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March 2020 - Yoga and Social Distancing

Dear Yoga Friends,

As we shield ourselves from the novel corona virus by limiting contact with others, keeping our hands clean, and managing our activities in increasingly restrictive ways, one thing becomes clearer. This moment cleaves history into "before" and "after" eras. Going forward, things will be different in ways we can't fully comprehend.

We are experiencing an upheaval the likes of which most of us have never seen. Familiar social and work routines are at best on hold and possibly altered permanently, the economy is tanking, and in the midst of all this change and pressure, we are advised to observe social distancing and not gather with others, which would offer the familiar comfort of physical proximity. Health concerns dominate our thoughts as we go about our day concerned about what we touch, what we breathe, and who is near us.

With our routines interrupted and grinding to a halt, we have a new perspective to ask ourselves what is truly important. This moment calls for introspective practices like yoga. You have surely noticed the plethora of virtual yoga classes right now. Almost every yoga teacher and studio is offering them. I'm no exception—you can find me live-streaming at IYISF. Although online activities can provide great opportunities for growth and connection, they may cause us to sidestep a key message we can take away from social distancing.

Social distancing, aside from being an important survival behavior right now, offers an opportunity to step back from the many day-to-day distractions of our "before" life, and be with ourselves. What about our amped-up hand-washing? Ironic that one of the five niyamas, or fundamental personal practices, is sauca, cleanliness. Sutras II.40 & II.41 (translations from Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by B.K.S. Iyengar) address this:

Cleanliness of body and mind develops disinterest in contact with others for self gratification.

When the body is cleansed, the mind purified, and the senses controlled, joyful awareness needed to realize the inner self also comes.

Just some food for thought. Even under the most dire circumstances it can help to devote time away from the flurry around us and build our deeper awareness. Please don't hesitate to reach out with your own thoughts or feelings about any of this!




Chad Balch