Why Do Yoga During a Pandemic?

Dr. Aileen Fullchange explains why practicing yoga during a pandemic is a powerful tool for regulating emotions and managing stress.. 

By Aileen Fullchange, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist | Apr 14, 2020
Why Do Yoga During A Pandemic

During this pandemic, I’ve found myself trying to manage my stress levels in a variety of ways and one which I’ve found very helpful is yoga. But what is yoga really? Is it about being flexible and fit, having a certain body shape/type, needing certain clothing? Not at all! Yoga is simply mindfulness in movement. Yoga is the practice of being aware of the present moment without judgement. This could happen through noticing your breathing while lying down, noticing which muscles are stretching or contracting as you get up from a chair, or noticing what thoughts and emotions are happening while trying to maintain balance while standing doing dishes. As you can see, yoga can happen in everyday daily life!

The awareness-raising that yoga helps to cultivate is probably the most impactful piece of yoga, especially right now. Let’s consider what’s happening with this pandemic. Not only is Covid-19 a real virus that is infectious and can spread but so are emotions of fear, anxiety, and panic. These emotions are arguably more contagious than the virus itself – and neuroscience backs this up. Our brains are wired to share others’ emotions. A parent who is anxious will “spread” some of that anxiety to their kids. On the flip side, a parent who is calm will also spread some of that calmness to an anxious kid.

Mindfulness is like a vaccine for contagious emotions. Of course, parents don’t want to spread negative emotions to their kids. But, in order to stop spreading them, as adults, we first need to know that we even have those emotions. And, many times, those emotions can show up as bodily sensations before they show up as a conscious thought – tightness in the chest, increased heart rate, shallow breathing, a clenched jaw, just to name a few. The more aware we can become of these bodily sensations, the more information we have about how we’re feeling, and the better decision we can make about what we want to do with those feelings.

May we all fight the spread of this virus – and the spread of fear – during these times.