How to do real yoga in a pandemic…in unpredictable situations like these, I do not think that we can really prepare for anything as much as we would like to. All we can do is try and do our best, be our best and work with what we got. In dire times it is really important to follow our inner compass and hope we are making the right choices for us and those around us. We also don’t want to be following herd mentality blindly because we saw where that would get us. I am referencing the toilet paper craze that happened recently as a result of Covid-19.
The current situation sort of takes me back to the Lebanese Civil War…only back then I did not have yoga. I have been putting my yoga practice to use these days. When I use the word ‘yoga’ most would think of asana, stretches, and weird contortions of the body. While those are helpful, and they are a first step. Yoga asana, or postures are not yoga.
What yoga really is:
Yoga postures are what we do to help us practice yoga. We need yoga. Yoga doesn’t need us.
I’d like to expand on each one of those things within the context of the recent pandemic in hopes that the reader gets a deeper understanding of yoga. Perhaps this will also offer some insights on how to make this intense time a little more tolerable by applying the real work of yoga in our day to day.
This really means that we listen to others and also listen to our soul. Really listening to others helps us understand them while listening to our soul allows us to take the actions that are best suited for us.
Listening to what people need at this time while also balancing what we need is one of the toughest things we as humans have to do. In the case of our pandemic, listening to the truth can be tough when there are so many conflicting sources that distract us. All we really need at this time is to know what the symptoms are and how to protect ourselves if we were to contract the disease. Fearing it will not save us. The most important thing is: to know what to do.
Seeing is not just with the eyes. It is with the heart mind and soul. When you see something on a deep level you know it to be true. It is akin to intuition. You know but you don’t know how you know. That is the true seeing. For instance with the corona virus it doesn’t take much to see how fragile our humanity is, in fact our entire existence can be wiped out by something as minute as a virus. There is plenty more we can see by sitting with what is happening. I am surely in the midst of that and will surely share any insights as they arise.
Silencing not only our words, but also our mind chatter. If there is no silence, we will not know how to act or what to do when needed to act. Our system will be over taxed and that is when we will make the choices that will harm us or harm those around us.
One of my dearest yoga teachers used to say: if you don’t breath during yoga postures you are not doing yoga. The breath is more important than the movement. Bringing our attention to the breath several times a day is yoga. This whole pandemic thing is a high stress situation for many of us no doubt, and we are all on uncertain ground, but breathing is an asset like no other. Deepening the breath is a vital practice in stressful times.
We have to be still in order to listen, hear and see. Yet with the recent pandemic everyone is doing everything and anything except trying to be still. The amount of live videos on Facebook alone has gone from 1% to 99% . It is nice we can connect on social media. I think balancing the time with connecting and taking time to be alone will really be of service in finding the answers we need about the situation and also about our life as it is today.
We cannot do self-inquiry without taking time to be with ourselves. No one but us has our answers. These answers come from within us. The universe has just handed us some time to be with our own stuff, to really sit and do nothing, and yet we are still out there hoarding, buying, stocking, and distracting online. Stop the doing and just be for a day or two. It is okay to not have something to do every minute of your waking life. Chillax people.
Devoting one-self to something bigger. A mission, a calling, a higher power or to that which we hold sacred. Devotion is also giving oneself freely to a purpose. In this case nurses and healthcare providers are doing just that these days. Perhaps we can find something similar we can do for a neighbor, a friend or someone who could use assistance in some way these days. Sending a note and asking how someone is maybe the best thing we ever did.
When I use the word faith, I do not mean you have to believe in a religion. Faith is trusting that there is a reason and a purpose for everything that happens. Faith is knowing that we are never given more than we can handle. The things put in our path are meant for our growth and our learning. Faith has helped many of us brave the craziest of storms in our life. With faith we are able to solve the biggest problems, with fear we crumble and fall. Faith is what has allowed humanity to achieve the unachievable.
Right living is insuring we do not take more than we need, be it space, resources, or energy. Making sure the source of our income is rightful. No one wants money or goods that are tainted with the suffering of others.
This one really speaks for itself. Violence here is that which is inflicted on others as much as that inflicted on one self. We can be violent in the way we think of ourselves as well as how we speak of ourselves.
Being honest with others is as important as being honest with ourselves. We can be honest about the fear, and anxiety because when we are we can seek help rather than suppress it and act it out in unhealthy ways.
Stealing can be seen and unseen. We can steal anything from objects to ideas. That is the reason we have citations in academia. I whole heartedly believe in giving credit where credit is due. Hoarding things is a form of stealing. Taking more than we need of anything causes an imbalance in the pristine order of nature and the cycle of life.
moderation of the senses:
Moderation of what we consume with all our senses is making sure what we take in is not harming us be it food, drink, music, movies, and certain types of news.
Giving is not just about money, resources, and objects but the giving of kind words, thoughtful gestures, and letting those we care about know that we care about them. Dedicating one’s time to something one believes in be it an organization or a passion.
Physical hygiene is a given, but what is mean with this is purifying our thoughts, our energy, and our souls by chanting mantra, or other uplifting music or sound such as drums or high frequency music.
This maybe a difficult one at the moment for those struggling financially, or physically or even mentally. Finding the little things we can appreciate, a bud in a tree, the smell of grass after the rain, the beautiful scent of the soap we just purchased. All these things help us feel satisfied in ways that are simple yet powerful.
Doing the things we need to do on a daily basis be they errands , job or family obligations. Self -discipline is also about taking control of the things we can control like our health and well-being. Learning the skills we need to learn, doing the self-inquiry required of us. Self- discipline cannot be done for us. Self-discipline is about developing a strong will.
finding peace amidst the storm:
Imagine yourself in boat pose, and you’re holding that pose for 15 minutes. Actually, I want you to try this now, get up and go into boat pose and hold it. Make sure you do not hold your breath keep the breath deep and stay in boat. After a few minutes it becomes intense: that is the storm we are in now. Use the breath and calm your thoughts, see if the breath can help ease the storm. The more you practice the easier it becomes. Such is life. You have to make it through some storms. It is all about how you carry yourself through such moments.
By surrender I surely do not mean giving up or being complacent. I mean accepting that what is happening is beyond our control, and working on what we can actually control. The only thing we can control is our selves. Our health, our skills, the way we respond to what life hands us.
I have been face to face with my own mortality many times over the course of my life. Such moments have forced me to go internally and question every little detail about my life. It is a form of a purge, so I have learned to use it wisely.
I pray that you may find the courage to change the things you can and accept the things that you cannot change.
Wishing you strength and peace in those crazy times. May you feel supported and protected.