Acquiring and Building Resilience – From the Editor’s desk

A very warm and summery greeting to you from the editor’s desk this staycation time. My family and I are going to enjoy and stay home like so many others this summer; drinking in the beauty of the surrounding naturescapes and exploring them with fresh eyes. We are so thankful that we live in this beautiful part of the world! Breathing in the fresh air, rejoicing with the chirpings of the bird as they peck at my cherries and raspberries turning a dark red. They have not become as sweet as I would have wanted! I will have to investigate and find ways of getting them to fruit earlier and find the necessary warmth to sweeten. Not easy with the threat of climate change. As I have not been able to travel abroad to see my mother and siblings, I am looking forward to gardening and exploring the country – perhaps going further afield from D &C and camping as well with friends.

But I am digressing as I really wanted to speak about how we all should be thinking about acquiring and building resilience. As an academic, I have taught about organisational resilience to my students, but the long and ongoing backdrop of the pandemic makes it so relevant at the practical level for us as individuals. The Mental Health Foundation clarifies resilience as our ability to cope with the normal stress of life as well as being able to bounce back from crises. This coping and bouncing back when confronted with stress, crisis and adversity require us to tap into resources – internal or external which enables us to withstand the adversity. This may require the capacity to turn to different kinds of resources, psychological, social, cultural and physical that sustain wellbeing as well as the capacity to negotiate for these resources in culturally meaningful ways at individual and collective levels (Resilience Research Centre). For the resources to truly support wellbeing and enable us to cope and bounce back, we need individual and collective strategies and interventions.

Structurally, resilience can be supported at different levels: nationally, regionally, locally and individually. Nations that are more equal, have good economic foundations and opportunities for their diverse people will be more adept at whole-society measures and interventions that foster good mental health and wellbeing. At community level, local programmes and initiatives involving everyone or targeting specific people and communities who are more vulnerable can be very effective.

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Individuals can benefit through enhanced mental health literacy and opportunities for self-care and positive coping skills. Some of us at the individual level may be innately more resilient whereas others may need more support. According to the Centre for the Developing Child at Harvard University, positive experiences in very early childhood and in particular a secure attachment relationship with at least one primary caregiver is said to be a core factor for developing and building individual resilience. They emphasise that supporting a good primary caregiver-child relationship is an important protective factor for promoting resilience, while circumstances that put this relationship under strain can negatively affect resilience and mental health throughout childhood and adulthood. The Mental Health Foundation has suggested various ways of positively coping with stress and improving mental health during the Corona Virus pandemic including Exercising, Spending time in nature, Maintaining contact with friends and family, eating healthily,  Being aware of smoking and drinking, Taking time to relax, Being mindful, Getting restful sleep, Avoiding negative thinking and Doing an enjoyable hobby. I heard from friends and family how simple things like walking the dog, gardening or staying in a routine gave them purpose and helped them cope with the stressors around them. Exercise is known to boost mood. Last summer when we began to feel the negative impact of all that was happening around us, we decided to join the Hill Lane Tennis club close to our home and began to play tennis. It was fun to discover that the Great Fred Perry had actually played a Davis Cup match on the same tennis court as vouched by a black and white photograph on the club website.

We are all different and what works one for one person may not benefit another. Many of my friends boosted their own well-being by going for walks, which became something they began to look forward to and did together as a family. A dear friend began to take photographs on his nature walks and posted them on his Facebook page. This became a go-to resource for others. 

photo of vegetable salad in bowls
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The benefits of eating a well-balanced diet rich in vegetables and fruits are espoused not only by Ayurveda and but also by modern research. A healthy diet is said to contribute to mental health and wellbeing. Research has reported higher levels of well-being reported by individuals who ate more fruit and vegetables1 and a reduction in depression (which was sustained six months after the intervention) has been associated with a Mediterranean- style diet (a diet high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil.) supplemented with fish oil2.

