4 Pandemic Yogic Practices

Uncategorized Mar 29, 2020

Four Practices to Get Through the Coronavirus from a Yogic Point of View

As a yoga professional there are a number of tools I can recommend to help us adjust to the current pandemic reality. We may be in this situation for weeks and months. It’s best that we all embrace new practices, or modify current ones, to be prepared and be able to get through this individually and collectively. 

I include some contextual analysis following these practices. 

Here are four practices to consider as we move through the pandemic. 

1. Set aside time for stillness each day 

This can be a challenge for many of us, but it is essential. 

    • Choose a time that will work for you and stick to this time each day
    • Close yourself off from others - a bedroom, a study, your bathroom 
    • Use earplugs to block out distractions if necessary
    • Sit quietly and close your eyes
    • Bring awareness to your breath and watch the breath move in and out of your nostrils

      OPTION 1 - Cultivate Stability

    • Begin to shape the breath with equal length inhalations and exhalations - a 4-count is good
    • After a few rounds add 4-count pauses after each inhalation and exhalation
    • Continue this way for 1-3 minutes
    • For the final few rounds eliminate the pauses returning to the balanced inhalations and exhalations

      This practice cultivates a sense of stability when things may otherwise be feeling unstable.

      OPTION 2 - Cultivate Balance

    • Inhale through both nostrils, close the right nostril with your right thumb, exhale through the left nostril then inhale through the left nostril 6 times
    • After the last inhalation release the right nostril
    • Close the left nostril with the left thumb and exhale through the right nostril and inhale through your right nostril 6 times
    • After the last inhalation release the left nostril
    • Exhale through both nostrils and inhale through both nostrils 6 times
      This practice cultivates a sense of balance within your being.

2. Find time for physical activity

When stuck indoors for long periods your physical and mental well-being will deteriorate without physical activity. 

    • Go for a walk in your community while honouring physical distancing (only if you are symptom-free)
      • Take notice of nature and Her beauty when you are walking - the trees, the clouds, the plants and new growth springing to life
      • Breathe in the fresh air and acknowledge the gift of life 
      • Recognize the bigger picture; look to the sky; if it’s night look to the healing energy of the moon and know you are part of something bigger
    • Find an online yoga practice that meets your needs and interests
      • Seek out practices that are energizing and active, releasing and quieting, or practices with a healing quality 
      • Find practices that integrate breath, awareness and meditation for the most benefit
    • If yoga is not your jam, use the exercise bike or other equipment that’s been collecting dust for too long
      • A good interval session on an exercise bike for 12 minutes every other day is ideal
      • Walk up and down stairs in your house/apartment to get a cardio workout
      • Tune into exercise videos online that align with your physical fitness level
      • Engage family members in collective physical practices - be creative

3. Structure your day

Due to the change in your daily routine brought on by isolating it is most helpful to create a new routine. This will differ depending on your situation - if you are isolating alone or with family. 

Here are a few things to consider:

    •  Go to bed and get up at regular times
      • This helps with maintaining balance and structure in your life; sleep is key to maintaining physical and mental health
    •  Eat at regular times 
      • This helps the body maintain an efficient and regular metabolism
      • Avoid snacking as you may be more sedentary than normal; while snacking may be a way of self-comforting, it will slow digestion and lead to weight gain, sluggishness and mental stagnation
    • Schedule regular times for your physical activities and stick to them
      • Practicing yoga at a regular time 
      • Walking daily at the same time
      • Working out at a regular time 
    • Schedule and structure your kid’s time
      • Study time, playtime, nap time, all should be scheduled to keep order to the day  
    • You time 
      • You need to get away from family responsibilities when possible; consider scheduling responsible parenting time where your partner gives you a break from everyone in the household and you do the same for her/him/them
      • If you’re a single parent, put kids to bed early so you have some time to yourself outside of your active parenting role to tend to your needs and self-care
    • Creative time
      • To maintain mental well-being exploring your creative side can be very uplifting
      • Consider making new dishes for dinner, baking some treats, writing a poem each day, creating art, singalongs with your favourite artists, dance, take an online course on a topic that inspires you

4. Take time for contemplation 

Self-isolation gives us an opportunity to reflect. Contemplation can be a powerful way to reconnect with yourself. Here are a few things to consider for contemplation:

