The Health Q
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) 1715 6165 | Library & Archives Canada Entry
Editorial: The genuine poverty
Yoga postures for low-back pain
This month’s recipe-Making Khichri
Breathing and mental states
Two Books worth reading
[Download PDF Version, 700 Kb]
The Genuine Poverty [Editorial]
by Parmjit Singh
Few years back, I read the following story in a book. Just as I was assembling this month’s issue, I thought of sharing it with you. It goes something like this:
A spiritual master used to live on the outskirts of a dwelling place. He meditated constantly and was respected and revered for his devotion and spiritual mastery. In due course of time, there was a huge collection of things given as offerings at his makeshift hut.
At the time of his expected death, a word was sent around that whosoever will prove as being the most underprivileged in the neighborhood will be given away his entire collection. Beggars and deprived came from all over the place and everybody tried to pose as wretchedly unfortunate. But the master did not budge.
Then one day as the King of that province was passing through, the Master beckoned him, “Your Honor, I have things which belong to you. I will be obliged if you take them”.
There was a hue and cry. The Master calmly responded to the protesters, “You can see only his external richness but you are not aware of the depth of his poverty. Despite being rich he still keeps wanting more and more. Your longings and wanting are justifiable, he told the protestors, for that is the source of your living. But his wanting is more pathological and rooted in deep dissatisfaction of life. Even though he is the King, yet he keeps asking for more, just like a beggar.”
If you look around, you will find the echo of this story in our society. In one form or the other, people typify the plight of the King—they have everything to thrive, yet keep on hankering for more. Even worse, people are becoming a casualty of possibilities and are so engrossed in more choices that they have forgotten to enjoy what they already have in hand.
The question is, “Why do we feel so disenfranchised in the midst of material boom? What is really making us so uncomfortable that we are always itching for more?”
The answers to these vexing questions lie in our inability to distinguish between illusion and reality. Mass media and consumer culture, through selective information-sharing, has thrown a hypnotic trance and we have forgotten to draw a line between what is real and what we are being tutored to take as real. And once you have forfeited the ability to distinguish between the reality and ‘manufactured reality’, you have pretty much given away your chance to experience true satisfaction.
Two books I picked for baby-review this month also point to this sentiment. Tim Kasser’s The High Price of Materialism talks about the real cost of materialistic pursuits and Allan Wallace’s Genuine Happiness gives us the techniques for finding lasting happiness—within your heart.
Real kingdom, as the old adage goes, lies in your heart, not in riches. Try to find that.
Yoga Postures for Back Pain
by Parmjit Singh
Annals of Internal Medicine, a respected medical journal, in a randomized controlled research confirmed that yoga works better than other tested activities in alleviating pain related to backache and benefits stayed for several months. These 17 postures can be found in the journal or at their website www.annals.org.
Even otherwise, yoga literature recommends that Easy Pose, Lotus Pose, Triangle Pose, Squatting Pose, Cow Head Pose, Shoulder Stand & Plough can fortify your body against future spinal pain.
Note: As always , do these postures under specialist supervision and check with your physician before joining any yoga program. You need to be extra cautious in following some of the recommended postures by journal in case you already have a low-back pain. Use your personal judgment and talk to your instructor. It is important that you listen to your body, honor the feelings and follow the instructions gingerly. [HQ]
by Manjit Handa, PhD
1 cup Rice (any type of rice is good, but Basmati is preferred)
½ cup Lentils (masur dal)
½ cup split green gram (moong dal)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, diced
½ inch ginger root, finely chopped
2 medium sized tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 ½ teaspoon black pepper
6-7 cups water
1 teaspoon turmeric powder (optional)
Coriander or parsley for seasoning
Salt, as per taste
Pressure Cooker for cooking
Mix the rice, lentils and green gram and wash thoroughly. In the cooker heat the olive oil and butter and add cumin seeds. Just when they splutter, add garlic, ginger and onion. Keep stirring so that everything is evenly browned. Then add turmeric and tomatoes. When the tomatoes are tender add rice, lentils, green gram mixture, water, salt and pepper. Cover the cooker with the whistle. When you hear the first whistle, simmer down to the lowest and let cook for another five minutes. After putting off the stove, wait until the steam has settled completely because that is also the time when your khichri is being cooked. You could also cook the same meal in a regular pot and add some extra water because it will take a little longer to cook that way.
For variation add as many vegetables you can, into the broth. Finish it with coriander or parsley. Soupy in texture and a complete meal in itself, Khichri is light and especially good for supper. It could be served with any green salad.
Reviewed by Parmjit Singh, PhD
Happiness From Inside Out
Genuine Happiness by B. Allan Wallace is packed with practical wisdom to help you tap into the hidden source of authentic happiness.