Another important but often neglected coping strategy is sleep, which is vital not only for mental health but plays a central role in our learning, emotional regulation, behaviour including how we interact with others3. A 2019 article by Harvard Health Publishing explains how sleep impacts mental health. We all alternate between two major categories of sleep – quiet and REM sleep. During “quiet” sleep body temperature drops, muscles relax, and heart rate and breathing slow. In the deepest stage of quiet sleep, physiological changes are produced that help boost immune system functioning.

orange cat sleeping on white bed
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The other sleep category, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, is the period when people dream. Body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing increase to levels measured when people are awake. Studies report that REM sleep enhances learning and memory, and contributes to emotional health — in complex ways. The paper stresses that “although scientists are still trying to tease apart all the mechanisms, they’ve discovered that sleep disruption — which affects levels of neurotransmitters and stress hormones, among other things — wreaks havoc in the brain, impairing thinking and emotional regulation. In this way, insomnia may amplify the effects of psychiatric disorders, and vice versa” 4

So though we are aware of the need to have good strategies for managing stress, anxiety and depression, or becoming more resilient, we have a collective responsibility to strengthen the support that is available for the most vulnerable amongst us. There is some great work happening in Devon and Cornwall but there are areas with little or no access to mental health support. They (https://www.devonmind.com/about/our-story ) have been working for better mental health in Devon for over 35 years with their campaigning and support services. Devon Mind highlights the importance of the work they are doing through these stark statistics on their webpages: Research by the NHS has found that 20.9% of people in the South West of England experienced a common mental health problem (such as depression or an anxiety disorder) in any given week — that’s the highest rate of mental health problems in the country, reflecting the great need for Devon Mind to support the entire community.

Hence, we have decided to plan our fundraising activities in support of Devon Mind throughout this year. Further information about events and opportunities to contribute will be shared separately.


Dr Smita Tripathi

1 Stranges, S, Samaraweera, PC, Taggart, F, Kandala, NB, & Stewart-Brown, S (2014). ‘Major Health-related Behaviours and Mental Well-being in the General Population: The Health Survey for England’, BMJ Open, 4(9), e005878.

2) Parletta, N, Zarnowiecki, D, Cho, J, Wilson, A, Bogomolova, S, Villani, A, Itsiopoulos, C, Niyonsenga, T, Blunden, S, Meyer, B, Segal, L, Baune, B and O’Dea, K (2017) ‘A Mediterranean-style dietary intervention supplemented with fish oil improves diet quality and mental health in people with depression: A randomized controlled trial (HELFIMED)’ Nutritional Neuroscience 22(7) pp.474-487.

3 Walker, M (2017) Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. Scribner. ISBN-13 : 978-1501144318

4 https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health

South Asian Heritage month

Here in the South West like other parts of the UK, we are celebrating the South Asian Heritage Month, which kick-started on the 18th of July and goes on until the 17th of August.  It started in 2020 but this year marks its formal launch. It aims to celebrate and raise the profile of British South Asians, which include people from the 8 countries of South Asia including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. It is a month-long opportunity to show what it means to be South Asian in Modern-day UK, celebrate South Asian Culture in its colourful diversity as well as look to the past to see how Britain became the diverse nation it is today. It was co-founded by Binita Kane, a consultant Respiratory physician and Jasvir Singh, a family law barrister. The motto of the movement is to Celebrate, Commemorate and Educate with the view to raise awareness, come together to celebrate the rich diversity of the cultures of South Asian countries, strengthen bonds within the community and forge stronger bonds with other communities and cultures.

The month-long event creates a space to jointly celebrate the multi-hued communities and people of South Asian and is a grassroots movement that has been driven by the lived experiences of the founders and others in being British South Asian. Like many other creative ideas, it happened “over a cup of chai in December 2018 when the founders came together to discuss how people’s understanding of the interconnectedness between Britain and South Asia could be better understood in the UK” (https://www.southasianheritage.org.uk/about). It has been inspired by Black History Month and other similar awareness months.