    • Use a gratitude practice to identify the things in your life that you are grateful for
      • It is important to identify unique things every time you practice gratitude rather than doing it by rote, for example, it is not as effective to say “I’m grateful for my health, I’m grateful for my family, I’m grateful for my home” every time.
        Rather, identify new things every day to be grateful for - sometimes these can even be conflicts or challenges from which you learn about a situation or your capacity to navigate through it. 
    • Consider the intentions you’ve set for yourself for the next little while (getting through the pandemic) but also beyond
      • What are the things you are doing well and perhaps need to get better at during the isolation phase?
      • There will be life after COVID-19, what would you like your life to look like then? How would you like to do things differently? What can you do now to begin planning for some changes? 
    • Consider what you as an individual and society as a whole can learn from this pandemic
      • There are different responses that nations are taking just as there are different steps individuals are taking 
      • What are you observing about these? What can we as a global community do differently after the pandemic? What can you as an individual do differently?
      • What are you learning about yourself and how you are responding to this situation?

Using these practices will help you during isolation. Individually and collectively we can work to get through the pandemic. We are learning about ourselves and having a greater understanding of how working together we are stronger. 

The Context

The Coronavirus currently wreaking havoc on the globe is forcing many of us into new daily life practices that may be unfamiliar and even unsettling. The need to practice physical distancing is a necessity, though not so easy for everyone to adopt. The science is clear and the evidence is bearing out - if we distance ourselves from others, the virus’ transmission will be limited. 

Aside from physical distancing from non-family members, we find ourselves confined to our living spaces that now become the hub of everything. We are living in close quarters with family 24/7, which is challenging. Consider that many of us who work full-time actually spend more day-time with our colleagues than with family members. This new intense family situation may be a stressor for some. 

We can intellectually process the need for physical distancing and the need to make our homes the hub of all activity, but we don’t necessarily have the tools to make our homes offices, daycares, activity centres, schools, play centres and places of well-being.  

These are real stressors we need to figure out. 

We’ve become a society of goers and doers. We run to the market daily for a few items for a meal. We dine out with increasing regularity. We travel the country and the globe in increasing numbers - flight travel has doubled in the last decade. We socialize at bars and coffee shops. We attend our kids’ sporting events. We frequent social gatherings. We shop a lot. We go to movies. We visit friends and family. We commute to work. We taxi our kids here and there. We swipe left - or right. We share and consume social media posts. We look after our homes or apartments. We work. And sometimes we rest. 

When told by public health officials to stop much of this in the face of a global pandemic we react. 

We panic. We worry. We plan. We grieve. We obey. We cheat. We wonder.

Everything familiar is stopped in its track.   

Consider the impact on mothers.  

If you are a busy Mom who has become accustomed to doing the majority of household duties, plus being the primary caregiver in your household and you’re also holding down a job to contribute to the household income, you now have to do things in new ways. You are now a full-time caregiver, home educator, housekeeper and likely still balancing your work from home. This is a challenge.   

Consider the impact on professionals.

If you are a busy professional who's seen the merging of work life and private life over the past decades because of the proliferation of digital technologies, you may be forced to find even more exploratory ways to conduct business outside of an office space. The merging of your work and private spaces can add very real stressors to your life. While the initial novelty may be embraced, the real challenges with self-care and distinction between private and professional will present themselves in time. 

Consider the impact on precarious workers. 

If you live in precarity, trying to figure out how to make enough income to pay for living expenses, paying student loans, rent, and having a bit extra for yourself you are well aware of living in challenging times. The call for physical distancing and self-isolation may not even be an option for you. You may have shifts at a grocery store, restaurant or another “essential service”, many of which are staffed by precarious workers. Your reality includes wondering how you’ll pay the bills if you get sick and if the government programs will be sufficient to see you through. The stress or precarity is familiar to you. You live it daily. Now you have an added level of stress to carry. 

Consider the impact on Indigenous communities. 

If you live in an Indigenous community where health services are limited, jobs are not sufficient and community services are inadequate, the prospect of pandemic impacting your community is beyond comprehension. The call for physical distancing when you live in overcrowded and inferior housing is not feasible. The concern of what will occur if a community or family member gets the virus and how it will spread through your household and community weighs heavily on you. 

We have a lot to consider as we move forward. Governments and industry are doing what they can to adapt, adjust, modify and move forward. 

Collectively we need to look after each other - even if from a distance. Individually we need to do what we can to look after ourselves as well.

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

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