The book is split into four sections. The first section deals with attention and how to refine it. Second section delves in the mindfulness and the way to enlist it to become aware of your body, feelings, mind and the overall phenomena. The third section talks about loving-kindness, compassion and how to cultivate joy and equanimity. The fourth section goes into the higher state of consciousness and its nature.
Packed with plenty of practical exercises and experiential wisdom, this book will launch you toward a genuine aspiration for lasting happiness. If sorrows of daily life are weighing you down, this book should be on your shopping list. Allan Wallace’s wisdom, training and experience shines through language and hope he expresses while sharing genuine methods of finding happiness, the non-dependent kind.
It is refreshing and inspiring and encourages the readers to look inward to unravel the undying fountain of happiness, joy, compassion and above all the transcendent meaning of life.
The Real Cost of Money
Ever wondered what is the real cost of making lots of money? Probably not. Because, like everybody else, you might be smitten with consumerist propaganda that everything can be bought. Tim Kasser disagrees about this perception in his book The High Price of Materialism. In this book, Kasser associates human unhappiness with mad fascination for materialism.
The book is divided into nine chapters and makes a convincing read explaining why you should not pursue materialism blindly. The hidden cost of making money, he argues, is much more hideous and expensive than you might imagine.
Written in a simple yet engaging and insightful style, this book is packed with research and empirical wisdom and cautions the consumers that by joining the bandwagon of materialistic pursuits, you are not only damaging your own wellbeing but also endangering the well-being of the society. In a larger sense, it is a costly endeavor.
If you are also one of those people who think that money or material things can buy you happiness, good relationships and above all peace of mind, I recommend you read this book. It is lucid, engaging and provoking and is a must-read for all.
Breathing and Mental States
Vital but often forgotten link
By Parmjit Singh, PhD
If you are sensitive enough to notice, every time you feel angry, frustrated, happy, depressed or overjoyed, the first physical change that becomes palpable in your body is your breathing patterns. The moment you freeze in terror, your breathing also freezes; the moment you become nervous and tense, your breathing behavior also becomes choppy and shallow.
It has a scientific reason, for our mind and physical body do not interact directly. They only interface through breathing. This knowledge was commonsense among the practitioners of meditation but science has discovered this valuable fact only recently. Researchers of repute at various institutions, including Harvard Medical School, have shown unequivocally that simple breathing techniques as a part of meditation program are able to bring down blood pressure, lactic acid level (indicator of fatigue and anxiety), heart rate, breathing rate etc. These physiological markers are vital indicators of the level of stress and negative emotions in daily life.
Swami Rama, the founder of the Himalayan Institute, claims that by practicing controlled breathing for 2 minutes each hour for three months consecutively will instill deep relaxation unmatched even by sleep. Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School later confirmed this assertion that physiological states induced by meditation are markedly different from that of sleep.
If your nervousness and anxiety can change your breathing patterns unconsciously, then you can use that knowledge to your advantage by reversing the procedure consciously. E.g. every time you are seized with a fit of anger, count from 1, 2, 3, … to see how much time you take to take an in-breath. Then you do the same thing when you are relaxed or happy, count 1,2,3… to check the time you take for an in-breath. Apply that count when you are sad or angry. Your situational negative emotion will disappear in no time, because your mind and body cannot work against the physiological logic of breathing. Following breathing exercises are helpful during turmoil.
Simple deep breathing: Each hour take out 2 or more minutes and sit in an upright position. The upright position should not be too strenuous. Ancient traditions have always advocated the upright posture for better mental health, however, cognitive psychologists (experts on thinking, etc.) also have shown that upright posture do help us to think clearly in comparison to reclining posture. Breathe in deeply and consciously through the nose. Breathe out through the nose thereby repeating the procedure for few minutes. Focus your mind on the breathing itself. If you feel distracted, say 1 with first in-breath, 2 with out-breath, 3 with the next in-breath, 4 with out-breath. Go up to the count of 10 and then repeat the procedure. Try to make the out-breath longer (twice recommended) than the in-breath.
Alternate nostril breathing: Another important and beneficial variation is the alternative nostril breathing technique. In this procedure, you draw in air from one nostril and then expel it through the other one.
Mindful breathing: Another type of breathing patterns, which is very useful and can be practiced at any time even without making any time for them, is to breathe mindfully. Every time you breathe in and out, remind yourself that you are breathing. The moment you watch your breathing, it will automatically become slower and helps you become aware of your mental state.
The above-mentioned techniques are not only time-tested methods to control the mental states but also powerful and scientifically valid programs to deal with daily negative emotions.