South Asian influences are pervasive everywhere in Britain, this includes our food and tastes, clothes and fashions, music and dance and even our words. Everywhere you go, in the streets and towns, you can see the traces and lashings of our varied South Asian cultures and see contributions made by our heritage. Our people have made a mark in all walks of life and in different professions, occupations and places. South Asian culture permeates all parts of British life and adds to the diversity of the nation.

In the first of a series of reports to mark South Asian Heritage Month, ITV South West Reporter Claire Manning and camera person Penny has spoken to Drs Atul Mishra and Smita Tripathi who came to Plymouth 20 years ago and have gone on to settle in Plymouth, raise a child and establish themselves as Lecturers in the University of Plymouth’s Business School. They think of Plymouth as home.

Role of Cricket and Social Media in Community Integration

Professor Awadhesh Jha

Undeniably, social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) is playing a very significant role in modern life. Whilst it has many benefits, it could easily disrupt personal and social lives if used immaturely or carelessly. In the light of ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, the government and several institutions including public and sporting bodies are taking initiatives to further strengthen race relationships, foster religious tolerance and promote equality and diversity in the wider society. 

In the above context, a few weeks ago, many cricket fans were saddened following controversy sparked by racist and sexist tweets written by 27-year-old cricketer, Ollie Robinson. These tweets were written years previously when he was a teenager. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) took very prompt action by suspending Robinson from the team pending the investigations. Robinson’s suspension sparked a sharp division of opinions in the wider society. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other leaders criticised the action of ECB. MP from South West Devon, Sir Gary Streeter defended Robinson remarking that as teenagers we all make mistakes which we regret later in life and ECB should adopt the core value of our society, ‘of forgiveness’. 

After Robinson’s suspension, a few high profile names also surfaced who have written similar tweets in the past. It is reported that ECB has started scrutinising all media posts of its contracted players. The England players are anxious about the looming threat from further probes into controversial tweets which are very much on the cards. Such nervousness after the series defeat by New Zealand could be unhelpful for the forthcoming test series against India, followed by the Ashes series in Australia. England captain, Joe Root insisted that his team is totally committed to stamping out discrimination in cricket.

In common with other games and sports, Cricket plays an important role in social cohesion and integration. I used to play and enjoy cricket during my student life. In 1993, when I joined ICI/Zeneca Environmental Laboratory in Brixham (South Devon), I was warmly welcomed in the Laboratory Cricket team. Colleagues assumed that all Indians are good cricketers, which very soon they realised is not the case! My inclusion in the team gave me the opportunity to play matches in the lush Greens of picturesque Torbay area during the summer periods. I was the only Asian player on the ground and was warmly looked after! The social aspect was particularly enjoyable! Being new to the English lifestyle, this ‘gentlemen’s game provided the opportunity to learn many social skills!

After moving to Plymouth in 1996, few of us established the South Asian Society as a registered charity in 2003. In line with the broader objectives of the society to enhance community cohesion and integration, in 2010, we started a Cricket Tournament inviting local teams to participate. These events were highly successful and thoroughly enjoyed by the members of the society and the local communities. Due to different constraints, we could however not continue this tournament. Many society members were/are playing for different clubs and many members of the South Asian community are now fully integrated with different clubs. Increasing numbers of South Asian families are encouraging their kids to play cricket and others sports, take them to coaching sessions, where they interact with the wider community. All these activities will definitely contribute to damping down the future online abuses of various forms and will go towards achieving the goals of the society, with long-term positive impact. 

As social media is being increasingly used particularly by the younger generation, we need to be fully aware that once posted, even if these posts are deleted, it is easy to track them down. As it is quite natural for teenagers to make mistakes, such mistakes could be risky for future careers. There are plenty of unfortunate examples outside the cricket world as well. Earlier this year, Rashmi Samant, the first woman to become president of the Oxford University Student’s Union had to resign a few days after she was elected. This was a consequence of supposedly racist and insensitive tweets she had posted as a teenager.

