For many people wearing a mask is uncomfortable and challenging and for some with underlying health issues, it simply is not possible. Historically some soldiers during WW2 experienced gas mask phobia which resulted in extreme agitation, claustrophobia and even removal of protective gear in dangerous situations so it was obvious they needed training. Even during my time living through the 1990 Gulf war in Israel, we were given guidance on how to wear the gas masks. How to put it on, how to take it off and how to remain calm during a bombing raid whilst the scuds and patriot missiles flew overhead. Now the Coronavirus is a much more silent killer. There is no siren to warn you to put your mask on and there is no training or instruction on how to remain calm when facing an invisible, viral enemy. So here I share tips based in Traditional Chinese Medicine and my Chi Gong Practice on how to put the mask on and how to remain calm when wearing it.
Don’t just jump right in, hurriedly putting the mask on and rush out the door. Take a minute. Check your posture. Are you standing up straight, are your shoulders down from your ears and your upper chest open. In Chinese Medicine, the lung meridian, which transports energy around the body just as veins transport blood, begins under the collar bone where it meets the shoulder and rotator cuff. Keeping this area open increases lung capacity, enabling more oxygen to enter and nourish the body.
2. Knock on the Chest
If our posture is upright and our shoulders are back, the chest will naturally open. Use the fingers to tap into the lung 1 point on the upper chest, continue tapping all along under the collar bone until you reach the hollows under the clavicle bone. In Chinese Medicine, the organs link to certain emotions. The lungs hold grief and sadness. When our shoulders hunch forwards, the beginning of this energy meridian can become blocked exacerbating emotions of isolation and despondency. So by tapping on the area and addressing posture our mood lifts and our breathing eases.
3. Move it
The Chi Gong movement called “Rooster spreading feathers” will further open all areas of the upper chest and torso. The movement also moves the muscles and increases blood flow to the neck and shoulder area, where anxious tension, stiffness and stress can be held in the body, bringing on headaches, nosebleeds and migraines. Begin by bringing all the fingers together to a point and placing them into the Lung 1 point. The begin drawing imaginary circles, in a clockwise direction with the elbows, whilst still keeping the fingers stuck to the lung 1 point.
4. Breathe Deep
When anxiety rises, the immune system lowers and that is precisely the opposite of what we want to happen when we are out and about, mixing and moving. The deeper we breathe the stronger our energy and the lower our stress levels. To stay calm and breathe deeply we need to build stability in our centre. The core of being in Chinese Medicine is located at CV6 on the midline of the body, 2 fingers below the belly button. This is the place to focus on before we put on the mask. Take five breaths, in and out, through the nose, sending the breath to this point. Where the breath goes the Chi Follows and you may find this area in your lower abdomen becoming fantastically warm and relaxed. As you breathe in feel your lower belly relax and as you exhale, your belly goes towards the spine. You can press into the point or hold your hands just below the belly button if this helps you to focus here. After five breaths or whenever you feel comfortable, with clean hands put on your mask by looping it over the ears. Remain where you are, don’t rush out the door, continue to consciously send at least 5 breaths down to your CV6 point, just below the belly button. Only when you feel relaxed in the shoulders and calm in the belly should you make a move to the outside world.
In Chi Gong, we balance the nervous system using breath, simple movements, and by the power of the mind to transform negative feelings into positive emotions. Studies show that feeling happy and relaxed boosts the immune system so don’t forget to smile under your mask. People see your smile through your eyes – its called a “Duchenne smile” or smizing. Practice engaging your whole face when you smile, think of things that make you happy, use all the muscles and remember how that feels so you can do it with ease as you pass people in the supermarket or on the street. This costs nothing and yet adds to your health and to those around you.
Let’s do it together: If you’d like to start your day right, emotionally and physically, come and practice Chi Gong at 8.30 every morning with me and have recordings sent to your email so you can repeat or catch up if you missed us. To subscribe visit Chi Flow with Jo or watch more videos on staying healthy with Traditional Chinese Medicine at www.joannefaulkner.ie