Let’s not beat around the bush; the world as we know it has changed. Amidst worldwide lockdowns, quarantines and self-isolation, we’re having to give up many of the freedoms and choices we’ve grown accustomed to.
Many of us feel anxious, afraid and alone. And yet, perhaps one of the most striking things about this pandemic is that we are all in it together.
Literally. The entire world.
This crisis has crushed the imagined borders and boundaries handed down to us by history, lifting a prominent veil of illusion that we are anything but interconnected.
Now is the time to deepen and nurture that connection, even from a distance.
Creative ways of building community are flourishing in these challenging times. Though it may seem tricky from the confinement of your four walls, the myriad of new possibilities for connection appear to be doubling by the day.
Perhaps thanks to the resilience the practice cultivates, the yoga world has evolved in the blink of an eye. Within mere days of lockdowns being in place, teachers and studios across the globe began working together to bring yoga into our homes when we need it most.
Classes, workshops, retreats and even full-blown training programmes are now available in your front room at the click of a button.
Online collectives such as The Awake Network have pooled together free meditation resources, and there’s certainly no shortage of asana classes on offer; all you have to do is check out your local studio’s Instagram or your favourite teacher’s website and you’re bound to find plenty to keep you practicing.
But is it really possible to stay connected to a sense of community through a screen?
Community and connection with others has long been understood as an important facet of both mental and physical wellbeing.
Most biopsychosocial models of healthcare stress the importance of social support, and in countries such as the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands, doctors can even recommend spending time in community as part of a prescription. Known as Social Prescribing, activities such as yoga, Tai Chi and even community gardening may be offered to patients as a means of safeguarding against social isolation and bolstering physical and mental health.
Evidence from several studies even specifies that social connection strengthens our immune system and helps us to recover faster, findings which are particularly pertinent to the current global situation.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated us to ditch social prescribing in favour of social distancing, we mustn’t forget the healing power of coming together.
Connection is important now more than ever, and thanks to the incredible technological tools at our disposal, it’s possible to self isolate without isolating yourself.
How the Yoga Community Has Moved Online
If you haven’t already, I urge you to check out which of your favourite teachers or studios are using interactive platforms, such as Zoom, Google Hangouts or Instagram Live, particularly if you find yourself shying away from live events in favour of watching the recording later.
For many of us, venturing online for yoga is daunting. And whilst it may be a challenge at first, know that it will ultimately expand the boundaries of your comfort zone.
These platforms allow a truly connected experience, and most teachers are opening classes early to allow students to interact in much the same way we would in a studio.
And this really is a silver lining. We are now able to attend classes with teachers and students across the globe.
We can expand our networks of inspiring and uplifting people from the comfort of our own homes, people we perhaps may not have had the chance to interact with otherwise.
A noteworthy example right now is HealthFlix, an incredible initiative offering free interactive talks with some of the biggest names in the mind-body, health and wellness fields. For everyone involved in HealthFlix, the big question is: “Can we take this crisis – this pause in our lives – and use it to get inspired, to learn new skills and better understand the science that will help support ourselves, our families and our communities in the future?”
Offering ourselves and others support is the key to getting through this with our spirits intact.
What You Can Do to Help
If you’re a teacher, now is the time for seva; instead of making comparisons with other online offerings or promoting from a place of ego, consider what exactly your students need right now and surrender to selfless service.
If you’re a student, reach out to the teachers or studios you love and inspire them with whatever it is you’re missing most.
Although it’s a difficult time for all of us, be sure to contribute if you have the means; many yoga teachers have lost their sole source of income for the foreseeable, and even the smallest contribution will help them to continue giving you their support.
Ask for Help
Above all, if you’re feeling lonely or overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
The yoga community is built on compassion and connection, shining an unwavering light on even the darkest of times.
Complete strangers are coming together to offer one another support on Facebook groups, such as Global Yoga Community, and group meditations, dharma talks and practices are available throughout the day on Instagram.
Remember - no matter what you are going through right now, you are not alone. We are in this together, and together we will make it through.