Following the recent Euro Cup Football final, alarming levels of online abuse of England players were noted. It is being realised that racist abuse sent to England players have been active for some time despite the sites being urged by the authorities to crack down on discriminatory posts and suspend accounts. Such incidences could have long-lasting negative knock-on effects on the wider communities too, such as the defaced mural of England football player, Marcus Rashford. In this context, according to a recent survey, commissioned by London Lions, 41% of the BAME community in the UK are hesitant to attend live events over fears of racial abuse, although younger fans (18-24 years) are less worried (29%). It is therefore not surprising that the government is planning to implement tougher rules in addition to banning individuals who are involved in online abuse to enter the ground. Clearly more needs to be done.   Finally, it is important to realise that ultimately, the parents and the schools bear the responsibility to educate children and inculcate the right values. They have important roles to play in digital education and alerting the children about the risks associated with their online (as well as offline) behaviour. Backed by the government initiatives, schools and parents, therefore, need to build a positive partnership to educate teenagers in this important aspect of life. Given that digital technologies are getting increasingly integrated into various aspects of our lives, it is high time that proper use of such skills are assimilated in the school curriculum from an early stage. 

Disclaimer: We accept no liability for any errors, omissions, or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. The opinions expressed in this post are solely the author’s own views and do not necessarily represent the views of our society. Our attempt is to provide a platform for community members to share their views, reflections, and opinions through our website.

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination

Jenny Walrond, NHS Devon CCCG Media and Publications manager

Why should I have the Covid-19 vaccine?

Around 9 in 10 adults in Devon have now had at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Analysis by Public Health England suggests that the vaccination programme has prevented between 6.4m and 7.9m infections and 26-28,000 deaths in England alone.

NHS advice states that research has shown the vaccines:

  • significantly reduce your risk of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19
  • reduce your risk of getting symptoms of COVID-19
  • will help reduce your risk of catching and spreading COVID-19

Long Covid can affect people of any age. Research is being carried out into whether the vaccine reduces the chances of developing Long Covid and/or eases the symptoms of Long Covid in existing patients.

Some countries currently require travellers to be vaccinated or show evidence of a negative Covid-19 test.  This situation regularly changes and it is best to check before booking any travel. Having the vaccine may make it easier for people to go abroad for work, holidays or to visit family.

Once you have had both doses of the vaccination you will be able to prove your vaccination status by getting the NHS Covid Pass.  It is available through the NHS app; which is free to download or online.  More information here:

NHS COVID Pass for events and travel – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Where can I find information in other languages?

NHS England has produced leaflets about Covid19

  • The government has published easy read leaflets on the Covid-19 vaccination, what to expect afterwards and information for women who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding in 21 languages.

Is it safe?

Each of the vaccines are tested on tens of thousands of people across the world. They are tested on both men and women, on people from different ethnic backgrounds, representative of the UK population and of all ages between 18-84.

Pfizer/BioNTech trials took place in the US, Europe, Turkey, South Africa and South America. Approximately 42% of global participants and 30% of U.S. participants had racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds

AstraZeneca trials took place in the UK, Brazil and South Africa. The non-white demographic in the UK trial was 7.1%. In the Brazil trial it was 31.4% and in South Africa it was 87%.

Vaccine safety monitoring is ensured at the national, regional, and global level.

Internationally WHO supports the set up of safety monitoring systems for COVID-19 vaccines in every country. WHO works with vaccine manufacturers, health officials and other partners to track safety concerns and potential side effects on an ongoing basis.

In the UK The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority approves vaccines for use. The MHRA is globally recognised for requiring the highest standards of safety, quality and effectiveness for any vaccine. It has responsibility in law to continuously evaluate all products on the UK market.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is an independent group of experts who advise the Government health departments in the four UK nations on immunisations and the prevention of infectious disease. They consider vaccine safety, efficacy and look at the impact and cost effectiveness of immunisation strategies.  The JCVI looks at data on the impact of a disease, data from clinical trials and modelled data, then advises on the best way to get these vaccines to the public.

