As the world retreats….


It saddened me greatly to have to suspend all my yoga practices and I know many of you have anxiety about this pandemic and its effects societally and economically, and I share your fears. But it has also  made me think deeply about what this means from a Yoga and Ayurveda perspective and I’d like to share this with you.

There are three major qualities of energy in the world; Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. They are in us, in nature, in our food, everywhere.

  • Sattva is the cool, clear, calm and pure energy.
  • Rajas is the busy, busy, busy, always-on-the-go energy.
  • Tamas is the energy of non-movement – the sleepy, heavy, grounded energy.

Whilst we all strive to be Sattvic, in our Western lives most of us are, in fact, very Rajasic. We keep going no matter what, plough through it, be on a mission to fill your day and be productive, productive, productive, productive. Even when we are sitting still, even in the car our minds are constantly on alert, on our sofas we are watching telly, on our laptops, mobiles and bombarding our minds with “stuff”. And with all the news going on around us its hard to be anything else right now, right? Its kind of impossible for any of us to imagine feeling Sattvic (calm, clear and totally together) or even Tamasic (rested, in listening mode, happy to just sit and read a book or listen to the birds) in this current state.

I am one of the millions now forced to work from home. Has its advantages – I don’t need to get suited and booted and put some slap on. I can slob around in my yoga trousers if I want. I can hang a washing up in between online meetings and let the dogs out when they need it, picking up that bit of dust up on my way to the loo, and use the short commute time I would normally do to log on earlier to my laptop. And I know my salary will come in. I am fortunate.

And when work is finished, we are all being encouraged to “socially isolate” and that’s going to get tougher and tougher and stricter and stricter as the weeks go on. Meaning we will see fewer people, spend more time in our homes, and for the many of us who live month to month on our salaries, spending out dosh on “stuff”, on going out and using shopping as a pastime, this is going to be tough. Because hours are being cut, businesses are  under threat of closure and schools are being closed giving parents a mare of an issue in childcare…especially if you are in the emergency services and demand on your time is even more critical. So, I really have NOTHING to complain about. But I have time to contemplate.

We are in melt-down panic-buying mode because we freak out when we think the social model on which we have built our happiness (massive car-park sized supermarkets open 24 hours a day, cinemas the size of a small town and shopping centres with all the glamour and glitzy products and shiny things we really don’t need) is potentially not going to be there. We expect out economy to keep growing and maintaining itself and providing our every heart’s desire, but that’s because, in the West, it runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and never stops. But it is. Stopping. And we ARE freaking out.  

Some of my Ayurveda colleagues are still in India and the virus is there and they are isolating and taking similar measures but there is a massive difference…..they are not panicking! One posted a video of shops with fully stocked shelves and people sitting on the beach enjoying the sun…albeit at a safe distance from each other.

So what does this tell us?

  1. That we need to calm down.
  2. That we need to get creative with our money, our food, our resources.
  3. That we need to share as a society and look after each other.
  4. We need to reflect on how our parents and grandparents (or great grandparents for you young un’s!) coped with the post-war period. But cope they did. And they came through it. And the shortages then were much, much worse and they had Spanish Flu to deal with in a less developed medical support system.  

Those of us at home need to treat this like a retreat and use the time to tap into our brains and have a blooming good think about how we lived out lives before this all began because we sure as heck won’t be the same afterwards. And as Ayurveda would tell us, when things go out of kilter, how do we bring things back into balance? So here are my thoughts.

