The social distancing effort to slow the effects of the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on mental health. Many Americans being told to stay home are feeling restless, alone, and scared.
In recognizing the importance and necessity of community support and unity during this time, many yoga studios have immediately started doing video classes and live streaming platforms. In turn, many people have found solace and support in keeping in touch with their yoga support systems online.
It seems self-isolation and being separated from the people and activities that keep people sane are forcing everyone to find new coping mechanisms for a time of uncertainty. Luckily, yoga studios are avidly working to shift their businesses online and provide loyal clients and community members with live-streamed content.
This shift has helped in keeping small businesses and their employees stay afloat during an economic downturn. Tiny Buddha Yoga (TBY), Michigan’s top studio of 4 consecutive years, has been supporting their community by consistently providing their students with 4-6 live video classes every day.
When students sign up online, links to a video class and Spotify playlist are sent to their email so they can join the live class and practice to the instructor’s music.
Studios like TBY have been working to adapt to the new platform. They have been giving their students the support and outlet that they need during this time of chaos. Further, instructors and students alike can find solace and comfort in the still-thriving yoga community.
There seems to be something special about yogis from all over the country. Including past TBY community members who since relocated and family and friends of current members- still joining video classes together.
Current TBY student Naomi noted how the current quarantine situation has had her feeling “overwhelmed” and she’s even found that “it’s honestly gotten harder to breathe”. For Naomi, “seeing this community come together has been the only thing that lifts the weight and helps me catch my breath.”
In joining the TBY Zoom video classes, students like Naomi are able to let go of the stress of the pandemic, feel and validate all of their feelings. Furthermore, they can breathe openly and without judgment among others who are going through the same thing.
Yoga is certainly a physical practice and discipline. Many members of TBY have found that the emotional support and grounding aspects of this community have been crucial in easing their anxiety. Similarly, another TBY student Laura has utilized her yoga practice to slow down her “anxieties running wild” and remind herself of the things she is thankful for.
“Yoga to me is the ability to create space for myself within the craziness of life. My practice is a daily reminder that there are things that still bring joy. There are choices I can make. And, there are others holding space with me in the hardest time,” she said.
Like many others, Laura, too, said she was “grateful” for the opportunity to come back to her mat and forget everything else outside of it.
One of the most common teachings in yoga that is focused on in class is mindfulness, or the idea of being in the moment, noticing emotions or thoughts that come up, and practicing non-reaction to honor one’s emotions while not necessarily acting on them.
Like Laura, lovers of yoga come back to their mats because it is a safe space where all feelings are allowed but no one is expected to tackle them all at once. In a time of unrest and hysteria, being able to practice mindfulness and accept the things that are out of our control can be extremely therapeutic.
Yoga instructors are also appreciating maintaining a bond with students and reestablishing that sense of community that makes students feel so supported and safe at TBY.
As an instructor who is very extroverted, the social stimulation and feeling of comradery I’ve gotten from teaching students through video classes has been essential to keeping calm while being isolated at home.
Seeing the smiling faces of my regular students has reminded me of how lucky I am to have this community.
I’ve been able to realize that, though I can’t control what is happening around me, my students are sending their positive energy to me as I am to them.
Another important theme in yoga that’s helped me is non-judgment. Yoga allows you to feel and move without expectations, labels, or punishment. While this may apply to listen to your body and taking rest when needed, it can also speak to allowing the practice of yoga to come in many forms.
Mental health directly affects our physical health and motivation. And, I’ve especially learned about the welcoming aspects of yoga that allow us to customize our practice to what we need on a given day.
As an instructor, I’ve been transparent with my students. If I’m having a tough day, I remind them that their practice is unique to them and to take what they need from it. Communities like TBY build on the sentiment that anyone and everyone is a yogi. And, that yoga is available to those that need it.