Yoga in the time of Covid-19

From Edinburgh to Mumbai

It’s six a.m. Scottish time and I’m in Mumbai.

”Namaste, namaste ji.’ I’ve hardly finished greeting my yoga teacher when the wistful notes of a flute float up from the street below, the tune is unmistakeably Scottish.

“There’s a walla selling bamboo flutes,” Poornandu tells me.

I can’t see the flute seller, but no matter, I can see him in my mind’s eye. I see children crowding round, rupees ready, bargaining for a bamboo flute for Divali.

That’s just one scene from my thrice weekly yoga class, by Skype, from Mumbai.

Lockdown cancelled my physiotherapy sessions treating an excruciating wedge fracture in my spine; it delayed treatment for osteo- arthritis  of my hip ;it affected the care package for my disabled husband. My one appointment with a physio. had yielded a sheaf of diagrams and exercises, about as exciting as cold rice pudding.

I just had to be fitter and my son had the answer – his old classmate, now a yoga teacher in Mumbai. I think Poornandu was rather tickled at the idea of teaching an arthritic seventy -two- year old granny. But I surprised him with my party piece … bending over to touch my toes. Sadly, that was the extent of my flexibility. Reality kicked in …I was an arthritic old woman, but as he was to discover…a determined one.

He was an excellent teacher. He understood the extent of my stiffness and pain and started off very gently and slowly. One- to- one tuition, by Skype, meant that he could observe and correct each pose immediately.

I learnt that yoga consists of poses not exercises. Simple poses like the’ Mountain pose’, the ‘Cow -Cat pose’, the ‘Tree pose’, and the ‘Triangle pose’. Not exactly contortions, but I found them hard enough.  I learnt that the control of the mind is as important as the poses and that the control of the breath is fundamental.

Ah yes! But I learnt all of that slowly! Initially I held onto my breath and almost keeled over from lack of oxygen and my mind turned out to be a ” monkey mind, leaping from branch to branch’ i.e. planning meals and compiling ‘to do’ lists.

I persevered because of the commitment I had made to face-to-face classes; because I wanted relief from my pain and because I wanted a distraction through lock-down. And probably because I wanted back to India.

Each stretch and pose was challenging and sometimes downright torture. I didn’t find yoga ‘oozy’ relaxing, it’s hard work, but it’s wonderful when my aches, pains and stiffness ease throughout the day.

Three months down the line, my pain has eased so much that I’ve been able to stop my pain killers. I’m more flexible…well most days. My general wellbeing is definitely on the up but my ‘monkey mind’ is still overactive. Never mind, now it zones in on Mumbai: the vegetable walla and the fish walla calling out their wares; on itinerant musicians singing and playing drums; on noisy crows and honking vehicles.  And there’s always chat about mutual friends and food, always seasonal food.

Lockdown yoga has been good for me.

Joan MacDonald

November 2020

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