As Europe becomes the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic and the USA declares a national emergency, here in Hong Kong, we have been living with COVID-19 for more than six weeks. Schools are closed, as are all public leisure facilities. Many people are still working from home, coping not only with managing their own workload but also with supervising their kids’ online learning. Establishing a work-life balance is challenging. We are all acquiring new technology skills and the learning curve is steep. I have been delivering yoga teacher training via Zoom as well as trying to run a primary school of over 1000 students via the internet. We are fatigued and feel isolated and many of my colleagues and friends are close to burnout or in danger falling into depression. Since late January we have been on a roller coaster of emotions, including shock, frustration, anxiety and fear. Stress is on a scale previously unknown to most of us and we have to dig deep, drawing on our resilience and sharing our coping strategies. At a time when we need human contact the most, we are advised to minimise it through social distancing.
I am grateful for the fact that this period of isolation has coincided with a time when I am delivering yoga teacher training. It has provided me with an opportunity to reflect on and apply the teachings of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra to help make sense of the emotions I have been experiencing. I have developed a deeper understanding of how the five Kleshas of ignorance, ego, attachment, aversion and fear of death, drive our suffering during this crisis. I have also found time to reflect on how we might use the Brahmavihara of loving kindness, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity to help us to move away from self-centredness and focus on the experience of others who may need our support.
For those who are not attracted to yoga philosophy the practices of asana, pranayama and meditation represent a powerful set of tools to enable us to overcome negative emotions and move from a place of fear and anxiety to a one of inner peace. Long days spent at home provide a perfect opportunity for us to begin a new practice or explore and deepen an existing one.
From a physical perspective, with many gyms, leisure centres and yoga studios closing around the world, asana practice can be done anywhere, with minimal equipment. In fact even those without a mat can engage in a few seated postures to find relief from the hours spent working hunched over computers. Youtube and platforms like Glo make instruction accessible to all.
Those of us with an established yoga practice understand how life is better when we are practising regularly. We sleep better, we eat less junk, we have more energy, we think more clearly, we worry less, we feel more well-disposed towards others and we cope more successfully with anything that life throws at us,
Over the coming days and weeks I will explore further how yoga, in its many forms, can support us through this time of uncertainty to help us to create positive experiences from what may be for some one of the most challenging times of their lives.