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March 2021 - Yoga and The New Normal
Dear Yoga Friends,
Hard to believe it's been a year since I reached out to you about Yoga and Social Distancing. As restrictions begin to lift, we face the prospect of changes, and not necessarily the changes we may want or expect. What will the new normal look like? Is resuming in-person contact a relief, or a source of anxiety? That depends on you and the context. Sheltering has provided a reason to interact less and a kind of clean slate to decide what we want to bring back in to our lives. We may joyfully hug family and friends, but continue to opt out of larger group activities due to risk or perceived risk. Some interactions, though completely safe, may still be ones to let go of. And much remains to be learned about variants, vaccine effectiveness, and dare I say, new viruses that may emerge. Whether you embrace a new normal or prefer to wake up from the bad dream and get back to life as you knew it, a changed world will greet you.
How can yoga practice help? Well, there are the obvious benefits of improved physical and mental well-being. But beyond that, yoga practice models a way to thrive in a new normal. Each asana or pranayama is a new normal, be it due to past learnings, mood, energy level, injury, or other factors. In yoga we observe ourselves—body position, actions, breath, mental state, emotional state—and either continue to observe or thoughtfully bring about change, so that we come into harmony with the new normal of our practice.
It has always fascinated me that in sutra I.6, Patanjali was able to boil down the movements of consciousness, or vrttis, to five elements (translation from Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by B.K.S. Iyengar):
Although yoga aims for the stilling of all five, some prioritization might help us beginners. It seems to me that if memory and illusion/delusion dominate, we are essentially addicted to seeking past pleasures or what we recall as pleasurable that may not have been. But if correct knowledge and clear memory dominate, then we can better adapt to what we face in the moment.
So next time you or I practice, let it be a fresh experience that helps us meet this new normal. Would love to hear how it goes for you. :)
* Livestream classes: noon-1:15pm Tuesdays (mixed level) & noon-1:30pm Thursdays (intermediate) at IYISF