COVID-19: Yoga Has an App for That!


PSA: COVID-19 and Yoga! (In case you did not get my newsletter)

To play on a pop-culture phrase, “There’s an App for that!” Well, yea. Yoga has been around for millennia… and I mean, thousands of years. So of course, Yoga has a App for that!

So now to the purpose of this newsletter:
It’s all over the news. The Coronavirus, or COVID 19. Have you been following it?

Stay Calm. Carry On. Practice Yoga.

And I want to be clear. COVID 19 is not like the Ebola virus, which is life-threatening to anyone who contracts it. From what I have read and heard, COVID 19 seems to be more like the flu for most, though life-threatening for elderly, or immune-compromised people. The charge behind this virus, and the panic it is causing world-wide, is how quickly it spreads. So yes, YOU might survive the virus, but who is around you who might be more compromised? Or who around you might compromise someone else?

In Yoga, the practices of the Yamas and the Niyamas, which are the ethical principles by which we should live, give simple guidance for this. Sort of like “Right Living.” I will explain two of these…

A little background:
Patanjali was a sage or perhaps a group of sages from around the year 200–400, who compiled the Yoga Sutra, a short “how to” if you will, of all the teachings of yoga, and how to live by them to attain enlightenment. Whether or not enlightenment is your goal (or whether it should be) for your yoga practice, I am always amazed by how, over a thousand years later, much of the guidance in this short summary of yoga is still relevant and applicable. Even right now, with this latest pandemic.

I’d love to tell you more about the teachings in the Yoga Sutra, but I value your time, so here goes!

Patanjali laid out a eight practices in the framework of “8 Limbs” of Yoga. Within those eight practices are ten guidelines for “right living,” five of which being the Yamas, or social restraints, and five being the Niyamas, or self-disciplines. These are the first two of the 8 limbs, before Asana (the physical practice) is introduced, and to some, the Yamas and Niyamas are the highest importance of the practice.

Here are two practices that will help you to Keep Calm and Carry On through the next weeks or months of COVID 19’s impact on the world.

1) Ahimsa — the first and most important of the Yamas (social restraints). Ahimsa loosely translates to non-harming, or what I prefer to say is, kindness. Many argue (and I agree) that ALL the practices of right living point back to this one. Be Kind. Consider others, and your impact on others.

Abiding by this practice of Ahimsa during this time will help all of us, as the practice means acknowledging that everything I do, say, or think, impacts others.

2) Saucha — this is the first and most important of the Niyamas (self-discipline). Saucha means cleanliness. Again, cleanliness in all you do, think, and say. Take a shower, eat right, exercise, sleep, use clean words, clear actions, and kind thoughts.

In this context, we can take it to mean hygiene.

By practicing Ahimsa, I recognize the impact of my actions on others, so Saucha, or cleanliness, becomes common-sense.

Whatever you encounter, Yoga has an App for that!

Now, let’s get to some practical basics:

What your studio can do for you:
1. Inform you of their prop-cleaning protocol. If you don’t know, ask! Knowing will help you feel seen and heard, and you can navigate your own concerns from there.
2. Encourage yoga teachers to wash hands before and after class.
3. Support yoga teachers to stay home when sick.
4. Provide either disposable paper towels or single-use wash-cloths in the bathrooms.

What you can do for yourself, community, and your yoga studio:
1. Wash your hands. 20 seconds is the recommendation.

Incidentally, this is a great time to learn a mantra! (Don’t know what that is? Here is a short explanation.)

Here is the mantra:

Lokah Samastah Sukinoh Bhavantu: May all beings be happy and free from suffering. May my thoughts, words, deeds and actions be clear enough to not cause suffering.

2. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. This is such an automatic action, we forget. But, do NOT cough into your hand. Ideally, use a tissue that you can throw away immediately. If you don’t have a tissue, use your sleeve.

3. If you use studio props, be kind to others (ahimsa), and wipe them down after class. Perhaps bring a pillow case with you to cover bolsters and blankets that you use.
OR, this might be a good time to invest in your own set of props and bring those!

4. Just say No. Too a hug or an assist in your class. Some teachers give lots of hands on assists, some do not. Use your wisdom here. This is your personal space and safety. You are empowered to take care of yourself and your body in the way you need to.

5. If you have any symptoms at all, STAY HOME. The yoga studio is not the place to “sweat it out,” and this is not the time.

So practice Ahimsa, being kind or recognizing how all of your actions, thoughts and words, impact others, and Saucha, cleanliness or personal hygiene, you will be doing your best part to mitigate the spread of this virus.

See? Whatever your trouble, Yoga has an App for that!

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Embodied Living with Kristen Boyle

Kristen Boyle is a Yoga Therapist and master yoga teacher, working with students, teachers and clients, all over the world.