  1. Use the time we are having forced on us to reflect on your productivity, action, work, movement, and the way you socialise and what you want to get out of life. Instead of always being hungry for excitement and activity maybe balance that for a while by valuing space, time, stillness, peace, slowing down? We will all come out of this so is this an opportunity to re-vision your future?
  2. And as you follow the guideline on personal safety why not turn washing your hands into a mantra…a positive statement to repeat over and over and make this a joyful experience (was never a fan of the Happy Birthday thing.)
  3. Drink room temperature warm water. All day long! This does two things – keeps you hydrated, of course, but can also flush nasties from the upper respiratory tract into the stomach where they can be neutralized by your stomach acid and then flushed out of your system.
  4. Practice the 3 pillars of life according to Ayurveda which are Proper Sleep, Proper Diet and Proper Sex
    1. Proper Sleep. Try to be asleep by 10 pm latest – go to bed earlier without your phone and read, listen to music, practice pranayama, meditation or relaxation and then sleep. And get up at the same time every day. Our bodies crave routine and we feel crap when we go to bed late, sleep badly and get up at odd times. Yogis have done regular sleeping for thousands of years, so we know it helps our health.
    1. Proper Diet – watch your Agni, another word for digestion but it loses something in translation from Sanskrit. One thing I have noticed is that all the tinned and frozen aisles in the supermarket are completely trashed (Ayurveda classifies this as “dead” food), but there is plenty of fresh fruit and veg. And our butchers are working hard to keep their stocks plentiful. So, make the most of this and try cooking and eating only fresh foods. Many of us will now have the luxury of time to cook so go explore in the kitchen!
    1. Proper Sex – What? I’m not Margery Proops, people. You can sort this one out for yourself! But excessive is depleting so watch it….

Which leads me on to the good use of our time. Take this opportunity to do the things that you usually don’t have time for. Sort out those cupboards and bookshelves, clean out the nooks and crannies you can’t normally. Rest (whaaaat?) Start a meditation practice. Talk to your plants, talk to you family even! Get out those paints, knitting needles etc. that you always promised you would go back to one day. Now you have the time.

Honour your emotions. That might mean you want to cry, get frustrated, whatever, but go with it. Write it down, talk about your feelings to anyone who will listen. Kapha dosha is responsible for grief and that settles in the lungs. We feel grief in the lungs and hold onto emotions within our lungs. So cry, let it out, let go. Roll your shoulders up and back and open your chest. Have a bloody good scream if you want to! Practice deep breathing every day for the lungs. Remember full Mahayog Prananayam, the full yogic breathing that I taught you? Now it comes into its own!

Sing. Singing is great for opening the chest and the lungs and distracts your mind. The Italians are getting this so right. But my neighbours are not up for me going through the full Village People play list in my back garden…..

Keep active – what did your mum say, idle hands and all that….if you can’t get outside that’s the perfect excuse to roll your yoga mat out. Active practice if you have the energy, restorative practice if you don’t.

Get outside – the days are getting longer, and with the right clothes there is nothing to stop you. We are part of nature and need that connection. I weeded by veg patch for 30 minutes at lunchtime instead of my usual catching up on gossip at work and it felt great! Even opening your window and breathing fresh air is better than nothing at all.

Follow a Kapha pacifying diet to support lungs and immunity. If you can get basmati rice on the black market buy it! Sell yor granny if you have to! If you can’t then quinoa and the likes are just as good. Limit dairy. Err on foods which are light, dry, and pungent. Light soups, ginger tea, golden milk (cooked and spiced so easier to digest) Let me know if you would like some recipes! Use good quality oils – ghee, olive oil, avocado (sorry, but these are desperate times!

Clean out your passages every day! – use your neti pot if you have one but at least gargle 1/2 tsp turmeric and 1/2 tsp salt in warm water.

Give yourself a good rub! Stimulate lymphatic circulation (the body’s waste management system) by giving yourself a warm oil self-massage before you shower in the morning.

I am still working and will be manning the phones to help businesses through this crisis where I can so won’t have a huge amount of time myself ironically (!) but will try to keep in touch and post through the Facebook Group Yoga With Moira and my website to keep you all on your mats and in your heads one way or another so keep checking in. And if you are feeling very anxious or just want to chew the fat you know where I am.  

Yoga and Ayurveda have been used for thousands of years through more pandemics than we can shake a stick at. They are the mother and father of all holistic practices and can offer you great support. And as all the yoga teachers locally are in the same boat they are all putting out great online offerings so this might be the trigger for you to take a little better care of you. And it is my dharma to help you all in whatever small way I can. Stay strong. We are in for a bumpy ride but we are all in it together…

Lokah Somasta Sukhino Bhavantu

May all beings be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.