Government advice states that:

  • There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines have any effect on fertility or your chances of becoming pregnant.
  • COVID-19 vaccines offer pregnant women the best protection against COVID-19 disease which can be serious in later pregnancy for some women.
  • The JCVI has recommended that the vaccines can be received whilst breastfeeding.

What side effects may I get?

The COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.

They can cause some side effects, but not everyone gets them.

Any side effects are usually mild and should not last longer than a week, such as:

a sore arm from the injection

feeling tired

a headache

feeling achy

feeling or being sick

More serious side effects, such as allergic reactions or blood clotting, are very rare.

Find out more about COVID-19 vaccines side effects and safety

Which vaccine will I be offered?

All first doses being offered in Devon are now Pfizer or Moderna (mRNA vaccines).  Details of which vaccine are being offered are shown in advertising for walk in clinics.

The COVID-19 mRNA vaccine technology has been rigorously assessed for safety, and clinical trials have shown that mRNA vaccines provide a long-lasting immune response. mRNA vaccine technology has been studied for several decades, including in the contexts of Zika, rabies, and influenza vaccines. mRNA vaccines are not live virus vaccines and do not interfere with human DNA.

How can I get my vaccine? First and Second doses

You do not need an NHS number to book your vaccine in Devon.

You can book an appointment on the national booking system website or by phoning 119.

Details of walk in clinics can be found on NHS Devon CCG’s social media pages and at:

https://www.england.nhs.uk/south/our-work/south-west-covid-19-vaccination-centres/

If you have any problems accessing your vaccine you can contact the Devon Vaccine Support Team:

 d-ccg.devonvaccinationsupport@nhs.net

  • Please remember to dress appropriately for the weather, and it’s a good idea to bring a drink along with you
  • Please wear a face covering, unless you are exempt
  • You will need to provide your name and date of birth
  • You do not need to provide identification
  • When you arrive on the vaccination site one of our team of marshals will greet you and help you find your way for your vaccination

Second doses are given 8 weeks after the first.  You can book your second dose through the national booking service or visit a walk-in clinic offering the same vaccine as your first dose. 

If you are unable to attend a booked appointment please remember to cancel.

Pioneers inspiring generations

We are extremely proud and honoured to inform our members that two of our prominent Trustees (Prof Awadhesh Jha & Dr Sanjay Sharma) have been recognised as pioneers in their respective disciplines by the University of Plymouth.

I will not even try and summarise their pioneering work but please feel free to read in detail their considerable contributions and their respective journeys:

Prof Awadhesh Jha

Dr Sanjay Sharma

I will however attempt to emphasise the relative importance of such recognition within a modern multicultural British Society.

Recent research (Centre for Social Integration at Nuffield College, University of Oxford) points job seekers from minority ethnic groups had to send an average of 60% more applications to receive the same level of interest as those from majority groups. A number of factors contribute to such discrimination and some progress to overcome bias has been made. However, the report observes that the progress is far too little when compared with other studies carried out over the past 50 years. The latest NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard report suggests that 15% of ethnic minority staff in the health service experienced discrimination in the past 12 months, compared with 13.8% the previous year. Just under a fifth of the NHS workforce is from a black and ethnic minority background, yet the proportion in senior management positions is 6.9%. Progress has certainly been made as documented in the recently published report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities but the recommendations made in the report suggests that much more needs to be done.

The above references indicate the challenges in the preceding decades and despite these, we are now witnessing the recognition and celebration of contributions (like Prof Jha and Dr Sharma) made towards the betterment of the country and human race. We take immense pride as a diaspora that we do more than our fair share for the betterment of our local communities and the British Society as a whole. It is also reassuring to see that central and local governments are keen to work collaboratively to ensure a level playing field for each and every British citizen.

Awadhesh ji and Sanjay ji (as we address them traditionally), your recognition and achievement will undoubtedly inspire the next generation of aspiring scientists but you are also seen as exemplars of how to contribute towards community cohesion through voluntary work and action.

I felt inspired by you both when I joined SAaS and that feeling has not changed a bit.

