To fight the coronavirus, lockdowns and quarantines have become commonplace all over the world. This is a necessary step to stop the spread of the virus. However, by nature, human beings don’t like being in lockdown. During such times, fears and anxieties can manifest. However, a few simple steps can go a long way in ensuring that not only we can preserve our mental health during this period, but actually come out of it much stronger than before!
Yoga is not about control. It is about mastery of our emotions, thoughts and fears. To attain this mastery, we start by accepting that which is.
You are feeling anxious due to the lockdown? It is alright. It is a normal reaction. Pretending that we are too “strong” or too “good” to feel anxiety merely worsens the situation. It is like trying to build a dam on a river that is about to overflow. At the same time, accepting that you are anxious does not mean succumbing to it.
Whenever you feel afraid or anxious, sit down. Feel the earth beneath you. Remind yourself that it is alright to feel such emotions. Bring your awareness on your breath. And feel the connection to the earth. Feel its solidity, its density, its capacity for resilience seep into you.
Discipline is not a dirty word!
To prevent is better than to cure. And perhaps the panacea to a wide variety of negative emotions is self-discipline. But once again, discipline, at least when we talk through the prism of yoga, does not mean control. It means inner strength and our capacity of perseverance.
The key to self-discipline is establishing a routine. While our egos might hate the very talk of self-discipline and routines, our minds and body absolutely adore routines! Not only does it reduce stress, it also allows several important functions of our body (for instance our digestive system, our immune system and our capacity to regenerate and recuperate) to function in an optimal manner.
This routine doesn’t need to be particularly strict. Indeed, trying to change too much too rapidly is actually the anti-thesis to good mental and physical health. I’ve included a sample routine that is easy to follow at the end of this article.
Plan out your day.
An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Our greatest enemy in this time of confinement is uncertainty. Our minds simply do not react well to uncertainty. Whenever we aren’t sure what we should do next, it opens the door to our innermost fears.
Now, this does not mean that we must seek to fill out every last second of the day. Indeed, the time spent doing “nothing” (meditating) is actually of great importance during the lockdown. Nonetheless, having a list of things to do for the day (and striking out every task we’ve accomplished) goes a long way in keeping our minds grounded.
A time to exercise and a time to meditate.
When you plan out your day, make time for physical exercise and meditation. In other words: make time for Yoga! (And no, Yoga isn’t physical exercise! That’s just a tiny-winy part of yoga!)
A sample yogic sequence that is beneficial during the quarantine would include:
- Asana and physical exercise: a few standing poses, poses that open hips and back bends. A few shoulder openers.
- Pranayama: Bhastrika (fire breath) and Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostrils breathing).
- Mantra chants (for instance the Gayatri Mantra).
To help you, Yoga Laboratorium organises twice-daily sessions via Facebook Live at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. These sessions are left on our Facebook page so that you can practice at your own convenience.
A few quick tips.
In addition to the aforementioned, here are a few things that don’t take a lot of time but will help a lot during this period of confinement:
- Watch the sun rise. The energy of the rising sun is extremely beneficial to both our mental and physical health. If you get up early enough (try!), watch the sun rise through your window. And if you have the space, practice Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) with the rising sun.
- Take breaks. If you are working on a computer, remember to take quick breaks where you walk a bit, stretch your legs and breathe. It will help keep the blood flowing.
- Make time for friends and family. Yes, we are a social animal! It may not be possible to see our friends during these times, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk to them, either via telephone or online. Set aside two 20-minute windows during the day for this.
- All work and no play… You have hobbies? Perhaps you like to read? Set aside time for games and hobbies. Or merely watching a comedy. Laughing and having fun is the best antidote to anxiety. But once again, don’t merely sit watching comedies all day wrong!
- Open those windows and breathe! Yes, we can’t go outside. But one “good” side effect of confinement is the drastic reduction in pollution. The air is breathable again!
- Avoid spending too much time online. These days, whether it is news sites or social media, you can’t spend a minute without hearing about the virus and the death toll. Checking on the news and social networks a couple of times a day is alright (ideally not before going to bed). But opening CNN or Figaro or Facebook every hour isn’t. Like attracts like. And this is especially true for our fears. Besides, you know what? No matter how much these news sites like to pretend with their live blogs, etc; something new isn’t happening in the world every five minutes!
A sample routine.
The key to this routine is regularity. You can adapt it to your needs and your lifestyles as long as you take into account the following:
- Wake up and go to sleep every day at the same time (yes, even on Sundays!)
- Eat at the same time.
- Exercise and meditate at the same time every day.
This sample routine is an adaptation of my own daily routine (without the time I spend in my own personal practice of yoga and tantra).
- Wake up (ideally before sunrise).
- Take a minute to breathe, thank the breath and/or pray.
- Drink a glass of warm water. Go to the toilet. Brush your teeth.
- Self-massage (personally I use coconut oil during summers and sesame oil during winters/when its cold).
- Exercise and meditation.
- Sit down and plan out the day.
- Work (which, for me, these days includes spending time on Facebook live and teaching Yoga).
- Walk around a bit just to stretch the legs.
- Work (I tend to spend my afternoons reading texts that I didn’t have time to read until now – but for those out of work, it can also be a time for any other hobby).
- Around 5:30-6 pm, exercise and meditate before dinner.
- Walk around a bit to stretch the legs.
- Chat with friends, family or light reading.
- An hour before going to sleep, switch off all electronics.
- Meditate and/or go to sleep.
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