To stay centred in hope amidst the pervading gloom of the pandemic is a challenge

The Asian Age.  | Nivi Shrivastava

People are turning to video-calling apps and other modern technology to get guidance on tried-and-tested techniques to relax the mind

Dr Sunitha Acharya from Sivananda Yogalaya

It’s quite paradoxical when people who seek a break from long screen hours log in every day on their gadgets to find focus and relaxation.

But such are the unusual times we are living in.

As cases of anxiety and mental health issues rise each day of the ongoing pandemic, people are signing up to find tranquillity through virtual guided meditation techniques.

From Zazen or seated meditation, through chanting mantras to box breathing and visualisation, there are many techniques that are becoming popular among all age-groups.  

Classic Approach

According to Dr Sunitha Acharya from Sivananda Yogalaya, “At the back of our minds, we fear the pandemic situation.” Her online meditation classes are divided into different segments which include guided sessions of Mantra japa, breathing, mindfulness, gazing at the flame of a lamp and listening to instrumental classical music.

She says, “We start with mantra recitations as the collective positive vibrations of sounds increase positivity. Then we move to Trataka, where we tell the students to prepare a castor oil diya and look at the flame (it helps increase concentration). Our class ends with classical music where we play the flute or other soothing Indian music to relax the mind.”  

Box Breathing

While fitness and yoga classes through apps are not hard to follow, finding inner peace online with the help of a mentor could be challenging. For virtual relaxation, wellness expert Dr Deepika Krishna recommends box breathing. She calls it the “most effective” way to deal with mental breakdown and stress. It is a relatively new technique and is practiced around the world.

“This technique is also called four-square breathing practices, where you start breathing with your nose and the pressure should be put on your belly instead of your chest,” she explains. Box breathing is often practiced by Navy professionals, police officers, nurses and athletes undergoing high-intensity training. It is beneficial for those who have lung diseases. “Controlling your breath through this technique also helps boosts the immune system and improves metabolism,” says Dr Deepika.

Buddhist Chanting

Amandeep Arora, a communications professional, is eloquent about Nichiren Daishonin, a Buddhist practice that brings together people from different walks of life to discuss Buddhism. “Since the lockdown, we have been meeting weekly online and chanting in unison in front of Gohonzon, a scroll inscribed with Chinese and Sanskrit characters.

The characters on the Gohonzon depict the “ceremony in the air” as described in the Lotus Sutra. At this ceremony, the Bodhisattvas of the earth vow to lead people to happiness during the most tumultuous of times. It is also the process of perceiving and bringing forth the life condition of Buddhahood from within ourselves. In this time of a pandemic, the collective prayers and chants are very relaxing and encouraging for everyone,” she says.


The last few years have seen a sharp rise in the number of people turning to spirituality for mental wellbeing in India. Pooja Khera, a certified wellbeing coach, says even people in their early twenties are joining the bandwagon.

“To my clients, I recommend simple meditation, mindfulness, and visualisation techniques for calmness,” she says. Visualisation, or guided imagery, is a variation of traditional meditation. It involves imagining a scene in which you feel at peace, free to let go of all tension and anxiety.

“Choose whatever setting is most calming to you, whether it’s a tropical beach, a favourite childhood spot, a sunset, a musical ambience, etc.,” Pooja recommends. “This helps manage stress, emotions, and anxiety in the time of lockdown.”