Living with uncertainty:
From fragility to kindness.
How do we live well in an unpredictable and uncertain time?
When a crisis like the coronavirus pandemic shatters life as we know it and there is no clear picture on what is to follow, strong emotions can arise. It can scatter your thinking, fracture your routines, challenge understandings of your world and sow fear about the future.
Stress increases when we feel a loss of control and lose familiar routines and our usual social engagement. If we are unable to ‘pivot’, and create new, adapted routines, fear and stress can spiral over time and self-confidence plummet.
Keeping up or settling into a yoga routine may seem impossible when stressed or anxious. We can lose our sequence and regularity. Or stop our practice altogether and feel guilty. We may compel ourselves to stick to the same routines as before, without deviation, to be strong and maintain ‘normality’.
However, now is a great opportunity to practice yoga.
Why? Because it is often in these challenging moments, when the status quo has been disrupted, when uncertainty confronts us, when it is harder to distract our minds with normal activities and day-to-day worries, that we can release our habitual expectations and give ourselves space to start thinking differently.
There is only one thing that is stable throughout life - yourself.
Though that is not wholly true. The body’s metabolic system is in constant flux and our mind, moods and emotions are ever shifting. But the constant in our lives is our very existence. We are here, right now, in this very moment. Your mind and body are the ever-present validations of that truth.
Yoga is not just about asana (poses) and relaxation. Yoga is about connecting body and mind. More so, connecting your mind to your integral, inner self.
Where many people practice yoga with a focus on the physical movements, perhaps on strength and perfection, and even relaxation, now is a time to apply yoga in a way that will help to move out of the mind and into a more peaceful and nurturing place, by connecting mind to body.
Here is a guide for a yoga practice in an uncertain time.
Finding a new way of living, establishing new routines and structures, takes time. If you are experiencing great stress or anxiety, it may take some time to settle into the process. Be patient.
Stop thinking and open your mind to awareness. Release the busyness, allow yourself a moment to pause the mind. Become aware of where you are in this moment, noticing any discomfort you are experiencing – whether it be a worry about the future, annoyance at others, fear of being alone, whatever – is the first step to disempowering it.
Mind to body. Notice the thoughts as they enter your mind, then the triggered emotional response felt somewhere in your body. What words or pictures are in your mind? What are you feeling? Be aware of the experience in this very moment.
Without judgement. It is tempting and normal to try to stop our uncomfortable thoughts and responses and change them to what we think they should be. But condemning and punishing leaves them lingering and will not make them go away.
Nonattachment. And so, allowing the thoughts and responses to just be, releasing any attachment to them, is the next step to disempowering them. Observe what is happening like a neutral spectator, accepting the uncertainty and discomfort.
Breathe. Bring your awareness gently to your abdomen and let the thoughts and feelings drift to the background, unhindered, without fear. The rise and fall of the breath can help connect mind and body, breathing in hope and energy, releasing with serenity and understanding.
Go with the flow. Move into your yoga practice allowing your practice to unfold as your body asks of it. Allow the movements to follow your breath. The mind will naturally pull you back to thoughts. Pause periodically throughout your practice to restore the mind-body connection and find peace in that moment.
Be kind. Most of all, don’t judge yourself, even if your mind and body are challenged by the steps above. Ease off on perfection. Practice with a kind and forgiving heart.
Yoga is not just about asana (poses) and relaxation.
Yoga is about connecting body and mind.
Written by Bronwen Mander
4 April 2020