Do you feel strangely comforted by the entire world grinding to an almost halt? I know I do. I do because it has lead me to realise that my pace-as-dictated-by-society is not my natural pace. I think I need time to process, and we now have a collective processing to do. I've learnt that, in times like these, you can't be truly at ease if others aren't. Just because you are enjoying a slower pace of life, it doesn't mean that others will, nor will they tolerate you talking about it.
So we shift. There is a huge shift unlike anything we have ever seen before, so it is only right that we allow our core values and beliefs to shift, should they need to. Personally, I have lowered my expectations of the standards I would normally hold my friends and loved ones, and anyone to, because everyone is dealing with this in their own way. To mindfully shift my boundaries doesn't compromise my sense of self, it just allows me to see the world and those in it with more compassion. Professionally, I am offering my online classes on a donation basis. Does this minimise the value of what I do? In pre-corona times, perhaps. Now? No. I have shifted with the shift. Plus people who can donate will, and people who can't afford to, will give so much appreciation for the offerings, which has honestly reaffirmed why I love the job I do. Everyone wins because everyone helps each other in ways they can.
The notion that this is time to rest is, for many, bullshit. I initially bought into it, because it fits with the wellness narrative, but there's nothing restful at all about uncertainty. Sure, you can spend an extra hour or two in bed, but for many of us that would be spent wide awake thinking about all the unknowns. Fear becomes so normal that it almost becomes a comfort. The opposite of fear is love. Fear resides in the Ego and love resides in our heart and according to tradition, our heart is our true wisdom. Somehow, we have to find a way to lean into love more than fear.
There is a yoga sutra (2:33) that asks us, when we are thinking a negative thought intensely, to replace that with the opposite thought. In this case, when we catch ourselves in a anxiety tailspin, how can we turn the fear causing that into love? Fear not only causes us to tell ourselves lies that hurt our feelings, but fear also gets stuck in the body, causing physical tensions and malaise. Movement helps, breathing more deeply and slowly helps. It provides temporary relief from those noisy thoughts and gives us permission to feel our feelings, however tender they might be. My heart feels tender as hell at the moment, and the other day I just didn't really get out of bed, but its ok, because I have committed to feeling my feelings, and may as well, since I have more free time to feel them. I hold myself with love over fear, even on the most down days, especially on the down days. A lot of this ability to feel comes from my yoga practice.
But yoga isn't just the physical movement. In fact, another yoga sutra, the first one (1:1) states simply 'Now is the Yoga'. This is a suggestion that yoga never stops, it doesn't go away because the studio closes. If anything, when the going gets tough it actually notches up a gear, and that isn't to say you need to perfect your handstand (though admittedly you may have more time to do so), but rather, the lessons we learn as we practice yoga, come into play when life throws us challenges. Yoga teaches us to be present, to not get stuck on things that went wrong in the past, and, for this time we now find ourselves in, to not worry about the future. I realise that may not be easy or even possible for many of us, but how can we change a longing to control the outcome and bring it forward as quickly as possible, for instead trusting that things will unfold as they should, and whilst individually the outcomes will look different, for the collective it will be better. We have to have hope, which equates to love, whereas worry is a product of fear.
At the moment, almost every yoga teacher I know, including me, is offering online classes on a donation-basis, plus many of us are offering more of the subtle aspects such as meditation practices, so if you've been curious about those, but never quite got yourself into the studio to try them, now you get to experience new practices from the comfort of your living room. I even did a gong bath whilst in the bath the other night, literally, what a time to be alive. For those who feel self conscious in busy classes, or who won't allow themselves to take child's pose because nobody else is, that barrier is removed in the world of live yoga. You can practice without concern for how you look, how your breathing sounds, how others look in poses; this is how yoga was intended! Yoga without inhibitions, just safe boundaries set by you and your body, is a healing experience.
There are other things you can do without inhibition at home. You can write. It doesn't have to be good, it doesn't have to be read by anyone but you, but just putting pen to paper in a world where we are constantly tapping a screen feels like an out-of-body experience. When we create without expectation, for me its picking up my guitar, we get to experience feelings of joy without judgement. We also get to surprise ourselves and stimulate different parts of our brain.
If you're reading this article and you've read up to this point, whether you're a seasoned yogi or brand new to this way of life, just know that you're already doing the good work; 'now is the yoga' (sutra 1:1). All the things we do in practice are for times such as these. Listen closely to what your heart tells you, for that is where the soul resides, and let that be the point from which you lead. Not only will it get you through the current period with more ease, but it'll inform how you live your life after this growth period has passed.