One Year Living Through Covid

We recently marked the one year mark since the United States, and much of the world, moved into shut down.  In March 2020 schools went virtual, many workers moved to working from home, and a lot of changes were made to the way that we live our day to day lives.

Although it is undoubtedly true that living with changes due to Covid-19 has been a struggle for most everyone, it can also be argued that those of us that practice yoga and mindfulness may have benefited from the ability to handle some of the changes with potentially more ease and grace.  Judith Hanson Lasater said in an interview with Andrea Ferreti on Andrea’s podcast Yogland (highly recommended) that she believes that people that practice yoga and mindfulness have been (unknowingly) preparing for something like shut down via practices of quiet and stillness.  I agree with her completely and feel that my yoga practice as well with my time spent living abroad, where adaptation is a major necessity, aided in my ability to cope with the extreme life changes that took place just over a year ago.

With true transparency I should say that my struggle with Covid has not been as difficult as others due to the facts that I kept my job, was able to do my job remotely until September, have no co-morbidities, and am in a secure financial place with no children at home to manage. Having lived abroad in Asia for a few years, I was used to people wearing masks out of respect for others when sick, so transitioning to wearing masks was not entirely new to me. I do find it difficult and annoying to wear one for hours on end, but I remind myself of the compassion that wearing a mask represents and while wearing it use my yoga experience to focus on breathing through my nose as much as possible.

Whatever your Covid situation, and views on wearing masks, if you have yoga and meditation in your life, I truly believe that those practices and skills likely aided you in your handling of the difficulties of the past year.  Not only by means of stress relieving techniques such as pranayama (breath work) or mindfulness practices but also by asana practice which may lead to improved physical health.  All of those practices, mental and physical, fold into one big benefit for the immune system.  Wearing masks and social distancing is necessary, but to live a healthy lifestyle and improve the immune system as best as possible is another bow in the quiver to fight all illnesses.

Looking back at the past year, in all of its loneliness and disappointments, the ideas of adaptability and strength came to mind as carrying me, personally, through the pandemic.  But whether it is recognized or not, I think that the country and world have adapted and come together in strength to do our best in 2020 and the beginning of 2021.  We are all in this together.

Of, course, like everyone else I long for “normal” life, but instead of dwelling on what is missed, I think it is a good opportunity to be grateful for the health that we currently have and for the loved ones that are still with us today, while also grieving those that we have lost. These struggles paired together with the abilities of modern technology give us an opportunity to realize and recognize that as a global community we have come together and helped each other though. Take care of yourself and each other.

Updates on Teaching Yoga During Covid – Winter 2020

This post is specific to NYS DOH, however the procedures and regulations may be beneficial to studios and teachers anywhere. 

Wear A Mask

In mid-October I attended my first in person yoga class in another town.  At this studio the students arrived with masks and once on mats they removed masks.  I consulted a local teacher to ask how her studio handles masks and she said that they do the same. (Note this class and conversation took place in mid-October 2020)

I took my research a little further, reaching out on a Western New York Yogi FB page asking what the clear rule was and what studios were doing considering that the NYS rule for “gyms,” which yoga studios fall under, is that attendees must wear masks at all times.  The overwhelming response, from the 6-10 people who got back to me, was that students must wear masks at all times, as well as teachers, of course. 

This, honestly, disheartened me because of the instant fear I had that students would not attend if they had to wear masks during the entire class, so I posed a follow up question on the same group asking if students were attending with the mask mandate.  The responses that were elicited smothered my fear as all of the teachers who replied said, Yes! Students are coming and are very grateful for the opportunity.

All of that to say that masks should be worn during class.  It feels odd at first, but we’ll all adapt as we have to wearing our masks while running our errands or at work.  That being said, in NY, if a student has a medical reason to not wear a mask, they are able to wear a face shield as outlined by NYS DOH.

Stay Home if Sick

Although masks are worn, students, and teacher, should remain home if feeling any symptoms of Covid.  When entering the space students are asked to sign a contact tracing sheet so that we can contact you if we are informed of a case.  The sign in sheet/contact tracing sheet also doubles as an agreement that you do not have any of the symptoms and have not, to your knowledge, been in contact with anyone who has tested positive and that you yourself are not at the time of class supposed to be home isolating waiting for a test result. 

Provide PPE

Have hand sanitizer available before signing in as well as enough pens for sign in.  Because class size is capped for maximum social distancing at the space (personally my classes are capped at 12 for a space that could easily fit three times as many) it should be easy to know how many pens to have so that everyone can use a fresh pen.  Also, it may be a good idea to bring a box of masks in case a student forgets theirs and does not have time to run to the car or get a new one.  The last thing we would want would be for students to have to have made a wasted trip and go back home without any yoga because they forgot their mask.

Limit Community Use

Request that students bring their own equipment.  We can expect that all students will have their own yoga mats, that should be an easy ask, but many will not have their own props which will change the way that class is taught.  Mention to students that blocks may be very useful in most classes and direct them as to where they can purchase blocks locally at a low price.  I directed students to TJ Max.  I also made it very clear that they are not necessary and it is completely their decision.  

If props are being shared, be clear on distribution, sanitization, and clean up after class.  

Bring Your Mic

If you taught with a mic in the summer or at anytime in the past I suggest that you continue to use it. My new space is large to allow for distancing, I wear a mask the entire class and demo the entire class because I can’t interact one on one, therefore it would likely be very difficult for my students to hear me if I did not use my mic. Another benefit is that I don’t have to shot in a large space that would swallow my volume.

Teachers and Studios, be sure to stay up to date with guidelines. And prepare your students for the very real possibility of in person classes ending suddenly and for an unknown amount of time. If resources and skills are available, have a plan for a smooth transition to virtual and guide your students to those resources. We all know how much we need yoga right now.