Thank you for subscribing to my blog. As I am already an introvert, the isolation of caregiving and hiding from the corona virus have really impacted my opportunities for connection. So—you’re readership is greatly appreciated.
The most important things in life are the connections you make with others.
In this time of COVID-19, it is especially helpful to attend to the breath. Breathing exercises have many benefits, one of which is strengthening and cleansing the lungs to make them more resistant to illness.
About three months ago, when social isolation and reduced activity began to affect my emotional state, I resumed practicing hatha yoga daily. I’ve been doing various styles of hatha yoga on and off for many years. The practice I do now is taught by the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers. I studied this style in 2011, when I became a certified yoga teacher at the center in London. It was one of the most challenging months of my life.
But back to pranayama.
In the yogic tradition, the breath is seen as the outward manifestation of prana, or vital energy. Gaining control of the breath by practicing breathing exercises—pranayama—increases the flow of prana through the body, which literally recharges body and mind. Aim to practice pranayama for up to 30 minutes daily, before or after asana practice.
-from p. 178, Yoga, Your Home Practice Companion published by the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center
Sivananda-style yoga originated with Swami Sivananda (b. 1887) who was a medical doctor. He gave up his medical practice to become a renunciate, eventually settling in Rishikesh and entering monkhood. He opened the Sivananda Ashram, established the Divine Life Society, and started his teaching organization, The Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy. His disciple, Swami Vishnudevananda, brought the teachings to the West.
But back to pranayama.
I do two types of breathing exercise. Anuloma viloma (alternate nostril breathing) is good for balancing the nervous system. Kapala Bhati cleanses the respiratory passages and increases the capacity of the lungs. I like this exercise because I can actually feel my lung capacity improving.
Here is a good tutorial for Kapala Bhati:
Pranayama is not hard to do and doesn’t require a lot of time.
A last word from Yoga, Your Home Practice Companion:
Although the language and imagery of pranayama may appear quite mystical, in practice its effects are concrete. Whether you are a beginner or a more advanced yoga practitioner, pranayama trains the respiratory muscles, develops use of your lungs’ full capacity, and improves your body’s supply of oxygen while reducing its carbon dioxide levels. It also helps to relax and strengthen your nervous system, calm the mind, and improve concentration.
Last week my wrist wasn’t working right, so I took my arm to the Body Shop.
“What seems to be the problem?” Dr. Scott asked.
“It hurts when I start in the morning. Sometimes it just locks up completely. I’m having trouble lifting things and opening jars.”
Dr. Scott manipulated my wrist. “Hmm, I’ll need to get in there and have a look,” he said. “We’re kind of backed up here today. One of the techs called in sick. Can you leave the arm until tomorrow?”
“Uh, not really. I kind of need it for holiday cooking. Can you give me a loaner?”
“Sure can, but this is all I’ve got left,” Dr. Scott said. He reached under the counter and brought out a man-sized arm. It was covered in curly black hair. The underside was tattooed with a skull and lightning bolts.
I eyed it with distaste. “That’s all, huh?”
Dr. Scott shrugged. “Yeah, sorry.”
He helped me snap the arm into my shoulder socket. My sweater barely stretched over the bicep. A few inches of hairy wrist stuck out below the cuff. I had planned to stop at the deli on the way home, but decided to avoid the embarrassment.
At the house, my husband was reading in his recliner.
“Well, did he fix your wrist?” he asked without looking up.
“Not today. He gave me a loaner. Look.”
“Whoa, that is some heavy duty arm you’ve got there,” he exclaimed. “Cool tattoos.”
“Not cool,” I said. “I’m off-balance.”
“Hey, let me see you flex that thing.”
I obliged with a scowl.
He grinned. “Wow! That’s some bicep! I bet you could help me replace the bathroom faucet,” he said, pushing out of his chair. “Let’s try it.”
Sure enough, the loaner arm had more than enough strength to loosen the rusty bolt. We fixed the faucet. Then I hefted three forty-pound bags of water conditioner salt from the car into the basement. I poured one bagful into the tank. After that, I carried the thirty-pound frozen turkey from the basement freezer into the kitchen.
“I don’t know, honey,” my husband said, “that arm is pretty useful. Maybe you should keep the loaner.”
“Right,” I said. “And I bet this arm can strangle a spouse pretty well, too.”
(Why write about soap on December 31? Perhaps it’s a desire to wash away 2020 and come out fresh and clean in the new year. May you all have a healthy, safe 2021.)
