Yoga in the time of COVID

Yoga in the time of COVID

When I started doing yoga, all of my teachers stressed the importance of a home practice. Our home practice, we were told, supplemented and supported our class practice and vice versa. I don’t hear many teachers saying this today. Is it because they assume we have a home practice, so they don’t need to remind us? Or do they not think it’s important? I think we may see a trend back to talking about it more, because of the experience of the past few months.

If COVID has brought about anything good, one of those things is, it has forced yogis back into their home practices. Whether taking class with a teacher live on line, doing recorded classes or just practicing on our own, if we’ve been practicing at all, we’ve been doing a home practice. And for some, it’s the very first time. And this is a good thing.

So, why is it important to practice at home?

Yoga is, first and foremost, a spiritual practice. It is about going within, moving inside ourselves in a way that is just not possible in a room full of people. Yoga is also about community. Kula is the Sanskrit word for community, but it’s not just any community. A kula is a community of people on a similar spiritual path, with similar values and ideals. It’s about studying, practicing, learning and fellowship, similar to a church community or any other group of like-minded people. We get this experience from attending class. Both aspects of yoga are important. We deepen our own yoga by doing both.

My practice has deepened in several ways in the last few months.

My meditation practice has never felt better. I practice a Tantra-based, initiatory mantra practice, Neelakantha meditation. It is an ancient practice that has been passed down from teacher to student for over 1,000 years. It is a sanctuary for me. I look forward to it. If I miss a day, I really miss it. I’ve never had this experience before. I feel connected to something bigger (God/Goddess/Universal Energy). My teacher describes it as the vibratory bubble-bath that we get to bathe in twice a day.

My physical practice has grown stronger as well. The two teachers I consider to be my main teachers have been doing more online offerings, both live and recorded. It’s been so great to be able to take Jeanie’s Goddess Flow or a Vishvamatrasana clinic from Christina, from the comfort of my own home. And on days when I don’t have the time or inclination for a class, I roll out my mat, start moving and see where it takes me.

I’ve had more time for my intellectual practice too. I have been reading more yoga philosophy and scripture. I am studying the Shiva Sutras. I continue to dive deeper into the study of Hindu Mythology and Goddess Lore. My connection to the Divine Feminine is strong. I’ve never been able to say that before.

I am practicing more karma yoga. I am assisting and mentoring yoga teacher trainees. I am deeply honored that I have been sought out, and at the same time, I am excited to see that the thirst for real yogic knowledge seems to be coming back around. Thanks to COVID? Maybe. While I’m not a believer in “Everything happens for a reason,” I am a strong believer that out of anything bad, can come good.

We are in a time when it often seems like there is more bad than good in the world. COVID, racism, sexual predators in positions of power, corrupt politics, violence in the streets, intolerance. It seems like the world could not be less yogic.

But when we understand yoga philosophy, we see that this is all part of the cycle. There’s no light without dark, no good without bad. The world cycles between good times and bad. We are currently moving from the Kali Yuga into the Sat Yuga and from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius. Better times are coming, but things get more chaotic before they get better. There has to be revolution before there can be evolution. The better times are coming, and we yogis are the ones who will be ushering those times in.

Now is the time to be a Karma yogi, one who takes action, and does so, selflessly. . We must take an active role in ushering in the better times. It will look different for everyone. Maybe you are a nurse, working long hours doing COVID tests or treating patients, maybe you are an activist, attending Black Lives Matter or LGBTQ rallies. Maybe you are running for office. Maybe you’re spending money at local businesses. Maybe all you can do right now is be a good parent or partner. All of these things are so important and necessary.

As yogis, if we are making a sincere effort to ask ourselves often, “How can I be of service?” we’re on the right track. If we simply stop and inquire of ourselves, whether any action we take is coming from our heart or from our ego, we’ll take the right action more often than not.

Better days will come. That is both a promise and a responsibility. Let’s make it so.