For more than half a year now, many of the activities we once engaged in freely have been cancelled, restricted, or altered in significant ways. Most of us are spending more time at home, seeing fewer people outside of our immediate households, and taking on levels of planning and preparation we never imagined for formerly-simple activities like grocery shopping or a trip to the library. And, of course, those of us who practice yoga have found our practices changed along with everything else.
One of most personal effects of the current pandemic is that we have all been forced to assess our lives and our activities in new ways. As we plan more and do less, we are all asking ourselves how important is Activity X? Is it a risk to my health or the heath of my loved ones? Is it worth the extra time and effort? In other words, is it essential, or can I let it go? For many of us, yoga and meditation practice has made the cut. We find that they are, in fact, essential parts of our lives.
An article in the International Journal of Yoga (republished by the U.S. National Library of Medicine) went even further, suggesting—with the backing of many scientifically rigorous studies—that yoga and meditation may actually mitigate some of the physical, psychological, and social effects of the pandemic. The article explains how improvements in immune function and respiratory capacity are among the documented effects of yoga, as well as mood regulation and alleviation of stress. These effects may be particularly important to Covid patients with such complicating health conditions as diabetes and hypertension. The study says that, “findings indicate toward a potential complementary role for yoga in the management of communicable diseases.” In simpler words, yoga can make us feel healthier, and it may even help us be healthier during this pandemic.
Of course, that doesn't mean that our yoga practices look like they always did. Some of us are relying on self-guided home practices. Some have purchased more yoga DVDs or subscribed to streaming services and online classes. Some have taken one-on-one lessons. Some have continued to attend group classes outdoors, or in studios with greatly reduced capacity and new safety protocols. Some of us have changed the styles and types of yoga we practice. (Personally, I find myself drawn more than ever to soothing, restorative practices, like legs-up-the-wall.)
Here at Yoga Neighborhood, we moved some of our private classes for our partner organizations online and temporarily cancelled others as our partners worked to protect the health and safely of their vulnerable populations. With deep regrets, we stopped offering our indoor community yoga classes—thank goodness for the lovely summer weather and continued relative warm that have allowed us to offer beach yoga for an extended season this year. And, of course, we continue to work behind the scenes with our partners towards the day when more and more of our usual schedule can resume.
We want to know what yoga looks like now for our friends and supporters. Is your yoga practice an essential part of your life? How are you practicing during the pandemic? What are your favorite practices? Favorite resources? What keeps you moving forward in your practice, and what advice do you have for others who want to make the most of their own practice in these times? Leave us a comment. And keep practicing!