Yoga in the Pandemic

My husband and I have been isolated at home since mid March, like so many others. I waiver between despair and hope. Living in this time of a pandemic, each day is filled with stories of struggle and hardship. Nonetheless, the trees blossom and the bright yellow daffodils are jaunty in the gardens.

I started my day with a cup of tea on my porch listening to the spring birds calling out in joy. Time seems to both expand and contract. I knew I would still have time for pranayama and then asana and then a walk. I wasn’t going anywhere, even ‘on line’

The world’s worries creep into my thoughts as I eat my late breakfast. I think about the young people who are facing uncertainty for their future as they graduate from high school or university, their dreams like soap bubbles, floating away.

Then I hear a reminder of the small retail business or restaurant owner who cannot pay their rent or their staff.

I miss the dance performances I had paid for, and feel for the artists and musicians who can only perform in their own living rooms. We are locked out of the libraries and museums and can’t visit a friend as close as two blocks away. If we see someone coming towards us as we walk, we don’t stretch our arms in greeting, we dodge away.

Almost everyone and every endeavor and every service and profession has been negatively impacted by this situation; not to mention the front line workers, many of whom are putting their own health at risk to care for those who are ill.

In the meantime, small gestures of generosity: hearts in the windows, someone standing outside playing their violin, a joke that comes in my email, a news story about a man and son who are making sandwiches to hand out to those on the street, give me a moment’s respite.

With enough time and a few materials at hand, I decided I should try making my own face mask, which turned out to be a great source of hilarity. The lining ended up on the outside, and the ties don’t keep it on my face for long, as they slip down my hair. I started my walk with the mask in place, but by the time I returned only the sunglasses on the bridge of my nose were holding it in place and keeping it from falling around my neck. Maybe tomorrow I will sit listening to the birds and try a different design.

I turn to my yoga practice, and remind myself of the teachings, that there is only this moment. I draw on the universal teachings of kindness and compassion. Mr Iyengar in Light on Life says:
“Practitioners of the asanas alone often forget that yoga is for cultivating the head and heart. Patanjali talked about friendliness, compassion, gladness and joy. Friendliness and grace are two qualities that are essential for the yoga student.” (p.59)

I open the mat, and take time for each breath, for each pose. The time spent in practice is a gift and builds in me sparks of hope. Starting with a simple pose that almost anyone can do, Tadasana, or the mountain pose. I stand straight, and send my mind down to the inner and outer heel on the ground, I open the back of the knees, I tuck the shoulders back and spread the breath into the chest. Namaste.

Leslie Hogya