The rapid spread of COVID-19 across the globe is causing a major state of overwhelm. Among many, a shared sense of powerlessness and fear persists as countries close their borders and business slows to a trickle, forcing many into unexpected unemployment.
Although it’s easy to panic during this challenging time, it is just as easy to practice compassion and respect for your neighbors, while also saving space for self-care. Here, seven ways to put metta (loving kindness) and ahimsa (non-violence) into action.
1. Support your local studio or yoga teacher
Opportunities for human interaction during mandatory quarantines and self-imposed isolation are at an all-time high. Thanks to digital technology, this opens the door for us to heal as a community in inventive ways. At-home workouts, yoga and meditation practices, and virtual therapy sessions and support groups are keeping us connected with our own mind-body health, while continuing to support the livelihood of those economically impacted by COVID-19.
Consider supporting your favorite yoga teacher who has a special online offering (and if they are broadcasting free classes, consider sending a donation via PayPal or Venmo), or stock up on gift cards from your favorite yoga studio to redeem when you’re able to return to physical classes. GoFundMe noted an increase of fundraisers launched by small businesses, such as Philadelphia's S34 yoga studio, Chicago’s Mindful Yoga, and Southern Arizona’s Centerline Movement, which to support their instructors.
2. Donate Money to Organizations That are Supporting Those Most Impacted by COVID-19, Like Your Local Food Bank
The most impacted groups of people are our most vulnerable populations: the elderly, disabled, homeless, and folks from low-income communities. As correspondent John Eligon mentioned in an article in the NY times “social factors like a lack of insurance, healthy food options and recreational opportunities exacerbate the vulnerabilities of already resource-strapped communities.” Residents in low-income communities, for example, are challenged with food deserts and a lack of access to healthy food options in their neighborhoods, especialliy now. Consider donating to organizations such as Meals On Wheels that delivers food to seniors, No Kid Hungry that is working to feed children who rely on school meals, and Global Givingwhich is providing food and health care to those most affected by COVID-19.
3. Support With Errands for People at Most Risk
If you are less at-risk and have the capacity, extend support to someone who is more vulnerable. Set up a meal train or create a working Google Doc with neighbors to provide food and supplies for those who are afraid or unable to leave their homes.
4. Only Take What You Need
If you plan on stocking up on goods—take only what you need. Stores around the country are experiencing shortages of essential goods because of mass hoarding. This is a time to practice yoga off the mat through aparigraha, or non-gripping. As teacher Rina Deshpande explains, aparigraha is “ a chance for us to think about what’s necessary. When we’re in alignment, we can feel and sense what’s important for us to keep, and what’s important for us to let fall away.”
5. Reframe Your Language
Something as simple as reframing how you discuss COVID-19 with others can be incredibly helpful. If COVID-19 hasn’t largely impacted your life outside of postponing social outings, be mindful of how you’re sharing information online and how you’re communicating to others. For vulnerable populations, their fears are valid and as yogis we should hold space for their concerns to come through rather than dismissing them as “mass hysteria.” As body positive yogi and somatic therapist Rachel Otis shared in a video posted to Instagram “even if you don’t have chronic illness, your anxiety, your fear is valid. Also, cultivating compassion for others with more risk is valid. It’s all valid.”
6. Stay Connected
Being unable to connect with our loved ones and community in real time can feel incredibly isolating, with studies suggesting long-term isolation is equivalent to health risks such as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or a substance abuse disorder. Now is a great time to reconnect and catch up with your loved ones. Social distancing doesn’t mean you need to be cooped up alone—get creative! Virtual happy hours, tarot card readings, or book clubs with friends can help you pass the time and feel less alone.
7. Take Care of Yourself
Most importantly—take care of yourself! Use this time to catch up on some much needed rest. Find some restorative practices to try out at home, pour life and energy into your creative projects, create some healing tonics to boost your immune system and reconnect to your breath. Our personal wellness is crucial now more than ever for the collective well-being of us all.