Your practice opens a window, inviting different moods to visit. Keep opening that window wider by practicing every day. ~ Amy Weintraub
During the Pandemic, many conflicting emotions have arisen for me, as I imagine they have for you. Throughout it all, there have been moments of sadness, as I read the stories of individuals who have succumbed, or about others who have unwittingly spread the virus by hugging a relative at a funeral or praying in a church while on vacation. Anger arises toward elected leaders who make policy based on fraudulent self-aggrandizing claims. Joy arises as I celebrate the birth of my new grandson, sadly without my presence by my daughter’s side. Facebook calls are fun, but they don’t meet the need to hold my precious granddaughters. I am grateful to be well, to be living with my partner in peace and in love, and to be learning new technologies in order to offer free online webinars and practices during this time. I’m a slow learner, and I’m crawling like a baby up the learning curve, whining as I go!
Riding Waves of Emotion Inside the House
So how do we ride these waves of turbulent emotions? I have two ways.
My first practice is to acknowledge whatever emotion is visiting, welcoming it into my awareness with as much compassion as I can muster. Because as soon as I do that, I’m not overwhelmed by what is arising, but witnessing it. Last night, worry woke me out of my sleep. I was up and ruminating for quite a while, until I placed my hand on my heart and welcomed worry as though it were a little child. I told my worried child that it was normal to feel this way. I also told that little worrier that the burden she was carrying wasn’t helping her and was depriving me of a good night sleep. She must have relaxed knowing I had listened, because the next thing I remember is waking this morning with my hand still on my heart.
The second practice is my yoga practice itself. The more yoga and meditation I do, the better I feel. I like to practice in nature, and as spring spreads it’s blanket of blooms around us, there are opportunities for most of us to walk outside or ride a bike to a peaceful spot, always keeping our social distance.
Here’s what my personal practice is like. Around 6 am, I’m on my mat to loosen my stiff joints and stretch so that I can sit comfortably in meditation. Sometimes this includes a full asana flow, and sometimes not. I resist the impulse to check my phone for the latest headlines. Most mornings I tell myself that the headlines will be there when I finish my practice, and I’m successful at avoiding the news for an hour or two, but not always. Once I’m seated for meditation, I practice pranayama breathing and I chant some Sanskrit mantras that are special to me. Then I sit in meditation for about thirty minutes, chanting my way back into the day. Now, am I actually meditating? Some of the time I am. And some of the time I’m thinking. If a thought turns into a worry, I consciously turn it into prayer and return to my mantra.
Later in the day, I ride my bike up a little mountain not far from where I live in downtown Tucson. When I get to the top, I do poses, beginning with standing kriya breathing –vigorous breathing. Then I practice slower breathing that extends my exhalations. Paying attention to sensations where they are strong and continuing to lengthen my out breath, I move through moon salutations, sun salutations and balancing poses. There aren’t many people walking by, but I put on my mask, muffling my mantra chanting as I practice.
Now that I’ve outlined my routine, I realize it’s the same practice I did before the Pandemic and will likely be what I do when it’s over. Research tells us that yoga is “dose dependent,” which means that the more we do, the more we improve brain function, in fact, enlarging areas of the brain that help us manage the emotions.
So with compassion for all that’s arising, the invitation is to open that window through your practice into your own true nature, unsullied by whatever has happened to you; the place where you are deeply and intimately connected, beyond story, beyond mood, and especially beyond this virus.
Amy Weintraub, MFA, E-RYT 500, YACEP, C-IAYT, is the founder of LifeForce Yoga, the author of Yoga for Depression (Broadway Books) and Yoga Skills for Therapists (W.W. Norton) and numerous articles and book chapters. Her YouTube channel has many free practices for balancing mood, including the “Remote Relief” series she has been posting during the Pandemic. Her new novel, TEMPLE DANCER is available for pre-order now. www.amyweintraub.com.
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