Embracing Yoga Life Under the COVID-19 Lockdown -2

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If you think that yoga is just another form of exercise for the body, then you are absolutely wrong. Yoga is much much more than the yoga poses. In fact, the yoga pose in itself is more than just a forward bend or a twist or an inversion; it is about observing your breath and thoughts, about reflecting on the way you feel, and about becoming aware of your body and how it feels as you train your body to find its balance and train your mind to stay in the present moment. 

Yes, you do end up burning calories, losing weight, toning the body, increasing flexibility and at a mental level, feel calm, less anxious, more confident, and everything else that adds to the list of physical and mental benefits, but this is not really the goal of yoga practice. Yoga helps you become aware of the mind, body and breath connection. Yoga asana is just a part of this ancient practice which also includes a list of ethical codes, breathwork, and meditation. It emphasizes the need to lead a balanced life which can be achieved by maintaining a healthy and balanced body and mind.

Yoga is best understood as a way of life rather than a tool for physical fitness. It does not address the physical and emotional aspects individually, rather it follows an integrated approach that helps us build a holistic lifestyle. Thus training under a good teacher is as important today as it was 1000s of years ago. If you have been following our story-of-a-yogi blog, you will be familiar with most of the featured yogis who have made yoga their lifestyle. 

Like most of us, they are following social distancing norms and are staying indoors to stay safe and healthy. Some have taken their classes online and some have taken a break from teaching. But none have given up on their daily practice. Read the following Q&A to understand how they have adapted to this change and how yoga is helping them sail through these unprecedented times. 

Marco Rojas, New York, USA

How are you spending your days during this lockdown?

It is time for involution.  My family and I are spending time practicing involution and clarifying what is real and what is not real.  I am with my beloved.  The practice of yoga happens.  It is constant.  Pranayam and asanas are the fabric of the day for a yoga family.  

What is your yoga routine like?

My daily yoga routine is the practice of exploring the Eight Limbs of Yoga.  When practicing the Yamas, we show respect for all beings.  Do not harm.  Do not deceive.  Do not steal.   Do not waste. Do not hoard. We are all interconnected in this universe.  This is ecology.  This is the interdependence of all beings. When practicing the Niyamas, I show respect for myself and the divine within me.  Cleanliness.  Contentment.  Fire.  Study. Surrender.  This is being yoga.  

Any other tips or suggestions for others?

In times of despair, Om (A-U-M).  In times of uncertainty, Prana, the life-force.  That is real.  If you do not breathe, you know what is going to happen.

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Joy Arnold, USA

How are you spending your days during this lockdown?

I’ve spent a lot of my time recently in Svadhyaya– deepening my self-study, observing my interactions, internal dialogue, and patterns. Although it can be a little unnerving, there’s something magical that happens when you have the time and stillness to just allow things to unfold; when you’re not rushing off to appointments and endless errands. 

It’s like, all the stuff we try to bury with busyness can finally unfold and be revealed. As long as we let it. That’s the thing. We can’t let this ‘forced time-out’ go to waste. Let that stuff come up, watch it, and then digest it or release it. It’s incredibly humbling and healing.

What is your yoga routine like?

It’s more balanced now. Which I think is weird. I thought the quarantine would’ve made it ‘off’ or inconsistent but it hasn’t! For me, I find myself needing, and practicing, asana, pranayama, Dharana, and meditation equally. 

I’ve had an Online Yoga + Wellness Studio for almost 2 years now, and especially now, I’m incredibly grateful for that sangha as well as the technology that allows me to ‘see‘ them when I host my live-stream classes. The online sangha I’ve built keeps me accountable and inspires me to always be a student before I attempt to teach.

Any other tips or suggestions for others?

Well, what works for one may not work for another, but…I do believe there are a couple of Universal things that can help ease the mind and body of every Soul who practices them. Movement, stillness, and breath. 

Even if you can only find 2 minutes here and there throughout your day, take it! 

