Yoga in the Time of Corona

I read a quote recently that said, in essence, the beauty of Yoga is not what happens on the mat, it’s what happens when you’re off the mat facing fear, disappointment, conflict, anger, sadness, etc. - AKA right now. The Corona pandemic is only the second time in my half century of life that I’ve been scared about public health and safety. Nine eleven and the following whacky anthrax scare was the other time.  Vermont is nicely insulated from natural disasters like neighborhood erasing tornadoes, mudslides, earthquakes and fires. We’re out of our league here, and what I used to think was restricted to places in Asia I’ve never heard of is now here in our community. “Ten-Hut!!”

I am writing this fielding sadness and anxiety today. My normally dry eyes are enjoying increased tear  action. I’m blinking a lot to mitigate the moisture. There’s nothing wrong with crying, but I just did my eye make-up and don’t want to go through all THAT again. So deep, deep breaths and relax the shoulders. Feeling the sadness, working to not let it take over thoughtful intelligence about the greater good, and  compassion for leaders making decisions affecting millions of people, and health care workers who are running towards the crisis.  The list of painful disappointments we’ve nearly all faced from job losses and school closures is so long it’s not worth listing them.  Collectively the losses are colossally inarticulate-able.  

Now is the time for benefits of yoga. Now is the time for “satya”: honestly;  for “ahimsa”: compassion and for “pratyahara”: inward, calm, focus.  As the world feels turbulent like discordant ocean waves  in a  storm, pratyahara is akin to going beneath the surface where it’s calm and quiet. We’re still very much a part of the ocean, we’re just choosing not to get tossed around in the frenzy. Stress is contagious, and with awareness and practice we can recognize it and choose whether or not to let it push us around. And yes, it’s a choice, and we all know that some people like to jump right in and stir, contributing to the chop.  For a brilliant visual example of pratyahara, recall or google CBS reporter Gayle King interviewing a celebrity in March 2019.  He lost his temper during that interview to an arguably  frightening degree, and King sat with placid poise maintaining rational intelligence throughout his outburst. That is what pratyahara looks like.

Honesty and compassion are important too. Whatever you’re feeling, be honest with yourself. Be honest with others. Today I’m deeply sad for my kids. I can be compassionate with myself about that. I have compassion for the Governor making important decisions that must only feel like the least crappy option.

If you’re breathing, and hopefully you’re still inhaling and exhaling even as this article is breathtaking, you can benefit from yoga. Inhale deeply into the bottom of your lungs. Feel the belly expand, a lot. If your pants are tight, undo them. Go on, no one’s looking. With a really good, deep breath the belly expands, then the ribs, then the chest last. Hold for a second then exhale slowly. Feel the chest release, then the ribs, then the belly. Pause. Try taking 5 -6 seconds for each inhale, and a slightly longer  6 -8 seconds for each exhale. This is called “Coherent breathing” in yoga and offers the neurological benefit of shifting the stressed sympathetic nervous system to the eased parasympathetic nervous system. Just using your breath can shift the neurology and a litany of benefits take hold including better digestion and better immune function. Your health will improve today just by taking ten minutes to quietly breathe slowly, deeply and completely. That’s yoga.  If you want to stand with your foot behind your ear that’s fine too, but it’s not required.


All will be okay.

Heather H. Main, M.Ed

Main Wellness Works
Personal Fitness Training and Workplace Health Promotion

South Burlington, VT 05403

802 865 9899