Yoga Mail

By Adelena Gustafsson

We are living in very challenging yet interesting times. Do you remember the day you thought 2020 was going to be a better year than 2019? I recall seeing posts on the social media where we celebrated the holiday season and bid goodbye to the bad and good of 2019 while welcoming 2020 and wishing for it to be the year. Sadly, we were somewhat mistaken and now sit in a situation we never thought would be possible. Covid-19 has proven to be a game changer for us and it has affected us in so many different ways. There are many negatives but also some very surprising positives.

As most of the countries are on lockdown, I am in a country that is seen as doing the complete opposite. I live in Sweden and despite being in a small town in the southeast with close to no infection, I can’t help but feel helpless sometimes knowing that some people are not doing their part to respect the social distancing order.

Most people are doing their part, but it feels like we are on standby, and not knowing how things will turn out has my tummy in knots. My parents are in Malaysia and for that reason I sometimes struggle with the fact that I am not able to go to them at this time but knowing that they are safe does make me feel a little better about it.

Yogic breathing helps me stay focus

Living in Sweden I can only imagine what it’s like living in lockdown but never truly understand how it would feel. Being here with everything going on somewhat normal, I sometimes find myself feeling helpless at avoiding the inevitable.

I have no choice but to keep going. At times like these I have turned more into my practice using awareness as key to surviving this pandemic.

In order to keep my mental focus, I focus on my breathing. I found during my drive to work, I could practice ‘Yogic Breathing’ with breath holds from the start of a speed change to the next while keeping focus at the speed limit. This exercises my lung capacity and gives it strength. Pranayama is one of my favourite tools to keep the mind calm and find my way back to focus.

In 2014, a study was done on 50 first year medical students from Meenakshi medical college. They were between 17 and 19 years old. They were given the task of performing the Surya Namaskar and Pranayama for at least 30 minutes a day for 2 months. Surya Namaskar is always my go to practice when I don’t have the time. I would do a minimum of 2 sets on each side just to get the blood flow going. One set would usually take 5 minutes. I would incorporate my breathing during my flow.

“With the regular practice of breath holding the individual’s central and peripheral chemoreceptors get adapted to the anoxia, this result is achieved by the body by causing hypo metabolism. Thus, reflecting as prolonged breath hold and decreased urge to breathe while doing so. In addition to this, the training of the stretch receptors in the respiratory muscles, chest wall and also walls of the alveoli support the breath holding.” (

Cleansing inside out

Jala Neti and Kunjal are two cleansing techniques I have adopted since I began my journey as a yoga instructor and it has done wonders for my body. Because of my daily practice of Jala Neti, I now no longer suffer from pollen allergies. Kunjal is a practice I do on a weekly basis, and sometimes when I feel the need, such as when I’m feeling restless and heavy in my chest or just when I feel like I have a sore throat coming along. The combination of the two cleansing practices has succeeded in getting rid of anxious feelings and even an oncoming cold.

As most of you are probably more aware now is how we live our daily lives from what we touch to how we react. Do you now notice how much you touch your face in a day?

In 2015 a study was done on 26 students at the University of New South Wales to observe how many times they touched their faces (

The results showed that they did so on an average of 23 times an hour. As we are aware now, face touching gives a higher risk of infection with any type of virus. Good hand hygiene is definitely important but how do you keep yourself from touching your face as often? I find that keeping my hands busy helps, so by practicing some wrist rotation usually does the trick. It keeps my mind focused, at ease and at the same time making me aware of what I’m doing with my hands.

Stability brings thrive

Keeping my mental stability and physical strength is also something I strive. The same goes for my 3-year old son. Whenever I roll out my mat to practise, my son would usually do the same. He would follow my ques for the Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) and we continue with some balancing asanas and end with a quick Pranayama. Practising yoga keeps us both centred and calm at the same time keeping our immunity stronger. His favourites are the mountain pose or downward dog, the tree pose, and the eagle pose.

Despite all that is happening in the world and in our lives, I find myself feeling stable and I have literally landed myself in 2 jobs, after being in a job limbo for a long time. I see this as a blessing and I am grateful for it, but at the same time saddened by the fact that some have not been so lucky.

I have seen some struggle through these times and some thriving despite it. This pandemic has proven that in all the negatives, positives can be found as we are now noticing that nature is healing. We will too regain better health and hopefully with more awareness of our surroundings and how we treat each other as we adjust to a new normal.