Archive for » February, 2012 «

* Walking on gold coins, eyes closed

‘Focusing on breathing’ is a technique that is easy to understand and practice.It reduces and prevents stress without demanding time, posture, teacher or money. Many people under stress  admit it may relieve some of their problems. But they are unwilling to try it, even at bed time which is the first step I suggest on this path. I believe it shows that they are not yet ready to come out of their stress and its consequences. This idea is brought out in the following story from Indian mythology.

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Once upon a time, there lived a great devotee of the God named Shiva. He was always chanting the name of God Shiva. But he was always poor, unable to support his large family. He would visit the nearby village every day, asking for donation of food from the housewives and return to his family to feed them.

One day, God Shiva’s wife, being aware of this devotee’s condition, asked Shiva why HE was not helping HIS great devotee. Shiva replied that the devotee’s time to come out of his suffering had not yet come. But Shiva’s wife, felt a lot of compassion for the devotee and insisted that Shiva must do something immediately, to help that poor devotee.

To pacify his wife, that night, Shiva sprayed gold coins all along the road on which the devotee walked every day to the village.

In the morning, Shiva and his wife watched from the heaven, to see what the devotee would do. When the  the devotee was about to step on that road, he got a brilliant idea. He thought “I have been walking on this road every day, for so many years. I know all its turns and pot holes. Let me challenge myself today, by walking on this road with my eyes closed.”. Then he closed his eyes and walked confidently, stepping on the gold coins lying all along the road. At the end of the road, he opened his eyes and congratulated himself for his great achievement!

Shiva told his wife “I told you that he is not yet ready to come out of his suffering!”
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I tell this gold coin story in the introduction part of my seminars. At the end the story I say that every breath that enters and exits our bodies is like a gold coin lying on our path. Noticing a breath is like picking up a gold coin for free, because every time we focus on a breath, we prevent stress and also reduce our stress, for sure, though only a tiny bit (1). In all our non-sleeping moments, we have this ‘golden’ opportunity to prevent and reduce stress (2). Stress being the root cause of many mind and body problems, this practice has immense potential to help us get relieved of many problems (3). Participants appreciate this powerful message.

(1) ‘It is only a little’ – My Article
(2) Stress – Its causes and effects
(3) Helping mind and body

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* My anxiety decreased by 50%

“I have been practicing the ‘Focusing on breathing’ method for almost two years. I was introduced to the methods by CS my office manager. Even after doing the breathing for about an year, I was still experiencing high levels of anxiety. Anxiety has been something I have dealt with for many years but never really addressed it because I would drown it out by obsessing over other things. It got to the point where the people I worked with and hung around could tell when my anxiety was at it’s peak. Thankfully by this point, I could feel my levels increasing too. I needed to do something about it.

I sought help from CS once again. His word of advice was…..”just breathe”. So after him telling and showing me other times that I could use the breathing, I tried it out on my own.  I first did my breathing at bed time to go to sleep. And also when I wake up, I breath for at least a half hour in the bed, turning on all sides, as advised by him. To decrease my anxiety, I have also started exercising six days a week, after my breathing in the morning. I work out for an hour, depending on the day. I noticed that even after breathing in the morning and working out, it seemed that my anxiety had increased. So C S explained to me to try to breath for another half an hour after my workout. So here I am a few months into increasing my breathing and I can say my anxiety has decreased at least by 50%. Not only can I feel the difference but I have my friends and peers telling my of the difference they see. I was told that my anxiety levels with my children decreased. When I didnt practice the breathing, I  would go from 1 to 10 in a matter of a few seconds. Now, I go from 1 to 3. I can definitely feel my stress level is down too. I  can get a full nights sleep and wake up feeling refreshed. To this day, I try and encourage people to at least try the breathing. I have even introduce the method to my children who actually practice it. It may not work for everyone but I an living proof that it has worked for at least one life.”

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Related pages
Relief from anxiety – Success stories

* I am thrilled at my progress

Here is the remarkable feedback from a practitioner who attended 7 of my classes over last 4 months. It is reproduced verbatim, followed by other comments she made during the classes.

“I would like to start by saying that I am a retired hair dresser of 35 years of experience. I have diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety, over weight and a lot of other issues.

I was referred to CS (Suryanarayana Chennapragada) by a diabetes educator, of all the people. I know it sounds strange but she completely understood when I told her that I had seen many dietitians over many years, that there wasn’t much she could help me with, if I did not put my knowledge of diets to work. I knew portion sizes, sugars and all of it. I was wrong. She did help me by listening to what I said. She then asked if I was open minded about talking to a man who had helped her in her life. I don’t know if it was the right time to make a change in me or if it was something else but whatever be the reason, I will be forever grateful to both of them.

CS began by explaining that if you do not give yourself time to breathe, you can not heal inside or out. Your brain needs oxygen in order to deal with life’s every day problems. He gave me some breathing techniques, as explained in his web site to try (1) and asked me to do them while I was in his office. He left me in the room alone to try them. I was amazed that I could sit still long enough to do this but I did and felt pretty good. I continued to see him on a weekly basis. I started in Oct 2011. It is now Feb 2012. I am now going every 2 weeks and I am thrilled at the progress I have made. So are my  husband and daughter.

