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Yoga for Precarious Times

I think it is fair to say that 2020 is a year none of us will forget in a hurry.

For many the coronavirus pandemic has led to insecurity and loss – from loss of life, loss of income to worries about the future.

For me personally, my experience has been overshadowed by grief for my 22-year marriage. Unfortunately, at the height of the lockdown, my husband and I separated. The last eight weeks have been a story of a myriad of emotions and anxieties.

I’ve felt at times all the practices I have done on the yoga mat or meditation cushion over the last 4 - 5 years have been solely in preparation for this moment in my life. Even if believing in it or practising at times has been tough, I know I have the tools to help me move through this stage of my life with compassion (for myself and my husband) and positivity for my now unknown future and all that could bring for me.

I have found it incredibly challenging at times to meditate at all and I have cried more times than I can remember on my mat over the last few weeks. Back in April, I did a heart opening focused online yoga retreat day and I really struggled at that stage to find any light in my heart. So, I just let myself sit on the mat and be with my grief which was not easy. We are programmed to run away from these difficult emotions, turning to face them head on is where the practice really starts. But having a yoga and meditation practice can help us just sit and be with whatever come up despite how challenging that might be.

In precarious times though perhaps, we may need a different practice than normal.

I have found in recent weeks (probably because I have not been sleeping well) I have craved a slower yoga practice, or actually not wanted to do any physical practice at all and I have found focusing on pranayama (breath work) and meditation has been what I needed most. Deva Premel and Miten’s nightly facebook live mantra music and meditation have been the highlight of my day, mantra and music is becoming such an important part of my yoga.

The more I focus my practice on what my body needs, it seems my body and mind can open, release stiffness and I can rest … I’m honouring what I need right now.

It has not felt that this is the time to push myself so much physically. Interestingly though, I have noticed an increased flexibility (in some poses) it’s almost as if my body feels lighter and is holding less tension now, I am living alone with just my energy in the house. I am curious to see how this changes as I move into my new life – will I get more flexible?

Over recent weeks we have been bombarded with negativity and fear through the media (and from family and friends). Alongside all this fear, we are made to feel inadequate if we have not used the lock-down as an opportunity to become a star baker, learn a new language or participate in all the social zoom events. Is it just me who really dislikes social events via zoom - online quiz nights, movie nights no thank you!! I’d rather talk on the phone or just spend time on my own than try and force having social interaction across the internet. I want to see people properly; I want to hug my family and friends.

The virtual space is not where I want to live for much longer and I also look forward at some stage to being able to teach again in person (it will be such a glorious day to see all my students again in a real environment - I may cry!!)

Patience has never been my strong point and it’s been tested on many levels right now.

So if any of my thoughts and observations resonate with you, I would encourage you not to feel any pressure during this time to do anything that doesn’t serve you. Including how you practice yoga, sometimes it’s awesome to sweat and flow (I am a fan of that kind of practice too) but sometimes we need something else. If you need more rest take it, if you need to cry – cry, if you need to move go for run, lift weights or do a more vigorous yoga practice but I’d encourage you to honour what you really need right now (rather than what your ego or societal pressure might make you think is what you need).

Yoga (and the wider practices) have been my lifeline these past weeks, I have never been more grateful to have a practice. When anxiety takes over I remember as Deva Premel says ‘Home is where the OM is’ and everything just seems ok again.

What a blessing to be on this path, on this journey …

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