Yoga is a practice that we all can do. It starts with the breath – an extended and deeper breath. With a simple focusing of our breath, we can start on a journey that improves our well being. This breathing process helps to take us away from the flight-or-fight mode in which many of us live everyday. Personally, I do not know anyone who currently is not feeling stressed, to some degree. Do you?
In addition to the breath, the other basic concepts of yoga are to ”be in the moment” (leave your past and future thoughts outside the door), as well as developing the ability “to let go” – a sense of knowing that you are not in control. Although the first thing that comes to mind is the pandemic, a lack of control is not new to our lives. Our best bet has always been to manage these restraints (rather than fighting to control them), and practicing yoga may help. Yoga is a 5,000-year-old tradition with many experts in the field and volumes written about its complexities. I am not the “guru” of the yoga field, but I have practiced it for a long time, and I have incorporated yoga into the exercise routines that I have taught over the years (http://www.agelessandmoving.com/Welcome.html).
Practicing yoga is an especially good idea during this pandemic era. In reviewing the basic concepts of yoga, “The Western medical world has come to acknowledge the effectiveness of yoga in managing various physical, mental and emotional illnesses to improve quality of our life” (https://divineyogabangkok.atavist.com/understanding-basic-concepts-of-yoga-)
The practice of yoga comes in so many shapes and forms. It may take a while to find the right style that works for you, and in this environment we must search for a home program, purchase a video, or join a ZOOM class. There are certainly advanced yogis practicing in the field and many challenging approaches available, but the yoga spectrum is diverse– it can even be done in a chair (https://www.verywellfit.com/chair-yoga-poses-3567189). Thus, when it comes to practicing yoga, there are numerous variations and levels to choose from.
The key to yoga is to not only to find the right style of yoga that fits, but be sure to practice that style of yoga in a manner that works for you. This means you do not want to compare yourself to others, nor do you want to move in a way that is wrong for your body. Therefore, try to be in tune to your body (and mind). This takes time to explore and discover. I recommend that if you are new to yoga, start out slowly and mindfully – feeling comfortable to modify movements as you need to.
Knowing that yoga is a practice for so many, the following NY Times article (Jan. 19, 2019) caught my eye as it addressed a remarkable concept: the “intersection” of yoga and veterans. Now we can consider another intersection: veterans’ experiences with stress and all of our experiences with the stress triggered by the pandemic. It makes sense that yoga is a beneficial practice for post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD). After all, the foundation of yoga is a focus on our breathing – a breathing process that helps to take us away from the flight-or-fight mode. Note that the classic yoga positions are called warrior poses (https://www.verywellfit.com/get-fierce-with-this-sequence-of-warrior-poses-3567198). Many veterans can relate to this concept. Now we can as well, as we fight off the stress caused by the pandemic.
Because of this pandemic, some people are experiencing PTSD or perhaps getting a “taste” of what PTSD means. In interviewing various instructors who were former military personnel, one veteran instructor in California gave good advice for all yoga participants: “…the whole system of yoga is about moral and ethical restraints on behavior and trying to stay calm in challenging conditions” (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/19/us/yoga-veterans.html). Many of us now understand what military personnel, healthcare providers, emergency responders, policemen, and firefighters experience on a regular basis, since dealing with crises is part of their routine work.
Interesting that the military and yoga are linked: Soldiers tend to be very good at “being in the moment;” it is part of their training. Ironically, this is a yoga concept. When you go to class, you want to step away from past and future thoughts. It is enlightening to hear from a former medic, who now teaches yoga in Texas, conclude: “It doesn’t matter if you are a former military vet who served four terms in Iraq or a housewife with four kids and anxiety issues” (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/19/us/yoga-veterans.html). The practice of yoga brings out a commonality in all of us. Such an old practice is not only getting our modern world healthier, but in a yoga class you can find many different humans moving together in harmony.
Yoga is one means to help us get through this pandemic together. What has your experience been with community connectedness during the pandemic? What behavioral changes have you discovered during this crisis? What path will you take as we transition out of the pandemic? Will your path be different or a return to the same habits? By definition a crisis has two characteristics: either danger/fear or growth/opportunity (https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-what-are-the-chances-well-change-our-behaviour-in-the-aftermath-134991). Ask yourself: What lessons have I learned and will I carry them forward?
Yoga serves as a way for all of us to practice humanity in a better way (https://www.yogaforhumanity.com/about/). Lets hope society takes these lessons with us as we move forward out of the pandemic era.
Sending my gratitude to all my yoga instructors over the years and fellow yogis!
Charlotte Michos is a clinical nurse specialist who values personal-centered care and serves as a Healthcare Consultant in helping others make informed decisions. For more information, email her or call (845) 548-5980.
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