I am not nearly as stressed about everything. I have learned that I do not have to take care of every one else in my life. I am not responsible for other people’s choices, only mine. I now understand the power of focusing on breathing. My family noticed that I am now calmer. I smile more and I laugh. I now enjoy taking a vacation. I do matter. CS gives you small things to try and that bring big results. I know that it will take time for me, to complete my journey but as CS says “Small Steps”.  I say to every one that will listen “BREATHE”.

To CS, thank you for doing what you do so well and by that I mean CARE about all of us.”

Some more developments she shared during the classes –

  • She was suffering from severe insomnia for many years, not able to sleep for more than 3 – 4 hours a night, that too a very disturbed sleep, in spite of taking strong sleep medication ‘AMBIEN’. Now she is able to sleep undisturbed, for at least 5 hours while still taking the same medication. She has now dared to asked her doctor to switch to half the dosage of the same medication. She is now determined to try this lower dose, bearing all the disturbances.
  • When she visited her endocrinologist doctor recently, the doctor spontaneously commented “You were somewhere, for past many years. You are now a different person”
  • Before practicing these techniques, she had severe anxiety whenever she had to undergo a treatment at her dentist’s office. She had to take an anti-anxiety medicine, to be able to go through the visit. But her recent visit to the dentist was all done without any such medication. She was herself surprised how this happened for the first time!
  • Before these practices, she was a compulsively controlling person. She wanted things done yesterday and her way! Now she lets others manage their affairs, as they like. She does not feel the compulsive urge to control them any more.
  • When she organized a birth day party recently, she was calmly interacting with people, unlike her usual self. This change was noticed by her family  members and they commented about it.
  • Her goal is now to “get off the insulin”. She is hopeful she can do it eventually.
  • She is surprised that she is now cooking smaller quantities and eating smaller portions. Her husband is surprised at this remarkable change.
  • Having made a beginning with going to the YMCA when her daughter gave her the gift of trial membership, she enrolled herself in the Y and going to the gym 3 days a week. She walks on the track every time she goes there. She is happy with meeting many other like minded persons there.
  • Due to more awareness and self control, she stopped snacking on chips at night. Instead she eats an apple.

Her previous feedback
My family  can’t believe the change in my attitude.

(1) How can I focus on breathing?

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* Shortage of sleep and heart disease

This is an article forwarded by a friend. He is not sure of  its author.

What killed Ranjan Das and Lessons for Corporate India

A month ago, many of us heard about the sad demise of Ranjan Das from Bandra, Mumbai. Ranjan, just 42 years of age, was the CEO of SAP-Indian Subcontinent, the youngest CEO of an MNC in India. He was very active in sports, was a fitness freak and a marathon runner. It was common to see him run on Bandra’s Carter Road. Just after Diwali, on 21st Oct, he returned home from his gym after a workout, collapsed with a massive heart attack and died. He is survived by his wife and two very young kids. It was certainly a wake-up call for corporate India. However, it was even more disastrous for runners amongst us. Since Ranjan was an avid marathoner (in Feb 09, he ran Chennai Marathon at the same time some of us were running Pondicherry Marathon 180 km away), the question came as to why an exceptionally active, athletic person succumb to heart attack at 42 years of age. Was it the stress? A couple of you called me asking about the reasons. While Ranjan had mentioned that he faced a lot of stress, that is a common element in most of our lives. We used to think that by being fit, one can conquer the bad effects of stress. So I doubted if the cause was stress. The real reason however is … everyone missed out a small line in the reports that Ranjan used to make do with 4-5 hours of sleep. This is an earlier interview of Ranjan on NDTV in the program ‘Boss’ Day Out’:

http://connect.in.com/ranjan-das/play-video-boss-day-out-ranjan-das-of-sap-india-229111-807ec fcf1ad966036c289b3ba6c376f2530d7484.html

Here he himself admits that he would love to get more sleep and that he was not proud of his ability to manage without sleep, contrary to what others extolled.

The evidence last week:
I was working with a well-known cardiologist on the subject of ‘Heart Disease caused by Lack of Sleep’. While I cannot share the video nor the slides because of confidentiality reasons, I have distilled the key points below in the hope it will save some of our lives.

Some excerpts …..

  • Short sleep duration (<5 or 5-6 hours) increased risk for high BP by 350% to 500% compared to those who slept longer than 6 hours per night. Paper published in 2009.
  • As you know, high BP kills. .. Young people (25-49 years of age) are twice as likely to get high BP if they sleep less. Paper published in 2006. ..
  • Individuals who slept less than 5 hours a night had a 3-fold increased risk of heart attacks. Paper published in 1999. ..
  • Complete and partial lack of sleep increased the blood concentrations of High sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-cRP), the strongest predictor of heart attacks. Even after getting adequate sleep later, the levels stayed high!! .. Just one night of sleep loss increases very toxic substances in body such as Interleukin-6 (IL-6), Tumour Necrosis Factor-Alpha (TNF-alpha) and C-reactive protein (cRP). They increase risks of many medical conditions, including cancer, arthritis and heart disease. Paper published in 2004. ..
  • Sleeping for <=5 hours per night leads to 39% increase in heart disease. Sleeping for <=6 hours per night leads to 18% increase in heart disease. Paper published in 2006.

