Bend With, Don't Break From Stresses With Yoga and Meditation
Local yoga community shares insights, resources
During a time marked by confinement and restriction, yoga and meditation allow mind and body to stay limber and flexible. Whether you're brand new to it or have been at it for years, the benefits implicit in these ancient practices (and their contemporary outgrowths) transcend demographics. Regardless of age or fitness level, physical and mental health stand to profit through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond by recruiting resources from within the local and global yoga community.
"There's such a value to feeling like you're a part of something," expresses Jill Crawford Murphey, owner of yogaErie, LLC. "There's a sense of belonging" to taking a group online yoga class, such as the one her studio is offering live on Instagram every Saturday morning. She regularly updates social media with pre-recorded classes and streams from other practitioners, assuring "there is a style for everyone out there."
For instance, it might be the more "athletic, vigorous" practice of power (Murphey's specialty) or ashtanga yoga. Or it might be the"gentler, meditative" practice of yin yoga. "It's all personal preference. Find a teaching style that appeals to you," she advises. "Talk to your friends, it may take a bit of trial and error."
Michael Plasha, an elder statesman of the Erie yoga community, echoes Murphey in that this is a "nice opportunity, in the comfort of your own home, to try something new." Plasha Yoga Studio has been offering and will continue to promote a full schedule of live Zoom classes through its website, free of charge for the financially struggling or recently laid-off (others will need to pay a registration fee). "We've enjoyed seeing [our students] in their home environment, sometimes with pets who join them," says Plasha with a chuckle as he recalls the motley webcam cats and dogs who do not always integrate harmoniously into yoga practice.
Two upcoming offerings he is especially eager to share are:
- "Meditation and Mindfulness: Ecumenical Strategies to Stay Calm, Focused, and Positive During These Challenging Times" on Saturday, Apr. 11 from 9 to 11 a.m.($25, free for recent layoffs). "This particular situation has prompted survival choices … the challenges can either move us into anxiety, panic, fear, worry — or we can choose to use this time like a spiritual retreat at home, to nurture positive qualities for ourselves and others. This program is going to support that process."
- "The Essence of the Yoga Sutra: Ancient Wisdom to Navigate the Challenging Times." on Tuesday, Apr. 14 from 9 to 10:30 a.m. ($20, free for recent layoffs). "The yoga sutras are the spiritual philosophical foundations of yoga … This timeless wisdom is generally one of the requirements in teacher training. It's a universally recognized and respected path that I've been studying for over 40 years.
- Check the Plasha Yoga YouTube channel and Facebook for other useful (and free) content.
Through meditation and mindfulness, we can develop "more insight into our own selves, compassion and clarity" while COVID-19 sows chaos and confusion on the outside, says Plasha. Combined with the physical elements of yoga (the asana), these practices can "reduce stress and combat depression," Murphey adds, as mind and body are two sides of the same coin. "[Yoga is] all the things it always was, but even more relevant and more timely."
"You're not alone in this," she reassures. "[Yoga] has such healing power; there is a world of goodness with it."
Terry Seth, owner and instructor at School House Yoga Studio near Downtown Erie, would be the first to agree. "Home practice through videos and devices are very helpful and have given us the ability to do yoga on our mats at home whenever we choose." Nonetheless, she and her teachers are anxiously looking forward to the day when they can physically share their space with their students again. "Yoga studios are so very important; a place to call home where hearts can connect; a place where interaction and relationships develop in personal face-to-face classes."
"When it's time, we will be together again," Seth promises. "Until then, stay home and safe."
While you're homebound, take advantage of the following online resources:
Matt Swanseger can be found in the Savasana pose through the end of the pandemic, or at firstname.lastname@example.org