Five Lessons Learned from Practicing Through a Pandemic
May 17, 2020
I always love to talk about how beneficial the practice of yoga can be during uncertain times, times of change, times of upheavals big and small. Whether it’s massive life changes or day-to-day disruptions, yoga grounds us, it calms the nervous system and it gives us energy to handle the unknown (download my grounding meditation and pranayama).
As unprecedented as the times we’re living through may feel, the fact remains that all of the lessons that were available to us before this are still available now, and they’re as useful and applicable as ever. The Coronavirus pandemic may have turned all of our lives upside-down, but yoga gives us the tools to weather every storm.
I know as well as anybody, though, that the truth of that can be easy to forget. When you’re up against massive existential fears and doubts, it can be hard to remember your own strength. That’s why I’ve put together these Five Lessons Learned from Practicing Through a Pandemic.
- There is a purpose to all of this, even when it’s hard to see. The first purpose? Waking ourselves up. We’ve all been invested in unsustainable systems, both individually and collectively. Long commutes. Environmental waste. High rent and overhead. We’ve been invested in our illusions of control and invulnerability. We have to learn a different way of doing things. There is a way of getting what you want by already having it now. If you let it be, this is a chance to wake up from the cloud of unnecessary anxiety that has hovered over so many of our day-to-day lives - how can we stay invested in our old anxieties when confronted with a totally new world?
- None of this is permanent. Just as the world we were living in has changed into the world we’re in now, this experience will change into the completely different thing that is to come next. This transition might last longer than we expect, but it won’t last forever. That’s the nature of everything - it changes. It’s one of the reasons asana practice is so valuable. It teaches us impermanence through our bodies so we can learn the truth of it in our minds. Doing the things we’re scared of in our practices can only serve to help us with the things that are scary in our lives.
- We can leave our attachments behind without losing what we value in them. So many of us have been confronted with loss during this crisis - if not personal or material loss, at least the loss of the things that gave our lives their shape. Our yoga studios, our Mysore rooms, our favorite restaurants and shops, our friends’ homes, our travel destinations. We can’t do all the things we used to do, but that hasn’t stopped us from finding new ways to connect with the joy and vitality that they brought to our lives. It was never the thing that gave you those good feelings - those feelings always existed in you. Loss can only take the energy you give it.
- The important structure that daily practice provides. It’s easy to feel totally adrift without all the things that used to give structure to our lives. A daily practice is an easy way to maintain structure when it feels like there is none, and finding your physical grounding within the practice can make it easier to find your physical grounding outside the practice. A daily practice gives us more purpose and structure. Maybe it helps you go to be earlier, wake up earlier, keep your practice space tidy or your diet cleaner. Something that takes up as relatively little time and space as yoga can make it so much easier to create stability in both your time and physical space throughout the day.
- The most important thing is to keep going - even once you recognize the futility of trying to get somewhere. This is always the case, and it’s as true now as ever. It doesn’t matter if you’re seeing progress - you’re making progress just by doing it. It doesn’t matter if you feel like you believe in yourself - getting up every morning and doing what you need to do is an expression of that belief. You may be grieving, feel the energy of that grief and channel it to keep you going. Keeping going can let us grieve without falling into despair. You may be worried about the future, but you can combat this worry by grounding yourself in the present moment - that’s where the practice and the body live, after all. You may feel alone, but every spiritual journey is a solitary one that we are still all on together. Keep going. This is the essence of faith, of strength, of life, and of a sustainable yoga practice. If it’s powerful under the best of circumstances, think of how life-changing it can be under the worst of them.
Open yourself up to all the blessings in disguise that life has to offer - they’re yours, if you’re up to the challenge.
Join Ashtanga Central! Registration is closing soon and won't open up again until the fall. You get two live trainings a month, exclusive access to things like virtual Mysore and live classes and pre-recorded instructional videos to help you advance your yoga practice.
Stay connected with news and updates!
Join my mailing list to receive the latest news and updates.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.