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Staying Connected, Apart: The Pandemic of Stress

By April Geary for Yoga Medicine®.

I’ve spent the last 3 years focusing my work on one-on-one sessions here in Ventura, California. The usual scene is a power kick butt flow with recovery tools at the end, usually. This has not been the case since COVID came to town.  Picture this… a large man, muscles are like cement, powers through town on his road bike about 50-60 miles a day on weekdays and triple that on the weekends. He is ready for his private flow class with a full dose of strength and intensity and a bit of myofascial release for mobility and muscle recovery. After an hour he’s into his inversion practice and then a 25 second savasana is about the norm. BOOM. He’s happy and feels as strong as the hulk! I pack up and head on my way till the next time. This time the scene was a little different. I walk in and he is sitting on his mat in Sukhasana, his shoulders rounded forward, his head dropped. He looks up to me, places his hands over his heart and says “I have so much anxiety, I’m stressed out and on medical leave from work…” Well, we just had a turn of events. A fine example of being completely prepared and throwing it all out the window. I quickly realize I need to help support and empower him to be able to step into his life again. First thing that comes to my mind is breath and I need to get creative with my words to help him process what he is feeling.  So, I dig into my YM tool bag and bring him into a supported heart opener, decadent with props, and ask him to start with bhramari pranayama (Humming bee breath). I ask him to start to visualize the anxiety swirling around in his chest and with each hum leaving his body. Then we do Kidney 27 tapping, I tell him to imagine each tap is like a pebble falling into a lake, letting go of his anxiety with each tap. After some time his taps become gentler and I ask him to relax his arms to his sides, I guide him through a quiet walk to a well and tell him to throw his last thoughts of worry into the well and once done, to walk away, reminding him to come back into his breath.  Astonished by the effects, he was excited to use these new tools and I was grateful for the experience to offer new modalities. I was able to put the Yoga Medicine training I completed during COVID to work immediately and I am so grateful for still being able to stay connected online with my Yoga Medicine family. 

 

A few things I have learned in the last 6 months:

  • Take Care of Yourself First. COVID is overwhelming for us as teachers and we must put our “masks” on first. Keep up with your own practice and rituals. Use the tools you use to keep yourself in a healthy mental state. What you use and know will be your best tools, especially when it comes to communicating it to them.
  • Explore the Viability of Digital Tools. If being around people is causing your clients anxiety, offer to meet with them online, via Zoom, Facetime, IGTV, Youtube or even offering to send them videos you prepare for them of guided meditations, sun salutations or breathing techniques.
  • Let Go of the Emphasis of Your Aesthetics. Your videos and appearance do not have to be perfect. Letting our students know we are still human is comforting to them. Your space, you, your phone camera is all you need.
  • Make a Schedule for Your Online Offerings. This will help keep you grounded as a teacher, and allow you to keep your time for yourself.
  • Consider Being of Service As Well As Compensation for Yourself. I Like to offer my clients bundles of classes, 6 for a certain price, one being free. Or a free first session to discuss their needs. Usually  paid upfront and a guaranteed time slot if they prefer every week. This guarantees me that we can be consistent with their practice and there won’t be that weird exchange of money in the end. With Paypal, Cashapp, and Venmo it makes it very easy.
  • Communicate. Don’t be afraid to ask things. Since this will be a very personal space they will tell you lots of things. As a teacher, be transparent and real and don’t forget your Code of Ethics. 
  • Less is More. Don’t overwhelm them with so many tools that it causes more anxiety. I like to offer 3 things at a time for my clients and we build on those once they have been doing them for a while. 

Here are 3 things that I have been doing and has been working well for my clients:

  • Breathe Work. Learning Ujjayi and Bhramari pranayama (humming bee breath) are simple but powerful options. I recommend a daily, just a few minutes is all that’s needed.
  • Sun Salutations. Teaching them simple sun salutation variations to meet their needs so they can do them the days we don’t meet, I offer to send them a video of me doing them to follow along with if they haven’t got it down just yet.
  • Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra can be a powerful practice for mental health, stress, anxiety and so much more. There are many scripts available for free on Youtube as well as on apps to use. Headspace offered their app for free for a year to people who have lost their jobs due to COVID. 

All of this is an important reminder that even though we can’t be together, we can still support each other by staying connected, apart.

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