Stop, close your eyes, or look at a tree outside and just BE. Don’t do, plan, or think. Just be aware. Then, breathe purposefully yet effortlessly focusing your attention at your heart-center. Our breath truly is our grounding force and our connection to our Soul (Jiva). 

Finally, move! I don’t care what it is you do but move your body every day. This is how we digest and release emotions as well as physical tension. 

And this is how and why my motto for 10 years now has been BREATHE | MOVE | BE. 🙂

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Pragya Bhatt, Bangalore, India

How are you spending your days during this lockdown?

I’ve been busy shifting to the online format of teaching.  I’ve been doing it for years now, but all of a sudden I had to take ALL classes online.  I’m also reading and writing a lot more, researching for my next book.  I’ve recently been part of an online yoga fundraiser for COVID-19 relief.  I’m also very inspired these days to learn more about: How do we take yoga online and how does this change the yoga teaching landscape?  I’m also listening to a lot of podcasts and cooking a lot!

What is your yoga routine like?

I managed to practice more than usual since now I’m not traveling anymore.  I’ve also registered for a few online courses with my favorite teachers and I spend some time doing those additional routines as well.

Any other tips or suggestions for others?

Go to your terrace/balcony for fresh air once a day! Breathe deeply, look at some plants, listen to the birds. The other day I was waiting for a class to begin, it’s being streamed in the Netherlands – and the Dutch could actually hear the birds in Bangalore!  Make a point of catching up with friends, keep a journal, meditate and keep your cupboards tidy!

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Khushali Joshi, Mumbai, India

How are you spending your days during this lockdown?

So I am spending days by keeping myself busy. Mostly I am taking a few online classes, spending some time for self-practice, and studying for my course …and then there is Netflix of course! 

What is your yoga routine like?

Yoga routine on the mat is very basic right now as I have an injured wrist, but there is a lot to do and a good time to be creative especially during household chores. 

Any other tips or suggestions for others?

What I can tell others is it’s a very good time to look after yourself and to look within, there cannot be a better time for increasing awareness and getting back in sync with nature, there are many things to explore about ourselves with practice, meditation, pranayama, helping out at home and contributing to the society in whichever way possible. 

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Judit Duran, New Jersey, USA 

How are you spending your days during this lockdown?

I am taking this opportunity to bond with my husband and kids. We were living our lives too fast! This situation has brought us closer, in ways we could have never imagined. Family is what matters the most, and you realize that yes, we might lose our jobs, money, material things, but our loved ones are the most important thing. 

I am also deepening my learning about healing crystals and herbs, two fields that I am very passionate about. And offering some online workshops here and there. Every day, I am also taking some time to reflect, ponder, meditate, and feel grateful for all the blessings in my life. 

What is your yoga routine like?

Every morning, the first thing I do upon waking up is The Five Tibetan Rites, an ancient Tibetan practice for health and vitality.

At some point during the day, I like to sit outside to hear the birds chirping and observe how grand nature is, to ground myself, and reconnect to mother earth. I also do meditations with crystals and some days I practice Yin Yoga. When I need it, I like to play the Tibetan Singing Bowls for myself.

I am cooking lots of healthy dishes, herbal teas, and cleansing the home with different herbs. And offering sound healing, crystal therapy, and reflexology to my kids and husband, so we are all balanced and at peace.

Any other tips or suggestions for others?

Find serenity and calmness amid the storm. Everything might be changing around you, and you might be feeling the collective fear and panic. Instead of falling in the hole, take this situation as a portal for transformation. Allow life to unfold, accepting what is and flowing with it. And be flexible like bamboo, bending with the strong winds but never breaking, capable of adapting to any circumstance. 

We can bounce back even from the most challenging times. Do not spend the whole day listening to the news as that will create more anxiety, take time to reconnect with yourself. Face your fears and let some tears flow if you need, but do not forget to laugh to feel whole again. Slow down, reflect, and find that which starts the fire within you. Trust and have faith. 