You remind me of a famous quote by Steve Jobs “Stay hungry. Stay foolish”

Once more, heartiest congratulations on your success and keep up the good work.

Dr A Chatterjee

SAaS participates in £1.9M UKRI research project

man and woman sitting on sofa while looking at a tablet computer
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GOALD (Generating Older Active Lives Digitally) project the new work has been funded by UK Research and Innovation as part of the healthy ageing challenge to ensure we all live healthier and more connected lives. This programme is providing a total of £9.5m across the UK for interdisciplinary academic-led teams to carry out research into social, behavioural and design aspects of healthy ageing. The programme aims to contribute to the challenge mission of ensuring people can enjoy at least five extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035 while narrowing the gap between the richest and poorest by enhancing our understanding of the aspirations, preferences and needs of the ageing population.

crop friends stacking hands together
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The three-year project is a collaboration between the University of Stirling and the University of Plymouth’s Centre for Health Technology. The project partners with seven charities and community groups in the South West working with older people and younger participants living in the community, as well as residents from eight care homes in Cornwall. Over the course of the three-year project, the research team will record the different groups’ experiences of digital resources and assistive technologies and then share their findings with business partners – small to medium-sized enterprises – to develop new technologies, product ideas and test design concepts.

SAaS is delighted to be able to contribute to this very important development as part of the post-Covid recovery. Further information will follow in the next few months and will be coordinated by Dr Mahrukh Mirza and Dr Satish BK on behalf of SAaS.

I Am Not The Body, I Am Not Even The Mind!

I am writing this in continuation of my talk on Raj yoga (BBC Radio Devon) to try and make a bit more sense of it. To begin with, let’s first see what does yoga actually mean.

silhouette of person raising its hand
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Yoga means union, joining or alignment.

What does it mean by joining with our true self? Of course, we are joined with ourselves and us as the spirit, but we have lost the link and to re-establish this link is the meaning of yoga. We are so strongly embedded with this idea that we are this body and this mind that we do not have the capacity to really pull us out. Re-establishing your essential oneness (not as body and mind that we are so closely related to), but something dramatically different, the spirit. This is the real meaning of the word Yoga.

birds flying on blue sky over waving sea
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It is a journey and destination is the freedom.
Freedom from all the limitations of the body and the mind. It is a freeing experience. Freedom from the shackles that keep us from understanding and experiencing this reality are also broken. You break free from every limitation. This is when you realise that I am spirit, I am not this body or this mind. It is an experiential dimension. It gives freedom from our vision of who we think we are.
This is the fundamental of Raj yoga.

The two crucial tools that we need for this journey are- Our body and our mind.
There is no one path to do this journey.

There are four different paths that we have been explained in Bhagwat Geeta and that all these four paths lead to the same destination of experiencing your true self as spirit.

The four different paths are-

Karma yoga– This is the path of action in its widest sense. It’s your devotion to your duty. Your duty to yourself, your family, your society, your country and to the planet you’re living in. Duty in a selfless way. Nothing wrong in feeding or taking care of your family, but slowly expand it. Best service is the service that is performed without being attached to the fruits of one’s actions. Work for the greater good.

Bhakti yoga– It teaches how to love without any ulterior motives. To see the divine spirit in every living being.

Gyan yoga– Yoga of intelligence or intellect. This is for the philosopher, the thinker, he who wants to go beyond the visible.

Rajyoga– This incorporates all the previous three yoga pathways and goes way beyond. This is also the path to harness the brain and meditate.

Now we are just going to see in further detail about Raj yoga. It is possibly one of the most important one and also the most difficult one. There were different schools of yoga in ancient times. Sage Patanjali compiled them 3200 years ago and made a framework of eight steps to make it easier called Ashtang Yoga.
Asht stands for Eight and Ang stands for limbs.
So this is a framework of eight limbs.

The basis of Raj yoga is that if you can hold your mind still, reality in its true sense can become visible to you. It can then come face-to-face.

