The planet has hit the pause button. It was inevitable in a way: a world that consumes more than it is able to sustain is always going to - at some stage - let us know who is boss. And while this is a scary moment in history and - indeed - a tragic time for many of us, there is some solace to take in this period of enforced solitariness.
Perhaps it feels cheap to suggest that this could be a positive time for us all. But there's something powerful in the collective focus of protection. We stay at home to protect each other - it's our way of doing our bit; the way we express our love for our fellow human. And while our beloved NHS fight on the front lines, we stay at home to make sure that their essential service to us all isn't overwhelmed.
So, what do we do while we're at home?
Of course, this is a yoga website, so it would be unusual if I suggested that we do something other than meet online, share our energy, and practice yoga. And by being together - even if we're not in the same room together - we share our space in time, and that's enough to get us through. It feels like an aeon since the world was busy: when we were stuck in our cars on busy streets; stuffed into packed trains; crammed into offices with dreadful deadlines. Sure, that's the rhythm of life. But - just perhaps - it doesn't need to be. For many, working from home is a new experience. And it presents challenges that are difficult to overcome. But, just like yoga - we return time and time to familiar asanas but breathe new life into it by embracing the new. A yoga pose is a universe of potent and latent energy and complexity - just waiting to be discovered. And so, while we're faced with new challenges for the time being, we could be looking at the new as an opportunity to grow: a chance to spend time in the home we work so hard to afford; a gift. We can spend time with our partners and our children, our pets. Our homes.
Don't be in a rush
Chances are, we're going to have to stay at home for a while. Notice I didn't say "confined to our homes" for that's a negative. We have the opportunity to truly ground ourselves in the surroundings that CAN feel harmonious, even if it takes a bit of work to get it there. When we practice yoga, there's no rush - or there shouldn't be. There's no rush to leave one asana and move onto the next. There's something to be discovered in the familiar - something that we didn't notice before. For those who practice yoga, we're used to slowing things down, to funnelling our focus into the minutiae, to exploring the colossal abyss of the familiar. Sure, we learn new asanas all the time, but we never really penetrate the new ones - not straight away. We learn HOW to comprehend the new ones by developing understanding of the old ones. When we do trikonasana, we learn to place our feet in the right position, to lift out of our feet, to turn the thighs, to level the hips, to work into the torso, to lengthen the spine and to find connection from the feet. We learn how to DO the pose. But do we learn how to BE in the asana?
Learning to BE
It's all very well DOing the physical stuff in yoga, just as it's all very well to DO your job. But do we ever notice our breath? In yogic terms, the breath is our energy. And how we treat that breath largely determines how that breath treats us in return.
And breath - in these scary moments of COVID-19 - is an apt concern. Because the effects of the virus can penetrate our lungs and cause real life-threatening danger. So, we should recognise how lucky we are to be here. Lucky to breathe, lucky to be here. We can indulge a little in our breath: to breathe is to be alive, after all. If we breathe indulgently, deep into the pit of the lungs - drawing the energy of the breath down into the abdomen - then we ingest the energy of the breath. We enrich our blood with oxygen. When we breathe slowly and deeply, our heart beats more slowly - and it pumps oxygen-enriched blood around our organs. And - because our heart beats more slowly - it pumps our blood around our body with less intensity, putting less stress on our organs. So, while we're staying at home, spend a little time to breathe. And to pause. And to appreciate that this is the planet giving us an opportunity to spend a rare moment of reflection. Yes, there are terrifying things happening around us - but while we can, we should dwell on the positives, and recognise that this opportunity to be still is a gift from the planet. And that gift of time is giving the planet an unparallelled opportunity to heal itself. Our air is cleaner because we're not in our cars. The bird song is louder because there's no noise pollution to drown it out. The streets are quiet because we're showing our love by staying in and protecting each other. How many times have we complained during our adult lives that years whizz past without us barely noticing? Time has slowed down. Let's enjoy it. And indulge in it.
The Gift Of Time
This is a scary time, but it's also a time of momentary change. And soon enough, we'll be about our business, and we'll wonder why we didn't listen. And why we didn't appreciate this great gift of time.