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A Remedy for Fear

By Dr. Deepak Chopra, MD

(Courtesy of Dr. Deepak Chopra and

It’s generally conceded that the U.S. has been living in a climate of fear and anxiety since 9/11, and this mood has served the administration well. The public is told at regular intervals that we are in wartime and fear is necessary, although the code word being used is ’security.’ The paradox about security is that fear prevails even when one is safe; even the absence of an attack doesn’t make anxiety go away. We are told that it’s wrong, even unpatriotic, to let down our guard.

In truth the only remedy for fear is personal and has little or nothing to do with homeland security. Each of us needs to find our own way out; no government action is going to do it for us.

(Photo: Jeremiah Sullivan)

Depending on the kind of person you are and the level of anxiety you feel about terrorism, some of the following steps are effective;

--Learn about what frightens you. Bring facts to light that offer genuine reassurance. Don’t go by rumors and speculation that fuel fear.

--Take yourself out of the anxiety loop. Avoid news stories about terrorism. Stop being addicted to violent scenes on television of insurgency, bombings, terrorist threats, kidnappings, etc. Do not promote in yourself or your family a sense of vigilance about attacks in the future.

--Talk to someone who really listens. Share how you feel and ask for realistic feedback. For example, it isn’t realistic to worry that you will become a personal victim of terror. If such a worry haunts you, talk about it.

--Avoid talking to people who are motivated by ideology or politics to fan the flames of fear. Various interest groups obviously have a stake in keeping threats alive. Take what they say with a grain of salt.

--Build a connection between yourself and the threat. There is no ’them’ out there waiting to get you. There are only human beings with the same emotions and interests that you possess. Ignore demagogues who pain horrific pictures of an insane enemy. Don’t fall for racial stereotypes. It takes fear and aggression on both sides to create terror.

--Be a practical optimist. There’s no need to bury your head in the sand, but psychologically there’s nothing to be gained by gloomily projecting events that you have no control over. Gaining control over your own existence is the single best way to decrease general, free-floating anxiety.

Time Magazine heralded Deepak Chopra as one of the 100 heroes and icons of the century, and credited him as "the poet-prophet of alternative medicine." Entertainment Weekly described Deepak Chopra as "Hollywood�s man of the moment, one of publishing�s best-selling and most prolific self-help authors." He is the author of more than 40 books and more than 100 audio, video and CD-Rom titles. He has been published on every continent, and in dozens of languages and his worldwide book sales exceed twenty million copies. Over a dozen of his books have landed on the New York Times Best-seller list. Toastmaster International recognized him as one of the top five outstanding speakers in the world. Through his over two decades of work since leaving his medical practice, Deepak continues to revolutionize common wisdom about the crucial connection between body, mind, spirit, and healing. His mission of "bridging the technological miracles of the west with the wisdom of the east" remains his thrust and provides the basis for his recognition as one of India�s historically greatest ambassadors to the west. Chopra has been a keynote speaker at several academic institutions including Harvard Medical School, Harvard Business School, Harvard Divinity School, Kellogg School of Management, Stanford Business School and Wharton.

Yoga versus Common Exercises

By Sudhanva Char

There is a multitude of sports and games that are aerobically efficient in preserving health and promoting outstanding functioning of the human physique. Calisthenics of any kind help us build stamina and shore up health and fitness. Vibrant activities/games such as jogging, swimming, soccer, hockey, gymnastics, parallel bars, rugby and such others help us stay active and energetic by invigorating the endocrine glands and prodding the cardio-vascular system and other vital organs to perform at peak levels. These glands are stimulated and in turn secrete hormones into the bloodstream or the lymphatic liquids that contain white blood cells. Exercise of any kind is better than no exercise.

Given these facts many yoga students ask us whether they may continue such exercises in lieu of yoga. What this author has heard over the years is:

  • I do the tread mill everyday and don’t see any need for spending another 30-40 minutes on Yoga exercises.

  • For years I have been playing singles tennis with my friend or wife 3days a week and I see no special reason to do Yoga.

  • Jogging in the morning fires me up and keeps me going all day.

  • Three days a week I have got to swim and that lifts up my spirits and nothing can knock me down!

Many swear that golf gives them a shot in the arm and boosts them up. They cannot see any overriding reason to take to Yoga. These affidavit and opinion should not be construed as heretical to Yoga. It is true, as noted earlier, that most exercises revitalize the body and stimulate the endocrine system which in turn props up physical fitness. However, what most people fail to realize is that equating Yoga with exercise is like likening the water buffalo to the horse. In terms of outcomes, Yoga is as different from common exercises as chalk is from cheese.