Unless you bring discipline in your routine life, it is highly unlikely that you will succeed in meditation. For this reason, Patanjali brought the first two steps Yam and Niyam.

Yam – literally means discipline, it’s your discipline with the outside world. This includes speaking truth, avoid lust, non-violence, non-possessiveness or free yourself from greed.

Niyam– The second step is for self-discipline. It includes self-hygiene, self-study, contentment, show discipline in body, speech and mind.

Patanjali says that unless you bring Yam and Niyam to your daily life, it is unlikely that you can successfully meditate. So the initial requirement is that your routine life should come in the harness first.

Aasan– third step is the Aasan or postures. Holding the mind still is going to be difficult let’s begin by holding the body still to start with. These are postures in harmony with one’s inner consciousness. Out of the eight different steps of yoga, posture or exercising is only the third step. That too, a lower step to go up to the further five steps of yoga.

Our body is a very important tool that we possess and it’s very crucial to take very good care of it. For meditation, healthy and sound body and still mind are required. We need to be aware that the body and mind are very closely linked. If one gets affected in a good or adverse way, the other one gets affected as well. It has an important place in Hindu philosophy, but it is not the end. It is just a stepping stone to get ahead for a higher goal.

Pranayam– this is control of breath which is our life force. It also balances nervous system and encourages creative thinking. This makes us more in regulation of life force and how to utilise it completely.

So you can see how we are travelling inwards so far with each step we climb from outside world alignment, then self-discipline, body postures and then breath control. Now let’s move further inwards and thereby further up the ladder.

Pratyahar – this is to get a better control of our five senses. We often tend to abuse our five senses. We overeat, oversleep and overdo lots of such things. So Pratyahar or the fifth step is to try and control our five senses rather than them controlling us.

This is rightly managing the senses and going beyond them instead of simply suppressing them. This helps to concentrate on meditation better.

Dharna– Having attained the fifth step, now your mind is not going in all different directions. It will start to come to one point. This is the sixth step called Dharna. A sense of concentration. It involves developing our power of concentration.

Dhyan– After Dharna, you are prepared to do meditation for a long time. This takes you to the seventh step called Dhyan. This is where you are single pointedly focused. There are many ways to meditate as per what suits you. The previous limbs help to achieve the preparation for meditation.

Samadhi– when you’re in meditation for a long time it takes you to Samadhi, which is the eighth step of yoga. This 8th step Samadhi is explained in numerous ways. In general, it is that spiritual state which gives you the first hand experience that you are not this body nor are you this mind but you are one with the spirit.

Going up the steps. mind goes from chaotic to calm and in the process we do our social duties in the step one and gradually move from outside world to more and more inwards. Not that I do this all the time I fail multiple times but then I keep going up to the first step in an attempt to climb up again. Patience is the key.

It will fill your lungs with oxygen, body gets stretched, relaxed and stronger. It motivates you to self-care and social duties. It empties your mind of trash and fills it with positivity and hopefully more clarity.

I would like to end with a quote from Swami Vivekanand, a spiritual giant who introduced yoga to the western world

Talk to yourself once a day, otherwise, you may miss meeting an excellent person in this world. Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached.

Swami Vivekanand

It was his message to the world to get out of their hypnotised state of mind.

By Rachna Sharma

We still need to be responsible

light blue one use medical protective masks
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These first days after the easing of the lockdown in England coinciding with the unfurling and blooming of nature in spring and the Easter break hopefully marks a turning point bringing the promise of new activities and easing of social restrictions.

From 29th March, changes to the Covid regulations in England will mean some limited relaxation of the current rules around social and outdoor activities. However, it is imperative to emphasise the need to be responsible and careful in the way we carry out these activities. Needless to say that evidence stacks up that it is safer for people to meet outdoors rather than indoors, however, outdoor gatherings have to conform to the Rule of 6 or two households. Even outdoors we need to avoid crowding places and keep social distancing.

There is more guidance available on the Plymouth City Council website: https://www.plymouth.gov.uk/coronaviruscovid19information