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M. P. Ravindra Nathan




Influenza has been in the forefront of medical news recently because of the emergence of a new human pandemic virus called Influenza A (H1N1), commonly known as swine flu. Typically found in pigs, human infections made its first appearance in California and Texas in early 2009 but now have spread worldwide. The World Health Organization raised the pandemic level of H1N1 from 5 to 6 to indicate this is causing more serious infections and deaths.

The matter really hit home when I went to India for a short trip recently and landed at Kochi International Airport in my hometown. Even before we met the Immigration and Customs officials for passport and visa clearance, we were asked to form a single file. Every one of us was screened for fever by an digital electronic beam thermometer remotely as we passed the entry door. If you did have even a slight fever, you would be quarantined for a few days in a hospital before they let you go.

I was a bit nervous until I safely got out of the airport. If you are traveling outside the country, you will be required to fill a special form attesting that you are not suffering from swine flu symptoms.

Federal health officials say this will be one of the most complicated flu seasons in memory because it involves two flu viruses — the standard seasonal flu and the much-dreaded H1N1 flu.

From 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population, including residents in long term-care facilities and health care workers, are infected with influenza every year. Annual flu-related hospitalizations range from 200,000 to 400,000, depending on seasonal variations in virulence. And you can expect 40,000 to 60,000 deaths from influenza each year in United States, 90 percent of who are 65 and older. This year, it could be worse since we have the additional burden of swine flu to contend with. Symptoms of swine flu are the same as the regular flu except that they are more severe. When CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta came down with the swine flu in Afghanistan recently, he said, "This was the sickest I had ever been."

The modes of transmission for common influenza are well known and they are more or less the same for swine flu. Droplets expelled from the mouth or nose of infected persons is the common mode, so stay away from those who suffer from the illness, especially when they start coughing or sneezing. These infectious aerosol droplets can travel more than 10 feet and can stay suspended in the air for some time, especially if the humidity is low, hence the increase in the spread during cold weather. Anything the infected person touches with a virus-contaminated hand — pens, books, keypads, remote control, towels — can easily transmit the virus to others.

Officials predict the swine flu could infect half of the U.S. population. This is a real cause for alarm. The vaccine for H1N1 virus has just arrived and plans for the general public this year will include separate vaccinations for seasonal flu and H1N1. Children, pregnant women, health care workers, adults especially those suffering from other diseases like diabetes and asthma are more susceptible and must be immunized.

I attended a recent teleconference with CDC regarding the H1N1 vaccine safety. The Food and Drug Administration has already approved the use of one dose of H1N1 flu vaccine for persons 10 years and older. Children younger than 10 years most likely will need two doses of the vaccine. Immunization does work despite some controversy about it. Mass vaccination also will protect the unvaccinated from getting the infection.

Physicians are already ordering extra quantities of the vaccine. But there is a possibility that they may run out of the vaccine. Hence, don't wait too long. Get vaccinated by the end of October or early November. It may take up to a month for full immunity to be established.

Also, we need to implement better preventive and safety precautions focusing on practicality. Here is a checklist to follow this flu season:

Wash your hands using soap or alcohol-based hand cleanser after contact with any individual you suspect of being infected. Regularly disinfect the frequently touched surfaces with Lysol.

Wear a sterile mask in crowded places and if you are visiting infected persons. Every single employee in Indian airports that I passed through recently right down to the cleaners and baggage handlers was wearing a mask.

Stay at least 3 feet away from people who exhibit symptoms of cough, sneezing, etc., especially in public places or turn your face away and don't breathe in the droplets.

Ann-Gayl Ellis, director of Health Education at the nursing at Hernando County Health department, informed me that they will receive adequate supplies of intranasal mist vaccine and the injectable vaccines by mid October. They have been sending information out to local physicians over the last several weeks, in an effort to stem this crisis. For information, visit the Web site

Dr. M.P. Ravindra Nathan is a Brooksville cardiologist and director of the Hernando Heart Clinic.  





Winter usually discourages people from exercising. It is hard to stay motivated to go and run early in December or January mornings. However, the most important factor to remember is that you stay active. There are several exercise and precautions you can take.

Choose indoor exercise environment such as your home or a fitness facility.

A fitness studio is full of different exercise equipment that helps to keep up with your routine.

Create a home gym. Have steps, bar, dumbbells and bozo at home. With this equipment, you can easily perform 30 to 50 minutes exercise routine. 

·         Steps cover your cardio -- 100 to 500 steps per exercise session

·         Bar and dumbbells cover your weightlifting – three sets of bicep curls and triceps curls with 10 repetitions per exercise session.

·         Bar covers your chest and back – three sets of bench press with bar with 10 repetitions. 

·         Bozo or Bounce ball cover your abs – five sets of sit-ups with 20 repetitions per session. 

·       100 sit-ups daily for 365 days will give you the abs of your dream.

The exercise course normally stays the same but the precaution must be taken during winter. I like winter and enjoy an outdoor workout during winter. However, I always take following precautions because we exercise to get healthy, not injured or ill.

·         Get warm first. A proper warm-up is critical. Cold temperatures can make your muscles tight and, therefore, they are more prone to injuries. So, it's important to get them warmed-up prior to engaging in intense physical activity.

