We're on Day 15 of 'lockdown' in the UK I think, I'm not entirely sure if I'm honest with you.
Our yoga classes online are proving to be popular, and each couple of days brings one or two new people to us. They might be existing yogis who are just getting to grips with the new technology, or realise they miss their yogi friends so come and join us; and some days, it's people who are completely new to yoga or mediation so that's really exciting for me to be able to share my love of yoga with them. Some people stay, some people don't and that's ok. We are finding the time to truly find our tribe. Our online community is growing, and just like spring is springing outside right now, this fills me with hope.
I'm receiving some lovely feedback from people who are saying that these classes offer them some much needed calm and support and a little bit of normality in these strange days. At the beginning of each session, when people are coming in from our virtual waiting room, I encourage people to leave their cameras and microphones on for just a moment. This way, people are able to see each other and know that we're all in this together. They can see the smiley faces of their yoga friends and we always joke that we know who hasn't had a wash or brushed their hair because they're keeping their camera off. For me, that connection, that little bit of humour and lightness is important as we're all trying to navigate our way through these new and changing times.
Personally, I feel closer to my family that I have felt in a long time - my immediate family that I live with, and my extended family. I'm checking up on my parents more than I normally would; we're creating challenges and fun games we can all do together and then come together on WhatsApp to compare. I can see which friends are worth keeping and which friendships are balanced, both give and take. I feel closer to my yoga teachers more so now than ever; there's so much support and love for all of the independent teachers who've come up through the International school of Dru Yoga - it's almost tangible.
I feel calm and safe in my home. I've managed to keep my income going to a large extent as I've learned how to do things differently and embrace these challenges with an open heart and a bit of fun. One of my yogis said to me "I think this crisis is unveiling inner resources we didn't know we had. We're adapting." I couldn't agree more. In yoga, we talk about visualising putting down our roots into the earth, and connecting with Earth energy. This is energy that gives us strength and stability. When we have deep roots, we feel anchored, we feel strong. This is muladhara in balance - our base chakra. We can adapt, because we feel strongly rooted in who we really are.
I'm taking time to quench my thirst for knowledge by reading more about Pantanjali's Yoga Sutras and the Upanishads. For the first time in ages, I'm writing a diary - of sorts, and I'm reading more for pleasure too. I don't feel under pressure to achieve anything right now, I'm happy to just be. I feel genuinely happy.
And I know that this has a lot to do with the privileges that we have in our country, and the privileges I have, and that my husband and I have worked hard for. I can self-isolate, because I feel safe in my home. I can wait in a queue to go into the supermarket so that I can buy enough food to keep us all fed for a week, because we have supermarkets. I can keep my house clean and hopefully virus-free because I can buy cleaning products.
I just feel calm. I like that things have slowed down. It almost feels like a very pleasant out-of-body experience. The bird song seems even louder than before and I love that I can walk my dogs to our local park in the middle of the road because there's no traffic.
All of this reflection is svadhyaya - self-study. Yoga for me, always has been, and always will be like therapy, self-care. Cultivating a regular yoga practice can help us ride this wave of uncertainty. This is referred to as abhyasa in the yogic texts. It means practice and non-attachment. Regular practice of both breathing and yoga postures (asanas) along with relaxation and meditation can help us take our yoga much more easily off the mat, so that the steady, strong inner calm that we feel in our practice spills out into all aspects of our everyday life.
I see loads of social media posts from friends and family who are so busy tidying up their houses, doing their gardens, tackling projects that they previously didn't have time for, because 'life' just seemed to get in the way. That's wonderful! We're being told that we've got all this time on our hands and we should do good things with that time.
Well, I for one haven't done anything big! I haven't tackled any big jobs, or projects, I'm just enjoying slowing down. So I guess I just wanted to say, give yourself permission. Give yourself permission to do whatever it is that fills you up! Give yourself permission to be.
If you're a working from home parent at the moment, I'm guessing (like me) you're so glad its half term right now, and the children are having a break from their school work which you suddenly find yourself supervising. I'm certain I'm going to get my GCSE in Geography when all this is over! If you're still travelling to go to work and you're one of the people who are busy keeping our country going in this time of need in one of our many many service industries, then I am truly grateful to you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
One of the Four aims of life according to the yogic tradition is Artha - creation of a balanced life. My wish - my prayer - is that, from these strange times and very tragic deaths that are happening all around the world, we all find more balance. That we learn to appreciate more, we learn to live more, we learn to love more.
Here's a Metta Prayer I wanted to share:
May all beings be peaceful
May all beings be happy
May all beings be safe
May all beings awaken to the
Light of their true nature
May all beings be free
with love & light
P.S. We're on day 17 - I wasn't that far off...
What have I learnt this week? I've learnt that as people, we are resilient and we rise up when faced with challenge and change. Yes it can be scary, and definitely uncertain, but we do rise up.
This week I've temporarily taken my yoga classes online. I've begun online classes for my regular clients and have been blown away by their support. Going online wasn't something I seriously considered until now, but needs must as we find ourselves in these curious times.
The word "yoga' means union - union of mind, body, breath and spirit. But also union with each other, as a community we've built up - some of us over many years. And also union with our wider world, with Mother Nature, with the Universe, with God.
Union of mind, body, breath and spirit
It's through our yoga practice and establishing, maintaining and deepening our regular practice - sadhana - that we find this union within ourselves. Allowing our mind to focus on the flow of our breath; allowing ourself to notice how our muscles feel; allowing ourselves to notice the speed and flow of our thoughts; all these things can bring us calm. This is the practice of pratyahara - bringing our awareness inwards.
Union with each other
When we come together to practice our yoga and meditation in a group, we feed off each others energy. That's satsang - being in the company of true people. So offering online classes, I really didn't know if this would be achievable. How can we really connect on an energetic level if we're not in the same room? But you know what I've learnt? That we absolutely can. We are all in this together. It's our choice to aim for togetherness and unity. And this is vyanu vayu at work - omnipresent energy. Together, our energy is strong, we can support each other, lift each other up and cultivate our collective inner strength.
Union with our wider world
Our beautiful planet earth. Following the initial "is this REALLY happening to us?" phase and the panic buying, we have now been forced to slow down. Many of us to stop. And for our beautiful planet, this can only be a good thing, There's less unnecessary travel, less consumerism, less destruction.
Mother Nature has offered us a massive "RESET" button and we must press this button firmly with both hands and an open heart. We can use this time to reassess how we want to move through the next phase of our lives.
Yes, these times are uncertain for us, and it's unprecedented how many times the word unprecedented has been used in the past unprecedented weeks. BUT, there's hope, there's opportunities to change, and there will always be love.
Value who you are. Value what you have to give to your family, your friends, your community, to society. Value what you have.
I learnt a new word this week - a sanskrit word - "karuna." It means compassion. So as corona tries to spread, let’s choose to spread karuna instead.