How Yoga Has Helped Us Cope With Lockdown

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It’s been sixty-three days since lockdown was implemented in South Africa and as many days since we began practicing yoga as a family in our household.

Having flown to Cape Town for my best friend’s wedding, intending to stay for only eight days and unable to return to Vietnam, I’ve chosen to make the most of this time while separated from my husband, students and normal life. It’s been challenging, to say the least, but thanks to my preceding (and ever-evolving) yoga journey, I’ve had access to the tools needed to cope with and embrace this time at home.

Without needing much encouragement from yours truly, we started yoga on the first day of Lockdown Level 5. We continued to practice each morning using the free and phenomenal content that Adriene Mishler shares on her YouTube channel, Yoga with Adriene. At first, the novelty of being locked in and having to discover ways to connect as a family, to look on the bright side, and to find some sort of routine, was an enjoyable challenge. As the novelty wore thin, yoga remained an intrinsic part of our lockdown regimen.

There have been days when communication has been strained, times when our family has not seen eye-to-eye, moments when we’ve felt deflated, confined & frustrated. On all these days, I believe we’ve used the skills we’ve been building as best we could.

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Yoga is a unique practice in that it teaches one to focus on sensation over shape. Most yoga teachers guide participants in the direction of finding what feels good. In every yoga practice that we have experienced, there has been a common theme: to find a mantra authentic to you and then, on an exhale, to act as if it were already so. Seemingly simple, this task teaches us to back ourselves, to see our capabilities and the value of all that we have within us. A personal mantra I’ve used has been, With my breath, I anchor in patience. Patience to wait out the storm, patience to accept where I am, and patience in communication.

As someone who has actively avoided exercise my entire life, yoga really spoke to me from very early on. The idea that everybody is different and that there is room within the poses for organic movement makes the application of yoga feel really good, and the notion of daily practice seems manageable. Slow, mindful, ‘meditative’ movement is what it’s all about. There’s guidance from Adriene as to shape, but a gentle reminder to always focus on feeling over form – an invaluable message for every facet of life.

Each morning, in the interest of mixing things up and keeping things interesting, we have chosen different yoga videos from the hundreds on offer on the YWA channel. In the search for new sequences and mantras, a clear theme emerged: With the breath, we find our footing. In controlling our breathing, we learn to notice our thoughts and consequently, check our actions (most notably, our reactions). As Adriene says, and as we all know deep down, we cannot control what happens to us, what other people think or say, or the events that occur in the world (case & point: COVID19). However, we can control how we respond.

Yoga

The true beauty of yoga is not in the shapes, the poses or even in the stretches. Rather, it’s in the individuality of each practice. There is something new to be found in each routine, although poses and sequences are often repeated. These nuances become more evident over time, but I believe that if we start by knowing and accepting that we are so very unique and letting our movements reflect where we are today, we can move with intention and authenticity, on the mat and in life. A salient reminder used in almost all classes with Adriene is to “move like you love yourself.”

At the very core, yoga teaches us to ground in our breath. In doing so, we can be totally present. There is such freedom in embracing the fact that we are exactly where we’re supposed to be.

Through daily practice, our family has come to learn some crucial lessons. We’ve realized the grace that comes from mindful and gentle actions, and the joy in being in the now. That’s not to say all days are free from friction and fumbling, but I’ve noticed a definite softening in each family member. I’ve seen in them all an enhanced ability to self-regulate, to move intentionally – both on and off the mat – and to be good with where we’re at.

The Yoga with Adriene channel is an incredible resource for anyone wishing to benefit from Adriene’s gentle guidance in all things yoga- (and life-) related. She comes highly recommended by millions of subscribers. With the interest of the individual in mind, Adriene’s virtual classes range from 5 – 60 minutes. Some are aimed at full-body mobility and others target the neck, shoulders, lower back and/or strained areas of the body. Some are even based on weather, mood and personal preference.

Her playlists are sorted by type as well as length, and her beginner videos are easy to follow. Adriene offers a variety of 30-day yoga calendars to keep one accountable, with June’s upcoming program looking especially enticing. Most importantly, there’s always a meaningful message in each practice. These classes come with relevant themes appropriate for anyone with a mind open to growth and personal development (and, of course, increased flexibility and strength).

For her June calendar, themed Courage, (and a plethora of varying practices) click here.

“Yoga is really the art of waking up. Getting back to the true you. It can be that simple. Yoga offers up a way for us to see a world that is working for you instead of against you. Yoga reminds me that everything is connected so we must live, act, breathe with awareness. The process is the candy.” — Adriene Mishler

Emma Slater
Emma is a qualified educator, living and teaching in Vietnam with her husband. Her passions include yoga and linguistics and she enjoys travelling, writing, and reading.