Most customary exercises help burn up calories that are often times consumed due to indulgence. This is the incessant battle of the bulge that is more often lost than won.

From this point they may be even superior to Yoga. However, the implications of this are that people live to eat and not eat to live! Have you noticed that there is little moderation in eating or in indulgences in other joy de vivre in the case of most athletes and sports persons? On the other hand they have wild swings in their consumption patterns. In desi Yoga terms, this signifies that they are more likely to foster rajoguna and tamoguna, perfect qualities for temperamental and unpredictable rulers and bohemian lotus-eaters (respectively), rather than bring up satvikguna and moderation, so indispensable for peace and progress on earth. This one crucial difference is a good enough reason to lean more on Yoga for fitness.

A second significant difference arises out Yoga’s integral approach to the universal human predicament of either ‘flight or fight’ both of which invoke the sympathetic nervous system. Such a response to risks and dangers in life results in stress, the origin of most physical and mental sickness. Fight or flight responses unfortunately spring out of the cerebral cortex area of the brain. On the other hand, the Yogic response to such a human predicament emanates from the sub cortical area or the part of the brain that lies beneath the cerebral cortex. This has the wholesome effect of promoting health and happiness rather than stressing out a person.

Most joggers, for instance, get an addiction to jogging because of the adrenal gush they come to enjoy. That is not a wholesome thing for the human physique. Initially it relaxes a person, but over the long haul, it tends to agitate and distress the individual. The nerves tend to get restless and frantic for the adrenal gush. Eventually such dependence could strain body tissues and tendons that are subjected to rapid contractions repeatedly. Again for example, most joggers, after years of jogging, complain of meniscus damage in the knees. There is always this danger of physically hurting or damaging one’s body parts, increasing tension in the muscles and tearing the cartilage or ligament connecting bones or body parts.

Yoga, on the other hand does not lead to addictive behavior and all yogic activity, done as prescribed will pacify the mind and restore composure. There is no adrenal gush nor is there a fight or flight response to nerve-racking situations. There is seldom injury to body parts. On the contrary, all body components perform in great form under a relaxed mindset. The integrity of the human mind and body is preserved and what is more, these two main components work in step and style with each other with more connectedness than before. To indulge in a platitude, nevertheless true, the holistic nature of the original undamaged or intact human person is augmented.

A holistic person is incomplete without neurological fitness that brings equipoise or the spiritual dimension that guides the development of the person in Yoga’s Yamas and Niyamas. For instance such blossoming of the spirit helps in becoming aware that private actions have public consequences. Thus yoking the three dimensions of the human personality, as under Yoga, is beyond the pale of other exercises and sports.

The implication here, first, is that under Yoga effort is minimal and in the case of other endeavors effort is maxed out. ‘Work smarter, not harder’ is therefore more germane to Yoga than to other exercises that lead to exhaustion. Yoga on the other hand lifts the energy level and slows the aging process. It fine tunes the heart-lung system in the body and restores the naturally wholesome respiration and blood pressure. There is a better mindset and moods are steady and positive. You do not ‘sweat the simple things.’ Blood circulation improves and memory is sharpened. Homeostasis is promoted. Yoga practice improves body-mind coordination. The overall harmony that is achieved only the Yoga-practitioner can appreciate. Workplace productivity and integrity are improved.

There are numerous other proven benefits of Yoga and other exercises are not even a distant match. For these reasons, Yoga is unique, and assiduous Yoga practice is the recipe for human happiness.

Dr. S. V. Char is a Professor, with a PhD in Economics. He is also a certified yoga instructor from the K.D. Yoga Institute, Bombay which is renowned for Yoga Intensives and therapeutics for over 100 years. Dr Char has learn meditation techniques from his father Prof. G. Veeraraghava Char. He has practiced yoga for several decades and taught at several institutions including Emory and Stanford, Spellman College and Clark University, several High Schools and Hindu Temples, and medical institutions. Hundreds of students have learnt to prevent/cure serious illnesses such as Cardiac, Diabetic, and libido-related problems through Yogic methods taught by Dr Char. Amongst his students, about ten percent are physicians, surgeons, chiropractors, nurses and health-care professionals.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent those of the editor/publisher.


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