy on anyone. In the housing complex that I live in, there is no explicit rules against sound pollution. There used to be house parties that lasted well into the morning, followed by morning ragas played by another family, then bollywood music at a slightly higher volume and finally a teenager replicating noise levels she experienced in a live concert the other night. It’s pin drop silence now. What are people doing then? We know everyone is binge watching their favorite show, because the internet backbone is strained. We know that people are watching disaster movies, because movies like 2012 and Contagion are showing up in the weekly most watched list. We also know that there is a shortage of condoms, but not just because of the obvious reason. Malaysia’s Karex Bhd factory lockdown has led to a shortfall in supply all over the world, including in India.
What should you be doing during the shutdown, apart from worrying about flattening the curve, losing your job or running out of groceries? You can change your lifestyle!
Without realizing it, I hogged like a pig on the first day of the lockdown. I called up friends the next day. Everyone had had the same experience. Being a student of Raj Yoga, I came back to my Vasanta ritu routine from the very next day. It did happen though, although it was just for a day. In 20 days, I had lost 1kg weight. Since I was not overweight to start with, I had to readjust my food intake a bit.
To what extremes would people need to go to stop binge eating? During the 70s, a Las Vegas doctor recommended Elvis Presley to go into a medically induced coma for a few days to stop himself from eating altogether . Unfortunately, doctors won’t attend to you at this point unless it’s a medical emergency. Self control is the only answer, but it takes time to strengthen your will power. You can start off by recording what you eat and keeping track of the total calories consumed in a day. MyFitnessPal is one such tool, which has a database of 11 million foods and the calories that they are packed with. Men should keep it below 2000 calories per day & women below 1600 for the next 4-5 months. Ayurveda does not measure food in terms of calories though. Ayurveda measures the capacity of your stomach. As we move into summer (roughly 20th May onwards), you are supposed to eat only half on what your appetite allows. This does not mean you eat to your fill till 19th May & reduce it by half from the next day. The diet has to planned right from the start of the Indian spring and reduce your food intake by 1/8th everyday.
Start meditating in the morning, or better still, join an online class. You may not see immediate results, but your personality can get transformed on the the other side of the lockdown, if you peruse it with discipline.
If you a gym rat and have ceased all physical activity, overeating for a couple of months might even create medical emergencies. In the present situation, a hospital is the last place you would want to be in.
Pranayama is an exercise. If you love sweating it out, it would be difficult for you to believe this, but it’s true. If you are just starting out, take it easy. Start slow and gradually increase the practice. Still not convinced? Try Surya Namaskar, the most complete exercise known. The Rajah of Aundh never caught a cold (leave alone other viruses) in the 50+ years that he practiced Surya Namaskar. Read about the perfect exercise in my blog here.
If you are contributing to contraceptive shortage worldwide, take heart. While humans consider themselves as “continuous breeders”, Ayurveda thinks otherwise. Coincidentally, this is the season to mate according to Ayurvedic texts! Don’t overdo it though. Once in 2 days is enough. More than that and you risk reduction of Ojas levels in your body. Ojas is the life force that is responsible for your body’s immunity.
If you truly believe in Ayurveda, you can follow my cue and just taper off your exercise routine by May. Stop exercising completely by mid May. The catch is you have to eat half of what you normally eat, as I have mentioned earlier. Sadly, its oxymoron is not true. You cannot eat to your fill and try to burn off those calories by doubling your home workouts. It’s the wrong season to do so and you are guaranteed to spoil your health.
What if you were the most powerful king of the world? What would you eat? Chandragupta Maurya served Chana Dal in his marriage feast as it was considered a delicacy back then. The Mughals starting from Akbar to Aurangzeb were all fans of the humble khichdi . If you are not able to get your favorite vegetables or fish or meat, don’t fret. Live life like a king! Not getting milk? Kick the habit of milk tea and shift to an Ayurvedic kadha of your choice. No alcohol? That’s why the spring temperatures seem pleasant to you this year! No fast food? Go back to your roots and cook some easy recipes. Remember to stick to seasonal fruits and vegetables. The list is available in my blog here.
The Ayurvedic Way Of Life
Once the virus started spreading, Whatsapp bhakts to World leaders adopted the Indian namaskar as the preferred form of greeting. The namaskar is much more than a form of greeting though. It’s the Anjali Mudra in Yoga. Mudras are yoga exercises that even a chronic bedridden patient can do. It’s a whole new world that physiotherapists to dentists are yet to explore. There were also unfortunate jokes on Prince Charles getting infected even after adopting the mudra. If the humble mudra can’t act as a shield against COVID-19, what can? The Ayurvedic (or Vedic) way of life! Whenever we discuss about the vedic rules of touch, the caste system and Shudra untouchability becomes the focus of discussion. Ironically, the Vedas nowhere mention the concept of people of certain varna who cannot be touched.
When I was in school, we visited our maternal village during my summer vacation. My folks used to wake up 2 hours before sunrise, as is prescribed by Ayurveda (The timing is different for Vata, Pitta & Kapha, the highest being 2 hrs prior for Kapha). I woke up much later to the chants of Sanskrut hymns. I walked into an elaborate puja ceremony and made myself comfortable by sitting beside a large fruit bowl. I pushed it aside to make more space for myself. Big mistake! Granny turned hysterical. The puja was started afresh after an hour with a fresh set of offerings. My mom was at the receiving end for the whole hour, as Grandma gave her a piece of her mind on how to raise a “kid in the city”. I used the time to go through my morning routine & was back in God’s room after a good bath & fresh clothes.
Untouchability took a whole new meaning for me. I began to observe the untouchability followed in the house. When you reach back home from outside, you are untouchable till the time you wash your hands and feet (after taking off your footwear outside the house). Inside the house, you are out of bounds of the puja room and the kitchen till you have your bath. You are not welcome in the dining room and puja room till you have washed your hands and feet. The left hand was not allowed to touch anything while eating. The right hand was not allowed to touch anything in the loo. There were advanced rules on what utensils become untouchable when non veg was being cooked and on religious festivals, which was too complicated to understand as a child. We need scientists and doctors to tell us these rules now so that we can beat the virus this pandemic!
You may not get such an opportunity again in your lifetime. Make the best of it. You should be able to look back at this time later with a sense of achievement. New year is a bad time for a resolution. Lockdown is when resolutions can be made and kept too. This is the most unpolluted air available since independence. Your lockdown resolution could simply be to take 20 deep breaths in the morning everyday. This will strengthen your lungs (according to science) & do much more according to yoga. The air is good for the planet too. Seasons flourish in an unpolluted environment according to Ayurveda. A hot summer should be followed by good rains this year. May you have a great time in the #PostLockDownWorld!