Teaching of the Month. Vikalpa and Kalpana.

by Maureen Rae, RN, E-RYT

Thought we would diverge this month from the more basic traditional teachings, and ponder a little about the current state of affairs about the ‘upcoming plagues’ – flu and H1N1. And then to look at this from a yogic perspective.

The doom-sayers are certainly at the forefront of the media these days, predicting that many of us will fall ill this season. To vaccinate, or not to vaccinate, that is the question. And with what vaccine? And when? And who? 

Oh, my.

While we remain watchful, and more than a little skeptical of the ‘approaching pandemic,’I think it is prudent to take some precautions. 

Yoga, as we know, has many ways to overcome the obstacles to dharma (life purpose.) One of the obstacles, it would seem, may be illness. So let’s focus first on down-home remedies to boost the all-important immune system this fall/winter.

Individuals with compromised immune function seem to be the most likely to develop more severe symptoms – the very young, the very old, the chronically ill. Yet, there are some cases of young adults as well who have fallen ill. 

First (and foremost), take a look at your diet! Fresh fruits, vegetables are recommended. Avoid processed, chemically laden foods.

Wash your hands. Often. The backs of the hands, too. And your wrists. And clean under your fingernails.

For now, when you meet someone, maybe NOT shake hands! A big smile is even better!

Change your towel linens frequently. Have a different towel for everyone in the house.

Avoid exposure to chemical pollutants – whether in the home or workplace or environment, heavy metals, chemical solvents, household cleaning products.

Limit your intake of caffeine, alcohol and pharmaceuticals – especially over-the-counter, self-prescribed drugs. Of course, no one is smoking these days!

Get enough rest. Adults need 8 – 9 hours per day. Teenagers and children need more. 

Reduce your stress level. YES YOU CAN! How fast CAN you go after all? What’s the prize at the end of the race? Yoga can help!

Negative emotions. Seems these days that anger, fear, frustration, envy and hatred are more common than happiness contentment, compassion and love. Yoga again.

Sneeze/cough into your sleeve. Not on everybody else. If you are sick, stay home from work. Please do not come to the studio!

Positive Affirmation. Every day, recite “I am a healthy and contented person.” 

Interestingly, September’s issue of Yoga Journal has an excellent article written by Sally Kempton, on just this subject! Visualize you being healthy! And this is where more of the subtleties of yoga come into play. 

Vikalpa and Kalpana are both Sanskrit words for imagination. 
Sally writes “Vikalpas are basic mental fantasies, and these account for most of our imaginative experiences. Vikalpas are the images, thoughts and mental static that play randomly in the mind. In fact, most of the contents of your mind belong in this category.” (Mental images of things that have not yet happened.) “Yogic texts war against falling for these stories, and they all have the same advice: Let the vikalpas go. Classical yoga practice aims to dissolve them. Through meditative focus, we can begin to recognize them as simply empty thoughts – not real. (Just fanciful bits of energy that run through our minds…a Lot!)

With Kalpanas, we enter the realm of deliberate creation. A kalpana is an INTENTIONAL mental image. Because of this, it is more more purposeful and powerful than an idea or uncontrolled vikalpa or daydream, (or nightmare). Kalpanas are the foundation of human art and science, mythology, religious constructs, political and military strategies and the fictions that sometimes seem to drive our culture. Since kalpanas can take on a life of their own (those who write fiction know that moment when the characters start speaking for themselves,) we often find we have to untangle the threads of what seems at first like an innocent mental creation. Thus the saying “Be careful of what you wish for!”

We have lot of exposure nowadays to the idea of using the imagination to create what we wish to happen. Research has shown that these imaginations are good for our health and even for developing skills – athletes creating a ‘win’ in their minds - they see, feel, hear themselves with the gold medal in their hand! Before the actual event. We can, by repeating and taking part in the fantasies, make them happen!

This fall and winter, let’s Think Ourselves Into Wellness. Imagine you in a state of healthful balance where your energies are all flowing in an unobstructed way. 

So, all the above is a pre-amble to Do yoga! Move your body. Move that negative energy outta there!

Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured. ~B.K.S. Iyengar