Therapy with yoga in the age of coronavirus
Because therapeutic yoga is a practice you undertake for yourself, to improve your own health and well-being, it can be a powerful part of self-care during the age of coronavirus. All you need to practice at home is a bit of space—even a chair or the floor in front of your fridge—and the ability to decide to practice. (You can even do yoga if you’re confined to bed.)
The routine of cultivating a regular practice is partly behind yoga’s effectiveness for alleviating stress and improving well-being, and routines are also helpful for supporting mental health during uncertain times. Research suggests that the more yoga you do, the better the effect. Small bits you’ll be able to manage on most days are probably a better route than feeling like you absolutely have to do a marathon session or an elaborate practice—start with the yoga you’ll actually do!
An immune boost
Evidence shows that regular yoga practice may increase immunity and help with stress coping. A stronger system is a more resilient system, and therapeutic yogic practices can include physical exercises (poses, or asana) to strengthen the body, as well as breathwork to strengthen the respiratory system. One study, a randomized controlled trial, has also already shown that a particular relaxation technique combined with deep breathing can be helpful for reducing anxiety and improving sleep in patients who had confirmed COVID-19. (You might find both methods in a yoga therapy session.)
Together while apart
The yogic concept of sangha is the community we get from doing something together, from sharing an experience or intention. Even if you’re not physically present in the same room when you’re practicing, doing yoga with a group (or even one other person) can provide a deep sense of connection we all need. (Those who are relatively introverted and don’t really mind physical distancing benefit from social support, too.) Far-flung family and friends may even be able to join the same class or session from different states in a lovely, low-pressure way to spend time together.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has cautioned that mental health issues may increase as a result of the stress of the pandemic and that it’s wise to take deliberate steps to care for ourselves. As WHO recommended in a March 2020 report,
“During times of stress, pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing.”
Where to begin?
Yoga is a self-paced practice that can be tailored to your individual needs. A yoga therapist can offer modifications to make the exercises they’re offering—whether those are physical or mental—accessible to a range of different clients.
Yoga therapy is currently a self-regulated profession, so it’s important to work with someone who has adequate training to recommend practices that will be safe for you. Some yoga therapists focus on certain populations—such as seniors, individuals with neurological problems, chronic pain, or mental health concerns—so you can seek out those people if you have particular concerns.
Many yoga therapists are offering sessions online now, and as different areas begin to reopen you’ll start to see small therapeutic groups again, too. A free class you found online is one possibility, but working with an individual yoga therapist if you are able to—especially if you’re a beginner or you have a health concern—will offer a customized practice that takes into consideration your unique needs, preferences, and goals. Signing up for a virtual session or therapeutic group is also a wonderful opportunity to support small businesses during the crisis.
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