COVID-19 has tested all of us – our moral courage, faith in others, and hygiene practices. I will never look at blowing a candle out on a birthday cake the same way again. This time has also tested our immune system, and not just in the most obvious ways.
Anxiety has been hard to avoid. Each day the world has been different. We look forward to a normal, even a ‘new’ planet. Along with anxiety are feelings of empathy for all those people who have lost jobs, homes and loved ones during this COVID-19 era. We are feeling, sometimes too much. These two completely different emotions – anxiety and empathy – activate almost exactly the same neural pathways in our brain? Our body’s response to both states is high alert, our adrenals shooting cortisol to our muscles, getting us ready to run from that sabre-toothed tiger. We start scanning our environment urgently and begin to find demons at every corner.
I have a mantra you might like to follow during any stressful period, particularly this current one. A mantra is a set of words, accompanied by actions, which keep us focussed on what is important, not urgent.
I honour my breath, and give thanks to my lungs
Breath holds us to life, and is one of the most powerful healing agents to which we have instant access. Start the day with 10 deep inhale/exhales, the exhale being a forceful sound (an open mouth). Practice diaphragmatic breathing, (the yogi breath), in and out through the nose all day. It brings the system back to a place of calm. Take a deep breath through the nose as often as you need to.
My body is my temple, my asanas are my prayers
There are three poses you can practice, that don’t require you to be pretzel-like. Do them every day.
1. Standing forward fold (uttanasana) A powerful, deliberate pose, meant to extend the spine, compress the vital organs, (wringing them out like a dishrag full of water), good for clearing the mind and developing perspective on life.
2. Legs up the wall (viparita karani) One of the oldest poses in yoga – known for its relaxation benefits, especially in the pelvic muscles. This pose also helps with restless legs, and metabolic syndrome.
3. Camel pose (ustrasana) This pose improves spinal flexibility and posture, and is brilliant for the digestive system.
Ho’oponopono – I love you, I am sorry, please forgive me, thank you
Pronounced ‘ho-oh-pono-pono’ this is an ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness. Saying ‘I’m sorry’ keeps you humble; ‘please forgive me’ acknowledges your imperfections; and ‘thank you’ expresses your gratitude to others. Words do change the way we feel and think, so find a mantra that keeps you positive, and say it several times a day – out loud and in silence.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Pema Chodron, to whom I have turned to again and again over many years.
“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen.”
Lee Carsley is the ANZA Yoga founding teacher, and Yoga Alliance CE trainer.
When not teaching yoga to students and other teachers, she also leads meditation workshops and bespoke yoga retreats. Watch the ANZA website for ANZA Wandering Yogi sessions by Zoom – coming soon! Watch the ANZA website anza.org.sg/groups/yoga
Be the light, show the light, and travel light.