By Jennifer Downing
The pandemic has impacted yogis everywhere, from the initial adjustment of studios everywhere minimizing yoga props, reduced class sizes for ‘social distancing’ and then the ultimate closure of studios across the country.
While closings are temporary, it’s clear COVID-19 is also uniting us all during this time of uncertainty.
Here are some observations I’ve had about what’s going on and how my yoga practice can help me (and hopefully us all!)
Acknowledging the Feelings
I struggled initially with what I was feeling. I am already used to being mindful of germs and conscious of the world around me. What I realized after the first week were the ups and downs of being at home and ultimately the feeling of grief. The more I scrolled through Facebook the more it seemed this natural, human reaction was a loss to something more than just our physical yoga space.
The surprising pain surrounding Covid19 is more than missing a meal out with friends. It’s loss of physical connection and hugging that friend.
Touch turned into computer screens, and a virus created the fear of whether it’s safe to even see someone in the flesh.
All of this loss hit me like a ton of bricks when I almost ended up in a panic dropping off prescriptions at a pharmacy, even with every precaution. Is this the new normal?
I realized in that moment I had to acknowledge the loss I was feeling, and allow myself to feel all of the emotions I had about longing for my usual experiences.
Letting Go (More than once)
In yoga philosophy is the concept of vairagyam, meaning letting go again and again.
It’s good for us to remember grief is a typical reaction to the loss of something special to us. Scrolling through your Facebook feed and missing that friend is ok. We all feel and mourn for the simplicities that vanished with COVID-19. In life we find release and welcome the new, with these times being no different.
Letting go is not easy, sometimes letting it be and sitting with it will help you through this time.
Regulating The Nervous System
Yoga plays a vital role in our grief because of the unknown stresses that ultimately get stored in our bodies. And no one can hide from the biological truth that our physical bodies do remember and react to grief and trauma.
Even if you feel you are handling these times well, it’s not uncommon for our nervous systems to be on alert. You might notice that smaller issues feel like bigger problems simply because the of the totality of what we’re all dealing with right now. Be kind to yourself! You don’t have to do it all, or strive to be productive.
Instead take time to sooth your nervous system. Through a consistent yoga and meditation practice we can actually train our brains and bodies to better process the stress response.
Take the time for that online yoga class with Practice Everywhere! However, be patient. It takes time, but it will help.
“All One” not Alone
But don’t stop with just a yoga mat practice. Put the practice of connection into action. Find connection with your favorite teachers, reach out on Facebook, and take that extra step of remembering the mind, body connection that will help us all get through until we can be in person, on the mat together again.
Yoga means Union. Sometimes that unity can be hard to feel when we are physically separate. But Yoga also gives us a gateway into feeling what which is not just our physical body. So even if we are socially distance, it doesn’t mean we are emotionally alone.
Until the world returns to its new normal know you are truly not alone. Your feelings are not uncommon. Together, in the meantime, we can all take steps towards wellness and balance.
I too am missing what was, and looking forward to what will be.
As humans, we all are. It’s ok to miss things. It’s ok to grieve. It’s also ok to remain connected in the true that while we are alone we are also all-one.
Jennifer Downing is a yoga teacher whose love for yoga and personal life experiences have collided into a deep understanding that Yoga's psychological wisdom and physical benefits can become especially potent during times of grief, illness, and recovery. Jennifer is a supportive and loving guide in meditation and nidra, as well as a uniquely attuned leader of adaptive yoga asana practices. You can learn more about Jennifer including her work utilizing yoga for those affected by cancer, and those with autoimmune disorders at @Zen2TheJenn on Instagram.