Not long ago, my daughter made me aware that my choice of laundry detergent was wasteful, expensive, and unecological. She had found a company that made earth-safe cleaning products, Dropps. (https://www.dropps.com/?msclkid=1192a6aaf1ba1a589270f960d4aeb922 if you’re interested). I gave it a quick look but didn’t sign up. Nevertheless, she had planted the idea in my mind, so I started paying more attention. I wondered what percentage of a bottle of Tide is water?
It occurred to me that I used to buy powdered Tide in a box.* That product would cut out the extra water content and the plastic bottle. So I looked for it at my local supermarket. Only liquid laundry detergent stocked the shelves. I ended up with pods. These, at least, eliminated the plastic bottle, but the little plastic pods that “dissolved” were now suspect. Most likely they just put more microplastic in our oceans.
Why couldn’t I get powdered laundry soap at the store? The question bothered me enough that I went hunting on the Internet. The first site I found more than answered my question. I had to sift through a lot of information, but here’s what I learned: half the world is still using powdered laundry soap.
The scene is quite different at, say, the giant Idumota Market in Lagos, Nigeria. There, economical powdered detergents dominate. They come in sizes ranging from cheap single-use packets to multikilogram bags. In rural areas, powdered detergents are often sold out of large sacks by the cup to buyers who bring their own containers. Liquids are nowhere to be found. **
If I understood the explanation correctly, it seems that the grease-busting chemicals can be more easily suspended in liquid (water) than in powder. In the U.S., Tide is still the best-selling (and one of the most expensive) products on the shelf.
These are the two ends of the global laundry detergent market. Consumers in the US, accustomed to liquids or newer unit-dose pod products, may not be aware that powders are alive and well in Africa, India, China, Latin America, and elsewhere in the developing world. Powders also persist in highly developed western European countries, where families prize them for their whitening ability.
Apparently, it was a big deal to concoct a liquid detergent with compatible ingredients that didn’t separate on the shelf. Proctor and Gamble took up the challenge
P&G couldn’t ignore the appeal to consumers of a product that is easy to dispense, dissolves quickly, especially in cold water, and can be dabbed on to pretreat stains. No doubt the firm also considered the premium it could charge.
Aha! That sneaky little sentence got my attention.
Lately, the shift [to liquids] is particularly pronounced in Japan and South Korea, according to Corrado Mazzanti, the firm’s sales director for surfactants and detergents. “Ten years ago powders dominated,” he says. “Now they are 10–15%.” It’s also happening in Latin American countries like Brazil, where P&G spent $120 million in 2015 to build a liquid detergent plant and subsequently stopped selling powdered versions of its popular Ariel and Ace brands in the country.
Detergent company executives like P&G’s Cumming say investments in liquids are a response to consumer wishes, yet Mazzanti contends that big companies actively promote them because they are more profitable. “The cost of each wash done with liquids versus powders is much higher,” he says.
Profit is the bottom line, here. Big manufacturers apparently assume no responsibility for the pollutants they add to our burdened Earth. I recommend that you read the full article if the topic interests you. It’s an eye-opener.
Meanwhile, I’m trying out a new product, Tru-Earth Eco-strips: dry laundry detergent in index-card-sized pieces that come in a paper packet. You can choose fragrance-free or fresh linen scent. Biodegradable. Hypoallergenic. Made in Canada.
Since March and the advent of the corona virus, I’ve been staying out of the library. Instead, I downloaded the Libby app that allows me to borrow books on my iPad or iPhone. The new releases almost always have waiting lists, so I go to “available books.” Lately I’ve been choosing historic fiction.
Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant
This novel about the Borgia family was a good, fast read. It centers around Lucrezia Borgia and chronicles her life up to her third marriage into the d’Este family. The corruption, politics, murders, and wars of this period in Italy’s history are so extreme that it’s almost unbelievable. Pope Alexander VI and his son, Cesare, were ruthless manipulators. Dunant is promising us a sequel.
2. The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
Told through the letters a young girl writes to her deceased mother, this book recounts the flight of twelve-year-old Nisha’s family from Pakistan. It is a dangerous journey during the time of partition, when Pakistan is carved out from India after India gains independence. Nisha, half-Muslim and half Indian, feels as torn apart as her country.
The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi
Another tale of life in India. Lakshmi escapes from an abusive marriage and establishes herself as a henna artist for wealthy, upper class women. Her plans for her own independence are overturned with the appearance of a sister she never knew she had. I enjoyed learning about all the cultural paths and obstacles of India in the 1950s.
Right now I’m reading The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert – for the second or third time. This round, I’m reading partly as a writer, looking more closely at Gilbert’s technique. What a change from Eat, Pray, Love! Yet the confidence, warmth, and humor of her memoir still manage to shine through a very different type of story. Highly recommended.