Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Yoga and COVID-19

What does yoga have to do with COVID-19?  Everything!

That's the amazing thing about this 2000 year old path of continues to be valid and helpful today.  Yoga is much more than just a physical practice, though the asanas (yoga postures) are a fitting way for our modern society to start connecting with tools of yoga.  For those of you have done a yoga asana class, or a few, or keep coming back to it, or its a part of your weekly routine, what did you get out of it?

Most of my students remark not only on the changes they see in flexibility and strength in their bodies, but also feeling more calm, centered, and present.  And the poses are just the tip of the iceberg!

Diving deeper into the other parts of yoga with pranayama (breath practices), Yamas and Niyamas (ethical practices) and Dharana/ Dhyana (meditation), has helped me to have more lasting periods of feeling content, able to be in the present where anxiety and depression disappear, and less judging of myself and others.

With the current, global pandemic of COVID-19, these practices help to connect back to facts, identify what we can control, and focus on keeping a calm, clear mind to help ourselves and others.

Fear is playing a big role right now and relishes in it's power.  Fear has allowed some minds to dive into paranoia due to feeling powerless and uncertain of the future with reactionary behaviors that may actually be more detrimental to overall health.  Don't get me wrong, there are millions of people who do have a much higher risk and need to take more strict precautions. Even those who need to do this, the mind clinging to a fearful mind state will not change anything, except overload the body system even more.

Yoga teaches us to take time observe what is going on with our reactions to the external environment and discern what conscious actions to take, responding versus reacting.  Think 'Matrix.'  In the scene where Neo is face to face with Mr. Smith, he incorporates all his training and 'sees' things as they are. His movements are slow and deliberate. He remains calm.  Mr. Smith is COVID-19 (or any other life challenge) and yoga practices allow us to meet it just as Neo did with Mr. Smith.

The challenge really is to put down all the excuses to why you can't start to move your body with more awareness and focus on the breath, or start a breathing practice or meditation practice.  I also feel that a purpose of COVID-19 is to help us see more than ever that we do need to take time to go inward and that the external world is not "Truth," but an opportunity for us to grow and learn to become more fully who we are meant to be.

So, where to start?

Here are some easy things to start doing today:

1. Breathe!!  Simply take time to breath.  What I mean by this is stopping for a moment, start consciously breathing in an out through the nose as this slows down the breath and can be more calming for the mind.  Put your hand on your belly above your navel and start directing the breath to the belly. Inhale and feel the belly push into the hand.  Exhale and the belly relaxes. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes and do this as a daily practice or take time during the day to come back to the breath, breathing this way for 5-10 breaths.  Here's a video on belly breathing.

2. Whatever you are doing - going for a walk, brushing your teeth, doing the dishes - doing it with awareness. Use all of your sense to notice what is going on during these actions. What do you see, what do you feel on your skin, what do you smell, what do you hear, what do you taste?  What feelings are coming up?  What thoughts?  Just observe. There's no judgment or right or wrong, just notice.

3. One of the easiest ways to to start meditation is being guided.  It helps to meet a more active mind.  I recommend Insight Timer, a free app, that has tens of thousands of guided meditations, relaxing music, and so much more.  One I specifically recommend is Coherent Breath Symphony by Joseph Robertson. There is great research out there on Coherent Breath, including a wonderful book, "The Healing Power of the Breath," and Robertson's three recordings (a 2 minute explanation, a 9 minute guided meditation, and a 20 minute recording) are helpful in practicing this breath.

4. Join Samya Yoga Healing's private Facebook Group, Yoga and the Mind, to receive even more resources and guidance on this path to mastering the mind for a more calm, peaceful mind state.

Please, let go of excuses and start exploring some of the simple, yet profound practices of yoga.  May you find peace and calm mind. Namaste.

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