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Practicing amidst Pandemic: why having a yoga practice is more relevant than ever before

As I write this, we are amidst the global pandemic of COVID-19. This has never happened in our lifetimes before. Adapting on new levels that are changing rapidly each and everyday. We are now navigating in very different and uncharted waters.

Everything that was ‘normal’ in our lives is now completely upside down. From going to the grocery store, to foregoing all social engagements, to not being able to go to the gym or that yoga class we went to every week, to so many more things as we spend our days here now in California and many places around the world - on lockdown.

As humans, we are natural born adaptors to our environment and life’s undeniably unexpected twists and turns. Being a natural born adaptor is probably one of the quintessential reasons our species has thrived and survived in the way it has.

As meditation teacher and psychologist, Jack Kornfield relates - its as if our ancestors are rooting us on, saying we’ve done this before and we can do it again.

So… where does yoga fit in here? And how do we find space for our practice now with life happening all around us?

The answer is simple.

Asking ourselves these questions in and of itself is a great teaching of yoga. We are exactly where we are supposed to be. The teachings of yoga begin now (Patanjali sutra 1:1). Right where we are. Even and especially amidst a global pandemic.

As we know, the immune system directly responds to stress. This is scientifically proven. If we are calm, cultivating a sense of wellbeing, and using our bodies being active, we are way less likely to get sick than if we are in a place of mental unrest.

As fear sets in, it's natural that we will close up, and close down to life. This in many ways, can be one of the most dreadful aspects of a pandemic - the spread of fear through the minds and hearts of individuals. Practicing yoga, meditation and mindfulness has within it the power to keep us healthy and at ease - despite our circumstances, we can find calm within.

It feels that now more than ever, we are being called to ourselves - to tune in, to listen, to trust ourselves within this new found world of social isolation and as yogis, to re-commit ourselves afresh to a practice that has been around for 1000’s of years.

While the option to take an online yoga class has been around for nearly a decade, the craft of teaching yoga has dramatically shifted onto the screens of millions of people almost over night. Now, we are connecting, breathing, stretching, singing, and moving together in what used to be the sanctuary of a yoga studio, now into the inner realms of our own homes.

Yoga teachers are digitally opening their homes to the public. In a time of social isolation, what’s more, is that it feels that amidst being on lockdown, we are truly connected to each other more deeply than ever before. We are collectively going through something very uncertain and hard all together - as a species.

I personally, miss very much coming into the yoga studio to both teach as well as a being a student - to set everything else down as I walk through the doors and be transported for the next 90 minutes.

And, so… here we are.

In our homes. With family, house chores, work life, and such all around. What do we do? Well, the answer is simple - we practice - that’s what we do. This is where the practice really comes in.

This is what we have been practicing for all this time. This moment right here. And our practice is now more vital than ever before. It is vital that we nourish ourselves, that we continue to take care and carve out time for ourselves.

One of the biggest reasons we practice is to keep our hearts open through adversity. While holding space for all those whom are suffering, we can let even the adversity be in its own way a blessing so that we are able to see the silver linings that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Personally, as I sit and practice with students in this (for me) newfound virtual world in my part office, living room, bedroom, art studio, kitchen and much more sunny studio apartment in Capitola, California - I find that in many ways we are being called to an even deeper level of connection and authenticity with ourselves and with each other.

When I take my dog for a walk and run into friends, as we connect - standing 6 feet apart - there is a new connection here. We are all going through something hard. We are together. In it. And living our lives. Everyone is experiencing it differently. And no one is experiencing it the right or wrong way. There's no place for judgement.

And as we come on to the mat, we are all practicing together now more than ever - for the greater good. As we move through adversity not in the solitude of our own makings, but as a global village - a family - we are held.

My heart feels more open, raw, and vulnerable than ever before.

It's not the same. Something is shifting inside me that I didn’t know existed or was even possible. It's part sadness, love, grief, loss, hope, fear, trust, and faith.

As I show up for my practice each day, I know that I am not only showing up for myself but for countless others. If I can be a little more awake for one person, a little brighter for the next person, that all ripples out. The love that we feel for one another can be viral. And I believe, now - it is more than ever.

We have an opportunity to choose love, to choose faith and trust. We get to decide. Let us choose love.

From my heart to yours,

Kayla Tahani Copeland

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