It’s safe to say that over the past month, we’ve all been spending a lot more of our time at home. For many of us, this presents not only the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends – be it under the same roof or over FaceTime – but also the chance to just be still for a change, and retreat into ourselves – whether we like it or not.
Having said this, I can’t be alone in feeling a surprising amount of pressure to stay healthy and productive while in lockdown. If I’m not feeling guilty about lagging behind with uni work (does dilly-dallying from a sun lounger count as ‘WFH’?), I’m feeling inadequate for failing to complete a home workout every morning or bake the perfect banana loaf, all while trying not to live up to the numerous (and actually quite unhelpful) memes about quarantine weight gain.
Yet, amongst all of this, I have actually found that I have an increasing amount of time for practicing yoga and, beyond the physical benefits, it’s something I have personally grown to depend on as a ‘grounding’ exercise.
For those starting out though, it’s probably necessary to debunk a few myths:
- ‘Yoga is something you have to practice religiously’. Sure, you’ll feel the benefits if you maintain a certain amount of consistency, but there’s no single rule on how often you should be getting on the mat. I’ve been doing yoga since I was about fourteen and to this day I have no real routine. I just practice whenever I have the time or the need to.
- ‘You should aim to achieve the more advanced poses’. Each day is different, so just do what you can in the moment and forget the rest.
- ‘Always bring 100% effort to your practice’. Similar to my last point, yoga is all about listening to your body, and not someone else’s levels of flexibility. Some poses will bring a gentle burn, but don’t push it beyond this and actually inflict pain on yourself – if it’s not working for you, take an extra child’s pose.
- ‘It’s a total lifestyle’. Traditionally it is, if you’re strictly subscribing to the disciplines and observances laid out in the Eight Limbs of Yoga, but I disagree with those who have sought to devalue the practices of others because they lack a full-blown understanding of its ancient roots. No one is asking you to commit to all the usual cliches – although burn some incense and listen to ‘sounds of the forest’ by all means – but really, all you need is an open mind and motivation to simply get on the mat.
And the whole point of it all? The benefits are undeniable, and all the more necessary in our current climate:
- It’s a well known fact that yoga does good for both your mind and body. From helping with managing anxiety to easing digestion, and everything in between it would seem, yoga can be beneficial to your health. An obvious point, yes, but I am yet to find something that provides me with the same calm and clear head space, whilst simultaneously awakening/relaxing the body (depending on what kind of practice you opt for).
- You can pretty much do it anywhere, and it doesn’t have to cost you a thing – free tutorials can be easily found on YouTube, while I am currently using the Down Dog app that’s offering free membership during lockdown to those with a student email. You also don’t need to splash out on all the gear if you’re trying it for the first time, just use some props from around the house, like a towel for a mat, rolled up towels for a block, and a leather belt for a yoga strap.
- Linking to the first benefit, yoga strikes me as one of the easiest (and not to mention cheapest) investments you can make for your future self. There’s a reason it has become increasingly targeted towards the young, as it instils healthy habits and self-awareness. As a runner, I have also found it beneficial for improving mobility and preventing injury. Moreover, as someone who enjoys the occasional splurge on skincare, I’m a strong believer that simply being reminded to keep a ‘soft face’ throughout a yoga practice (and daily life) can help to stave off those frown lines and boost your complexion, without the need for expensive serums.
So whilst we’re all in lockdown, why not take some time to check in with yourself and roll out a mat? Remember, it’s still okay to prioritise your own health and well-being, even with everything going on right now.
Here are a few of my favourite poses I’ve been using, feel free to give them a go yourself:
- Pigeon Pose – this always feels good on the hips & thighs, especially after a day spent cooped up behind a desk.
- Tree Pose/Dancer’s Pose – I like to swap between the two as a good way of focusing the mind.
- Moving between Upward & Downward Dog – if you move in time with the inhale and exhale of breath, I find this generally gets you into a good ‘flow’ for the day ahead, whilst waking up the whole body.
- Waterfall Pose – if you want some extra relaxation in this pose, try propping your legs against a wall to relieve any cramping in the legs and feet, and hold yourself here for as long as you like while you notice the body slow down.