·         Insulate your body. The best approach to dressing for outdoor exercise is with layers. Layering provides the most effective heating method, plus it allows you to remove the top layer if you get too hot. The layer closest to your skin should allow moisture to be wicked away. The top layer should be both wind and water resistant.

·         No sweat. Don't assume that you have to sweat to get a good workout. You should avoid sweating that causes the clothing layer closest to your skin to get wet and result in you feeling chilled. Instead, monitor your intensity through a heart rate monitor or the Rating of Perceived Exertion.

·         Don't strip when you get inside. While you may be tempted to immediately remove your layers when returning inside, give your body time to adjust. Post-exercise hypothermia is possible. This happens when your body rapidly loses its heating stores.

·         Drink up. It's just as important to stay hydrated when exercising in winter as it is in summer, even though you might not feel as thirsty.

·         Lighten up. If possible, it's best to exercise outdoors during daylight areas. But, with shorten days that can be difficult to do. If you exercise outdoors when it is dark, wear reflective materials to ensure that you can be seen.

Share your exercise experience and health-related stories by e-mailing




Namaste readers!

In the spirit of yog, let me clarify that this column reflects only my experiential knowing, as a householder seeker, contrary to that of a scholar’s view about yog. This science is just like life, it is be simple on the surface, but complex in its depth!

The intention here is to expand the awareness of what yog really IS and all its aspects, and to inspire readers to make an intimate connection with yog through a regular yoga practice in their daily life, to cultivate and retain holistic health and happiness, to eventually realize and serve the true purpose of human life.  

So let us continue with understanding the definition of Patanjali’s Astanga yog. In this column, we will explore the fourth limb, Pranayama. It is the most influential limb, which reveals the great secret of yoga.

4. Pranayama is yogic-breathing exercises to direct and influence the underlying Prana – the vital life force energy – in the breath. Prana in us makes us live and allows us to act. The primary Prana energy in the body divides into five qualitative types according to its movement and direction. They are Prana, Samana, Vyana, Udana and Apana.

The Prana governs the intake of substances. Samana governs their digestion. Vyana governs the circulation of nutrients. Udana governs the release of positive energy. Apana governs the elimination of waste materials. 

These are energy processes that have influence on all the five aspects of our self, known as five Koshas or the Sheaths, from gross to subtlest, they are:

  1. Annamaya kosha – physical body - food - the five elements: earth, water, air, fire and space
  2. Pranamaya kosha – vital/energy body - breath - the five Pranas
  3. Manomaya kosha – psycho-emotional body - the five kinds of sensory impressions, the sight, sound, smell, taste, touch through the mind
  4. Vijnanamaya kosha – wisdom body - intelligence - directed mental activity
  5. Anandamaya kosha – bliss body – experiential - steadfast witnessing awareness with loving compassion – subtlest super-conscious mind.

Most of the adverse conditions of body, mind and life, can be harmonized through the proper and regular practice of Pranayama, and/or simply, breath awareness. The key to health and well-being is to keep our Pranas in harmony.

Through Pranayama, we can control the body’s temperature, health and energy level, and the mind’s balance, quality of thoughts, direction, clarity and focus. It purifies body and mind, preparing for the subtler practice of next four limbs.

There are many Pranayamas, each with variations. The eight basics are:

1. Three part yogic breath – Dheergh

2. Hissing breath - Ujjai

3. Fire breath – Kapalbhati

4. Bellow breath – Bhastrika

5. Straw breath – Shitali

6. Inhalation/Exhalation Locks – Rechak/Poorak Bandhas

7. Alternate nostril breath – Anulom Vilom

8. Bumblebee breath – Bhramari.

In your next personal yoga practice, and throughout the day in your movements, see if you can mindfully become more aware of the Prana in the breath. It is always there with you, till your last breath! Constant awareness of this Prana at the experiential level IS yog! Make breath your best friend! 

To be continued …

Achala K. Rao is a certified Integrative Yoga Therapy instructor, Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) and energy healing practitioner in Valrico. She can be reached at 813-716-7026 or e-mail  

Braham Aggarwal, left , Baba Ramdev, Chief Guest Bhishma Agnihotri and Chandrakant Patel


    Story provided by Gujarat Gaurav Parivaar, Florida

More than 1,200 people attended a discourse by Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev Oct. 7 at India Cultural Center in Tampa. Organized by the Gujarat Gaurav Parivaar, Florida, the program was presided over by Chandrakant Patel, who welcomed the audience. Well-known philanthropist and community leader Braham Aggarwal of Orlando noted that saintly personalities such as Swami Ramdev are God’s special gift and belong to an unbroken chain of Indian rishis, philosophers and spiritual masters. Chief Guest Bhishma Agnihotri spoke about the yogic revolution brought about by Baba Ramdev all over India by teaching yoga in a simple manner.

In his discourse, Swami Ramdev spoke of Rashtra Bhakti (patriotism), Bhagwat Bhakti (devotion to God) and Yog Shakti (spiritual energy). He highlighted upon the numerous benefits of yoga that provide holistic health and cure all types of diseases. Via his newly founded Bharat Swabhiman Manch, he plans to enroll 500 million workers across the country in the next five years to ensure that honest and brave politicians are voted to power.

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