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Soumya Pathak, Bhopal, India 

How are you spending your days during this lockdown?

A typical day at this time looks pretty occupied with household chores like cleaning, cooking, teaching online classes, recording content for our social media as all the classes have been shifted to online platforms and keep me occupied from 8 am to 12.30 pm.

I start the day at around 5:15-5:30 so I can utilize the time before my classes for my own practice, which has been helping me stay grounded and sane. This whole time has brought a strong realization of gratitude towards all the help we have in our life – the house help, the janitor, everyone. 

What is your yoga routine like?

Mostly I practice Ashtanga Primary Series early in the morning from 5:45-6:00 am, ending with a long Shavasana and a little bit of meditation. Having a structure for the practice really helps me stay focused and build discipline.

Any other tips or suggestions for others?

Even though we’re going through a crisis right now and for many of us it’s taking a toll on our mental health, I strongly feel that having a routine or a time table really helps to stay focused and calm. When you are simply going by your day without awareness, it is easy for the mind to wander into places that aren’t helpful in any way.

Having said that, it’s also equally important to allow yourself to relax and be grateful for all that we have at this moment. One last suggestion, I see a lot of people being overly active on social media regarding physical fitness. There are very few I have seen talking about mental health.

My suggestion is that at least once in your day, sit with yourself. Instead of forcing yourself to NOT think the negative, focus on the positive things that you have around you:

  • You’re present more than before with your family.
  • You are able to take out time for hobbies and interests you’ve always wanted to do.
  • You have food to eat, a roof over your head.
  • Anything else you can think of…

In these difficult times, it is very important to remind ourselves to be grateful.

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Stephen Ewashkiw,  currently in Bali (My Five Acres & Adventure Yoga)

How are you spending your days during this lockdown?

Initially, I spent the first 3 weeks of lockdown in isolation. I started having symptoms associated with COVID-19, and it was a challenge to get tested so I had to take the lead and self-isolate at home. I am lucky that we have an extra bedroom on a separate floor from the main bedroom – and a partner who is amazingly supportive.

As soon as the symptoms showed I moved into the spare bedroom and stayed there for almost three weeks. Jane, my wife, was amazing, and made every meal and washed every dish during that time. She would leave my meal outside my door. We did a lot of texting back and forth during that time but did not see much of each other.

As the WHO recommends I stayed in isolation for two weeks after my symptoms went away. 

Fortunately, I am out of isolation now, even though we are still in self-quarantine at home. Bali has not imposed and enforced lockdown, although many businesses (including Desa Seni, the yoga studio I teach at) are temporarily closed, and of course, all the tourists have left the island.

What is your yoga routine like?

For the first three weeks, my yoga practice was daily meditation and not much else. The illness sapped my energy – which I am still recovering from. But towards the end of my isolation, I started doing gentle practices and slowly built up to my regular practice routine.

I also used my downtime to create an online yoga series for my students, and that began this past week now that I am getting back to my old self. So we are doing live classes together via Zoom and it’s started off really well. It is great to see my students from around the world and it really feels like we are practicing together which is amazing. 

We are also using the time to have a little chat at the end of class so we can share a bit of what is going on in our life with each other and feel connected to our community even if we are being kept apart by the situation.

Any other tips or suggestions for others?

Use technology to talk to your family and friends regularly, check in with friends who are living alone, and reconnect with friends and family you may have lost touch with!

It’s also important to take time to get fresh air if and when you can and to move your body and get into the sun for some Vitamin D. If it’s not possible to leave your house you can always get creative. If you have stairs, use them for exercise. Or you can jog on the spot – put on music and jog to that. 

And of course, unroll your mat and do some yoga. I am sharing a newly recorded free yoga class each week, plus digging out a class from my archive and sharing these on my YouTube channel. You can find these here if you need inspiration and guidance for your practice: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLdA8ryhd6UNKycUFmyzSihXwc70ZrH7My

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