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Staying Calm in Times of Uncertainty

Staying Calm in Times of Uncertainty

March 20, 2020

Staying Calm in Times of Uncertainty

The other morning I was on my way to sub a yoga class. I left with plenty of time to get there early. Unfortunately, there must have been an accident because the freeway was at a standstill and Waze told me it was going to take 40 minutes to go 7 miles. I was going to be late for the class I was to teach. 

I could feel my stress level rising.  Then I reminded myself that this is when the real yoga practice happens – the practice of staying calm when things are not going the way you had hoped they would. There was nothing I could do but keep my eyes on the road and wheels pointed in a forward direction.

I realize that being late for a class is a minor event, but this small experience was like a metaphor for the bigger world events happening now. The coronavirus pandemic leaves me feeling helpless. And yet all I can do is “keep my eyes on the road” by staying informed and "keeping the wheels pointing forward" by utilizing best practices as recommended by the CDC, the World Health Organization, and common sense. Now is a time to use tools from our yoga practice to remain calm in the mind and not spiral into panic mode.

That same day I went to Costco because we were running low on paper towels (since we are washing our hands so much). I could not find any in the store. Of course, Costco was also out of toilet paper, all cleaning products, and so many other things. I couldn’t even find the refried beans that I wanted to buy for my son who had just had his wisdom teeth pulled and needed soft food. People are hoarding the most random things. This hoarding mentality is not beneficial and against a yoga principle. Here is some food for thought. Costco was out of lots of stuff, but they were still selling potting soil and fruit trees. Is this a message to take advantage of the time we now have to get out in our gardens, plant trees and grow our own food?

Even though I know all of that, I started to wonder if I should be stocking up too. I felt myself getting sucked into the panic vortex. It took a moment to re-center myself. At times like this, I rely on the tools I have gained from my yoga practice to get grounded and calm.  I slowed my breath. I also hummed on my exhale as I walked through the isles. This is something I am doing much of the time while driving around in the car. For me, it has a similar calming effect as chanting OM. 

I feel grateful for my yoga practice and how it has helped reveal to me the bigger picture when I get caught up in the drama of my life. Most of us tend to get attached to wanting and expecting things to go a certain way. When things don’t, it can feel like a rug pulled out from under your feet. Now I try to see it as a moment to observe how I react. We don’t know what is going to happen but we can control how we react. 

Currently, I am trying to focus on what we CAN do. Here are a few tips on how to take care of yourself in these times. 

I believe in the power of yoga and asana, not just for our physical bodies but to keep our energy channels open and running optimally for our healthy upkeep. Now might be the time to create the space and discipline for home practice. You likely have more time to do this. Today I did a home practice focusing on the fifth chakra and poses that benefit the immune system. I enjoy being on my mat, listening to my body as it guides me where to go: cat/cow, twists and side-stretches, sun salutations with chanting, backbends, tabletop, a long shoulder stand, an extra-long supported fish pose, forward folds.  

Something that cropped up immediately with the studio closures is many teachers are offering online classes at this time. Some are even free. You can check your studio's website or an individual teacher’s websites. Check out to see some I will be offering too. 

This is a good time to incorporate more breathing exercises. I find alternate nostril breathing, also known as Nadi Shodhana, to be very soothing and grounding.  I have been trying to do this daily and I will start to offer this online as well. 

Japamala, repeating a mantra, phrase, or word over and over while counting on a mala bead is a great way to refocus your mind when it starts spinning.  Japamala can be practiced with the very simple chant of Om.  I am a huge fan Om. To me, Om is simply a wonderful vibrational sound that we can draw from within our bodies anytime and anywhere. It is calming and I believe healing as well. Sometimes while I chant Om, I focus on a part of my body that might need some healing. It might just be tension buildup in my shoulders. The vibration of Om helps to melt it away

Take care of your health and your immune system.  Eat well now that you are preparing your meals at home. Boost your immune system. Sleep and rest more than usual. Wash your hands for 30 seconds many times during the day. Don’t touch your face. And may all of our new health-conscious rituals become lifelong habits. 
Practice gratitude for everything that you can think of. I find myself especially grateful right now for fresh air. Here in California we recently have suffered through devastating fires where air quality has been an issue.  Right now, at least, there is no shortage of clean fresh air to breathe. I have been trying to take longs walks every chance I can get. The sight of the trees, feel of the wind and smells of nature are soothing my heart like longtime friends. We may be on Shelter Order here in Northern California but we can still get outside and hike. Gardening is another way to connect with nature and stay busy. As well as taking the time that we now have to clear the clutter from our lives. I will be going through each closet day by day. 
Soon I plan to combine these two things and take my yoga practice outside before and after the rain. Let’s stay connected on Facebook  & Instagram as I will be offering outdoor classes here in Marin. 

This Metta Chant is how I am ending all of my classes these days. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe. May you be at ease. I would love to practice with you soon, visit or follow my social media to find out when and where.