We can all remember the days and nights when we first started to notice that we were worried, fearful or upset about the pandemic as it started to sweep through countries like Italy and the USA. Do you remember first feeling it? At home, we were getting reports of outbreaks in Sydney and other parts of Australia. Apart from the relentless media coverage, it became rare to talk to anyone without discussing aspects of this frightening and extraordinary ‘dystopian’ situation we found ourselves in.
Around the time of the lead in to the first lock down, I cried almost daily for about a week. All of my yoga teaching gigs were cancelled, media coverage was frightening and I was contemplating being locked down alone in my home. There was talk about going online although most teachers had never done this. What equipment was needed? What were the studios and gyms going to do? How could we make any living from online? With all my classes disappearing, I spent a lot of time researching how to prepare an online offering. The technology set up was daunting and frustrating. I’m a yoga teacher, not a technology guru! I even tried to build my own website and got as far as designing most of the home page. Great! Almost a whole day designing one (pretty) page which had no click thrus, no transaction platform and no storage solutions for my content. Was I biting off more than I could chew? Oh yeah!
In the background I was staying in touch with my lovely ‘Meru Danda’ course group who were all in Europe. We studied together at the Krishnamacharya Mandrem in Chennai, India in October 2019. Four Italians, two Germans, one Slovenian, one French and one Australian (me). Eight women and one male. All yoga teachers. We had experienced such a special time together and subsequently set up a WhatsApp group to stay in touch. I was deeply worried about them at that time (back in March), particularly due to the grim stories coming from Italy. But my enquiries were met with “I’m OK…I’ve got my yoga” or “I’m fine…I am regularly chanting each day…here is a chant for you all (attached)”. Having practiced yoga for over 25 years and teaching for more than five years, I had experienced the benefits of my practice on my mental and emotional wellbeing many, many times. After the first week of lockdown and feeling stressed by my need to do ‘something’ but feeling grossly lacking in technology skills coupled with an emotional state that was fragile at times, I woke up on Sunday morning (day seven) and knew I needed to get a grip on myself.
My typical day starts with a morning practice. This can range from 20-60 minutes and can be any combination of dynamic hatha, vinyasa, pranayama, chanting and/or meditation. This morning, I felt I needed to really move my body. I played energizing music during a strong vinyasa practice. I momentarily opened Facebook at the end of my practice and noticed that Deva Premal and Mitten were live streaming chanting. Perfect! I needed to use my voice. 40 minutes later, I rose from my mat feeling joy in my heart and positive energy lightening my whole being. I was ready for breakfast and the day and I knew in that moment that this is how I can and do feel from a full yoga practice and it was also a strong reminder of the benefits of yogic chanting. I was glowing and I intended to hold on to that and fill up my well with my yoga, more so than ever before. This began my journey of lockdown. My daily practice and 30-40 minutes of chanting almost daily. I also committed to a strict media blackout for most of the time allowing only for daily headlines from The Guardian and SMH online. I was feeling calm, centred and quite happy albeit a little alone at times.
The other practices that I incorporated into my self-management regime included daily photography of beautiful flowers and plants throughout my garden which I uploaded to my Facebook page where I had set up a ‘Finding Joy Challenge’. I continued this challenge for 42 days. Of course having Baxter (a French bulldog x pug) with me encouraged me to discover new walks and places for him to run free and swim every day. I cooked loads of healthy food and baked every week (I eat a lot!) and this contributed to my feelings of strength and wellbeing. I did several online courses with Krichnamacharya Mandrem (Chennai). Including one on one chanting with a teacher. She was very patient (and needed to be!) as my pronunciation was amateur at best. We chanted together using a call and response technique over Skype. All of the initial KYM teachings which include meditation, asana and pranayama remained free whilst in lockdown. It was absolutely joyful to connect with some of my Indian teachers in this way!
So what have I learned so far during these strange times? I have my yoga. It always allows me to reconnect with my inner world, rebalance and preserve peace, good health and joy! It has helped my friends in far more dire situations to cope and thrive.
I have never felt so truly grateful for yoga.
Liz is a partner and teacher at Dee Why Yoga and teaches Hatha, Vinyasa, Yin, Pranayama and Meditation in studio, privately and online. Her formal qualifications include a Diploma in Hatha Yoga, Yin Yoga training and a Diploma in Energetic Healing as well as a Meditation Facilitator’s certificate.