Ideal sleep for lack of space, I cannot explain here the ideal sleep architecture. But in brief, sleep is composed of two stages: REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and non-REM. The former helps in mental consolidation while the latter helps in physical repair and rebuilding. During the night, you alternate between REM and non-REM stages 4-5 times. The earlier part of sleep is mostly non-REM. During that period, your pituitary gland releases growth hormones that repair your body. The latter part of sleep is more and more REM type. For you to be mentally alert during the day, the latter part of sleep is more important. No wonder when you wake up with an alarm clock after 5-6 hours of sleep, you are mentally irritable throughout the day (lack of REM sleep). And if you have slept for less than 5 hours, your body is in a complete physical mess (lack of non-REM sleep), you are tired throughout the day, moving like a zombie and your immunity is way down (I’ve been there, down that lane)

Finally, as long-distance runners, you need an hour of extra sleep to repair the running related damage. If you want to know if you are getting adequate sleep, take the Epworth Sleepiness Test below. Use this form from Stanford University.

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How likely are you to doze off or fall asleep in the following situations, in contrast to feeling  just tired? This refers to your usual way of life in recent times. Even if you have not done some of these things recently, try to work out how they would have affected you. Use the following scale to choose the most appropriate number for each situation:

0 = no chance of dozing

1 = slight chance of dozing

2 = moderate chance of dozing

3 = high chance of dozing

SITUATION                      CHANCE OF DOZING

Sitting and reading____________

Watching TV ____________

Sitting inactive in a public place (e.g a theater or a meeting) ____________

As a passenger in a car for an hour without a break ____________

Lying down to rest in the afternoon when circumstances permit ____________

Sitting and talking to someone ____________

Sitting quietly after a lunch without alcohol ____________

In a car, while stopped for a few minutes in traffic ____________

Interpretation: Score of 0-9 is considered normal while 10 and above abnormal.

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In conclusion Barring stress control, Ranjan Das did everything right: eating proper food, exercising (marathoning!), maintaining proper weight. But he missed getting proper and adequate sleep, minimum 7 hours. In my opinion, that killed him.

If you are not getting enough sleep (7 hours), you are playing with fire, even if you have low stress. I always took pride in my ability to work 50 hours at a stretch whenever the situation warranted. But I was so spooked after seeing the scientific evidence last week that since Saturday night, I ensure I do not even set the alarm clock under 7 hours. Now, that is a nice excuse to get some more sleep.

Unfortunately, Ranjan Das is not alone when it comes to missing sleep. Many of us are doing exactly the same, perhaps out of ignorance. Please share this article with as many of your colleagues as possible, especially those who might be short-changing their sleep. If we can save even one young life because of this email, I would be the happiest person on earth.

PS: Incidentally, just as human beings need 7 hours of sleep, you should know that cats need 15 hours of sleep and horses need 3 hours of it. So are you planning to be a cool cat or a dumb horse?

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Related pages
How can I Enjoy Quality Sleep?
Secrets of a “Great Night’s Sleep”
Relief from insomnia – Success stories

* Seminar for the Edgar Cayce Group

The introductory seminar was held on Feb 7 at Bob Connor’s house in Cannon NY, the meeting place of this group. There were 7 participants out f which 2 had attended my  previous classes. The feedback received from the 5 new learners is posted below.

Scanned images of the completed feedback forms.

Summary of  the feedback:

The seminar was …

  • Excellent –   4
  • Excellent/ Very Good – 1

I will use this technique to relieve my (concern)

  • Asthma
  • Family upsets
  • Hopeless optimism
  • Racing mind, Tension
  • Sleep

Comments/ Suggestions (if any)

  • Introduction was too long, great analogies, simple, very powerful philosophies connected for me
  • Humorous and to the point
  • Fabulous
  • Nice combination of technique and story telling

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* I am now able to manage stress

Feedback from a man in New Jersey who is under extreme stress, due to his wife’s mental illness (1).

Before knowing ‘Focusing on breathing’
My wife refused to see reason due to her bi-polar problem though she has been under medication. I did not know of any way to convince her. I used to get excited and angry at her, aggravating stress for both of us. It was unbearable.  Under such situations, I was going to the gym and workout, for at least 2 hours. Even then, I was not getting relief from the stress. I used to wonder if I had to work out whole day.

Now
I do not run to the gym or go crazy. I respond to her unreasonable behavior without losing my cool. I am able to argue with her calmly and patiently, trying to convince her. This is defusing the situation for both of us. My life has become bearable, thanks to the breathing technique.

I am now introducing this technique to my wife at bedtime, as she does not have good sleep. She is not able to practice the technique on her own. When she needs to sleep, I sit by her side  and help her practice the ‘Tip mode’ (2). I hold her fingers and give verbal prompts, at each step of the practice. She accepts this help and is now able to sleep peacefully, thanks to this technique.

(1) His previous feedback “This meditation has saved my life”
(2) How can I focus on breathing?

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