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Now Begins the Practice of Yoga by Krisna Zawaduk

May 6, 2020

 

And now, begins the practice of yoga…

 

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost two months since our yoga centre closed on account of Covid-19.  I have tried to put down some thoughts on paper several times, but it is a challenge to reflect on a situation that you still find yourself in. It is still evolving, There is not yet hindsight, no conclusions can be made. We are still in the midst of physical distancing and an economy that has, for the most part, come to a screeching halt.

 

If you are reading this, it is likely that you have encountered yoga practices in your life. These are a great boon, as they help us to digest, process and make the most out of these challenging times we find ourselves in....but only if we use them. These current circumstances are fuel for sadhana. As the external environment is rapidly changing, we must, as always, cultivate the steadiness within. Regardless of circumstance, the yogi seeks to be sustainable unto himself, seeking internal refuge with contentment and gratitude.

 

While there is some sense of sadness that we cannot arrive in the yoga studio together, I can see that the support of each other in the world at large has been phenomenal, and the yamas (ethical principles such as ahimsa, non-harming) and niyamas (inner observances like santosha, contentment) are being worked. I’ve heard reports from students that they are excelling in their home practice efforts, which is very heartening for a teacher to hear. Some people have been taking advantage of the online classes and striking out into new technological territory. Others are steeping in the pause of schedules and their creativity is blossoming like the beautiful Magnolia trees I’m seeing right now.

 

Like many of you, I am taking one day at a time, appreciating the simple things in life. Gratitude practice is a practice of contentment—being satisfied with what one has at any given moment. It is a way to shift from the “have not” attitudes of scarcity into the acknowledgement of abundance, even if we have little materially or are restricted in our movements. We have heart and soul, if nothing else, and why not allow that to shine ? The practice of non-harming is happening in spades, as people actively practice restraint by social distancing, not to mention, the harm to the Earth has been greatly eased during this time.

 

As we are now into spring, I am appreciating longer and warmer days, and the clean air. I’m remembering times when I’ve returned from a particularly polluted country and being so happy to just take in a deep full breath of Canadian air. It’s like that every day now, a heightened appreciation of the purity of the natural world. Mother Nature is getting some rest and reprieve from all of the assaults upon her, and that feels profound. I am reflecting on the generosity, compassion and kindness of fellow human beings too, having been the recipient of several gifts that came out of the blue. Each day is a gift too. We have heard that phrase but at times like this, it really hits home.

 

I am grateful for the slower pace and additional time to practice. In fact, yogic practice is, in a way, a luxury. If we have the time to practice, we should take it, so that we may practice for the benefit of those who struggle each day just to acquire food, water and shelter. We can forward the merits of our practices to those who are suffering more than we are.

 

Opportunity to practice is lost easily through complaint or constant distraction, for example. Both of these activities turn us away from the present moment, and are ways in which we will not accept fully the situation we find ourselves in. Distraction is denial of what is in front of us, whether for a few minutes or a few hours. Complaint is a judgment against what is actually happening now. Emotions can be running high, as we are in a kind of pressure-cooker—pressure is put on our relationships, finances, profession and other areas of life. We are all experiencing disappointments and our expectations of how things “should be” have been dashed. How do we process that? How do we digest it? 

 

There are many scary scenarios across the globe and the long-range economic impact of this is yet to be seen. So, what can we do? We can remind ourselves that all circumstances are temporary and are subject to change. We can build the inner stability, the inner resourcefulness and inner peace that can weather any storm. Perhaps we have read about sadhus or Buddhist monks who voluntarily give up all of their possessions in order to do this. This is not necessary for us, but as we think of ways to maintain our physical environment in good running order, we would do well to also spend some time creating an inner sanctum in which we can find solace and refuge. 

 

Some things that I’m finding helpful to remember:

 

  • Return to the body. It will return you to NOW. As often as you can remember, feel your feet on the ground, or your buttocks on your seat or your breath in your body. When the thinking gets to be too much and the anxieties and worries are spiralling into a tornado of fear and confusion, nip that in the bud. Do your asana practice, dance in your living room, go for a walk, belt out a song or whip out 20 pushups. This will change your mind, guaranteed 
  • Expand your view. Remember that you are not alone; millions of people are also experiencing this same phenomenon. In fact, you can be sure others are suffering as you are, or delighting as you are. Sometimes we can become very narrow in our view, and it becomes a “woe is me party”. Reach out and connect by phone or other media.
  • Take technology free periods: this could be a few hours, a whole day, or several days. Take a break from the constant input of information. It may be difficult to put the phone down, but you can live without it for a few hours or even a whole day. Alert your friends and family ahead of time to ease the pull to respond immediately.
  • Connect to the natural world. This can be as simple as spending some time looking out the window at the sky or the trees or opening that window and taking in some deep breaths. Perhaps it’s a slow stroll down your street. Notice the weeds growing out of the sidewalk or the birds cruising on the wind currents. Watch the sun go down or come up.
  • Get good impression food. Watch what you are feeding yourself. There is the physical food which sustains the body, and we want to get the best quality food we can to be put into our system. But also, consider what you are feeding your mind. What shows do you watch? Is it junk food TV?  Do the shows you watch increase your fear and anxiety, or are they uplifting and/or informative? What books do you read? Who do you talk to? What do you talk about...gossip, complaint, etc? Rather than, “Isn’t this horrible? You can change the mood by saying, “Isn’t this an interesting time?” 
  • Keep calm and carry on.
 

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