Now is an excellent time to talk about AHIMSA (non-violence, non-harming) and how we can apply this ethical principle of yoga to protect ourselves (and others) against COVID-19.
Ahmisa is one of the five yamas (moral restraints). The yamas form the first limb of yoga as described in the ancient text “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali". This Sanskrit term can be translated as "non-violence” or “non-harming”. The term is derived from the root word himsa, meaning "to cause pain," and the prefix, a, that means "not." In a broader sense, ahimsa means "universal love and compassion." The practice of ahimsa involves refraining from causing physical and psychological pain to any living being. Whenever we can prevent harm from happening to others, it is our ethical duty to do so.
The latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends social distancing, which it defines as "remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible”. As nurse and yoga teacher, it is my duty to protect my patients and students. Therefore, I have made the decision to exercise an abundance of caution during this uncertain time and have suspended classes at Explorer Yoga until at least April 1, 2020.
I have seen comments from people on social media suggesting that since most cases of COVID-19 are not severe, it might be a good idea to “go ahead and catch it and get it over with”. This is NOT practicing ahimsa! We must consider the most vulnerable people in our community and take every measure possible to prevent transmission of the virus to ANYONE who might come in contact with those who are older, those who have chronic diseases, and those with impaired immune systems, for they are at greatest risk of dying from COVID-19.
Please practice SAUCHA (cleanliness) and AHIMSA by taking the following measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19:
Practice social distancing (stay 6 feet away from others) as much as possible
Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water frequently (check the sources below for proper technique)
When soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer
Avoid touching your eyes/nose/mouth
Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
Stay home if you are sick
Go to a trusted source NOW for updated information on how to prepare in the event that you need to stay home, and for detailed information on the virus. Check back frequently as this is an evolving situation: www.ODH.gov (Ohio Department of Health) or www.CDC.gov (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
I encourage you to consider practicing yoga at home for the time being. Now more than ever, we need the calming benefits of yoga! Remember that breathing comes first - some slow deep breaths, or simply watching your breath for a few minutes can be considered a yoga practice. One easy practice that you can do anywhere involves slow breaths and a mantra (a mantra is a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation).
Here’s a simple mantra meditation you can practice anytime, anywhere:
- Take a slow inhale as you repeat the words “I am” to yourself
- As you exhale, repeat whatever word resonates with you. Think about what you are wanting or needing right now. Some of my go-to words for this are: centered, calm, peaceful, or grounded.
-Set a timer and breathe in this way as you repeat your mantra for 1 or 2 minutes.
Lastly, there are many online sources for yoga and meditation (and a lot of them are FREE)! Check out You Tube for free videos, or download the Down Dog app (their classes are free until April 1). I will also be posting some helpful information on the studio website, Facebook, and Instagram.
Please follow the CDC guidelines to help slow the spread of COVID-19. By doing so, you will be practicing ahimsa and will help protect your community: your loved ones, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
We will see you for practice again soon.
Denise Ruby, MN, RN, RYT-200
Owner/teacher, Explorer Yoga
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Yogapedia