BY STEPHANIE CANTRELL
As the COVID-19 situation continues to grow there are yoga practices we can adopt to help us manage our response to the pandemic, our contribution to a fragile society, and our own wellness and mental health. Asana, or physical yoga, is only one branch of yoga. The first two branches of yoga are the Yamas and Niyamas. The five Yamas focus on social constraints, which anyone who is currently practising social distancing (read: everyone in the world) will surely understand. The five Niyamas look more directly at the self, particularly self discipline. By taking on some of these practices we can weather the current storm and continue to honour our yogic roots.
AHIMSA – NON-HARMING
The first Yama is Ahimsa – non-harming. We can practice this Yama by avoiding harm towards the community and harm towards ourself. Respect local rules regarding the coronavirus, whether that be limiting social contact, wearing masks, or declaring yourself if you come into contact with the virus. Be kind to yourself at this time by setting aside negative thoughts directed at yourself or this situation. Practice feeling gratitude for what you do have. Make notes of things that make you happy. Enjoy a home yoga practice. Read more. Support your friends and neighbours. Division follows fear as a crack through our relationships and communities. Practice acceptance of other people’s worries and offer support to those being targeted or marginalised due to misconceptions, stereotypes or xenophobia.
SATYA – TRUTHFULNESS
Right now, more than ever, honesty is imperative to being a responsible member of society. Be truthful in your risk status to avoid harming others. Isolate yourself if you know you are at risk and report any concerns about your status to relevant bodies, be it local authorities, employers or friends. Also, be honest and truthful to yourself. Take the time to check in with your own wellbeing. Acknowledge your emotions for what they are rather than trying to oppress them. Journal, speak to friends on the phone or by text. Share if you are struggling with this current climate and strive to hold a safe space for others to share in return.
APARIGRAHA – NON-GREED AND ASTEYA – NON-STEALING
Aparigraha, non-grasping, or non-possessiveness, traditionally redirects reliance on material possessions, encouraging individuals to let go. In the COVID-19 climate, Aparigraha could be practised by resisting the urge to hoard shopping items. Take enough for what you need and practice kindness to others in your community who may also want to buy toilet paper / masks / hand sanitizer.
Taking a more mindful approach to how we act in supermarkets helps us to achieve Asteya – non-stealing. Consider the ripple effect that your actions may have on others in your community. Already on social media we’ve seen distraught mothers in America unable to buy nappies or milk for their children due to the bulk-buying habits of other shoppers. Try to resist stealing other people’s right to obtain necessities for their family. Start from the perspective of abundance, rather than scarcity and avoid feeding into the panic.
SAUCHA – CLEANLINESS
Never before have my hands been so clean. The Niyama ‘Saucha’ refers to purity or cleanliness and is something that has been at the forefront of many minds during the last few weeks and months. Extend Saucha to your mind, cleansing yourself of negative thoughts towards yourself, the crisis and other people. Think about the language you use and soften it to reduce judgement, aggression and gossiping. Meditate or lie in Savasana when you feel your mind becoming cluttered. Give yourself time to rest and reboot, much like you shutdown your computer from time to time to get it to perform more efficiently
SANTOSHA – CONTENTMENT
My favourite Niyama, Santosha means finding peace and contentment with where you are right now. In physical yoga practice, we may practice Santosha by avoiding comparisons to others or old versions of ourselves on the mat. Now, more than ever we are in a global crisis very much out of our control. What we can control is our acceptance of the current conditions rather than our resistance, as we work towards finding a semblance of peace in our own lives.