Saturday October 20, 2018

Ganesha festivities: Social themes rule the roost

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Lucknow: It seems that managers and convenors of Ganesha Chaturthi appear to have drawn strong inspirations from Durga Puja organisers in West Bengal. Socio-cultural themes this year are pining for attention in league with comic characters in the pandals.

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The festivities on the Hindu God Ganesha kick off on Thursday with the fabricated structures housing the idol presenting glimpses of contemporary issues such as Swachh Bharat (clean India), Yoga, scourge of terrorism and saving the girl child.

These issues are close to the heart of PM Narendra Modi, as seen in his campaigns. Also vying for attention are the ubiquitous Walt Disney characters such as Micky Mouse and the all-time favorite of people of all ages, Spiderman.

Gone are the days when people in the ‘City of Nawabs‘ would stand in serpentine queues waiting to seek the blessings of the pot-bellied Ganesha. The pandals across the city now throw in entertainment to bring in the crowds, not unlike their counterparts in Kolkata or elsewhere, where Durga puja celebrations bring in a touch of fun.

According to the organisers, not only Ganesha would be granting the faithfuls the darshan but the pandals will also enlighten them on where the government and perhaps society wants them to go– towards cleanliness, health and social consciousness.

At the Ganesha pandal at Ramadhin Inter College, there will be large cut-outs of cartoon characters urging parents to send their children to school. A pandal, where a mid-sized Ganesha has been brought from Maharashtra, would depict the ugly face of terrorism through pictures of the terrorist attack on a Pakistani school.

At Bada Shivalaya in Sankatadevi temple, the idol will talk about the menace of reservation in jobs and seeking its support to end it, according to an organiser.

At Aminabad, Ganesha would be seen in 16 postures of Yoga. Organizer Atul Awasthi says the hall would be plastered with posters in yoga mudras, stressing on the need to be healthy.

(With inputs from IANS)

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New Study Shows Link Between Meditation And Greater Focus

Supplementation, a healthy diet, and daily exercise are key, with recent studies showing that aerobic exercise also increases brain size.

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Pranayamic breathing is just one way to improve brain health.

Pranayamic breathing – an important part of yoga and meditation – has a unique ability to strengthen our focus and a new study by Trinity College Dublin has unlocked its secret. The researchers note that pranayamic breathing affects the levels of a natural chemical in the brain called noradrenaline. The latter is released when we are challenged, curious, focused, or emotionally excited. When present at the right levels, noradrenaline helps the brain grow new connections and helps us concentrate better on important tasks.

The old masters were on the right track

The researchers noted: “Practitioners of yoga have claimed for some 2,500 years, that respiration influences the mind. We looked for a neurophysiological link that could help explain these claims.” The researchers did so by measuring breathing, reaction time, and brain activity in a small area in the brainstem called the locus coeruleus, where noradrenaline is made. Noradrenaline is affected by stress; when we are worried or anxious we produce too much, and cannot concentrate. When we feel lazy, on the other hand, we produce too little and once again, focus is lost. One way to boost levels is through yoga; another method which can complement the latter is the consumption of medical grade focus supplements, which contain compounds such as octopamine (which has a similar effect to noradrenaline).

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Conversely, those with lower mindfulness ratings had greater activation of this part of the brain and also felt more pain. Pixabay

Pranayamic breathing aces the right balance

In the above study, researchers noted that brain activity in the part of the brain where noradrenaline is produced raises slightly when we inhale and drops slightly as we exhale. Thus, balance is achieved and we can focus on what we have set out to do. Pranayama not only boosts concentration but also produces “changes in arousal, attention, and emotional control that can be of great benefit to the meditator.”

What is Pranayamic breathing?

Pranayamic breathing involves controlling and extending breath, with a view to manipulating your vital energy, battling stress, and improving your mood. It is often used in meditation and yoga and interestingly, many yoga experts rank pranayama as even more important than asanas (the postures performed in a yoga session). In yogic tradition, breath is said to carry a person’s life force. Interestingly, scientific studies back this assertion to the extent that pranayamic breathing is able to boost brain function and change the actual structure of the brain. In recent studies, pranayamic breathing has been found to lower or stabilize blood pressure, lower stress, and reduce anxiety and depression.

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In order to comprehend better the Indian seers constructed the special “BOAT” – named Yoga/Meditation.

Implications of the study for aging

The researchers are excited that their findings could signal a way to prevent brain aging. They stated that if brains typically lose mass as we age, practices such as pranayamic breathing greatly reduce the rate of brain shrinkage, thus potentially helping keep dementia and related diseases at bay. Because keeping noradrenaline levels at an optimal level can help the brain grow new connections, meditation is an ideal activity to pursue.

Pranayamic breathing is just one way to improve brain health. Supplementation, a healthy diet, and daily exercise are key, with recent studies showing that aerobic exercise also increases brain size. To make the most of the effect of breathing on focus, consider joining a yoga class or learning the essence of pranayamic breathing online or through an app like Prana Breath or Universal Breathing.