Updated: Mar 17, 2020
There's been just one thing on everyone's minds lately, and as of late Friday afternoon, the U.S. has declared a National Emergency in response to the COVID-19 crisis. This has implications across every aspect of our lives. But what does this mean for yoga?
By now, I'm sure most of you reading this are familiar with how COVID-19 is spread, but if not, it's much like the flu. Key things to consider is that this virus can live up to three days on certain surfaces (mostly hard ones like metal and glass), and that it can hang on the air. Because of those two things, regular hand-washing and prop-cleaning are KEY right now, as well as social distancing. Sadly, this means that crowded yoga classes will not be the safest environments. Check in with the studio(s) you go to if they haven't already communicated their current safety and cleaning practices in response to the virus. Many studios are closing and canceling classes for the next week or so just to be safe.
My suggestion at this time of National Emergency when most people are recommended to stay indoors, would be to avoid public yoga classes for now. As a disclaimer, I am in no way a public health expert; I am simply following trend with our national and state health officials, who at this time recommend staying indoors and social distancing when out in public.
3/17 Update: By now, most studios and fitness centers have closed for public safety, and it is expected that by the end of this week, any non-essential businesses that are still open will be mandated to close. If you are a student continuing to attend studio classes right now, again, myself and our nations health experts discourage you doing so, but if you choose to ignore these recommendations, keep the below items in mind:
Bring your own props if you have them. At minimum, bring your own mat.
Ask if the studio-provided mat cleaner is an approved anti-coronavirus cleaner (especially if you are borrowing/renting a studio mat). The EPA made a list of all approved cleaners.
Ask if the studio's props are being cleaned and sanitized after each use. If they offer blankets, are those being laundered after each use? (The answer should be yes.)
Hands-on adjustments are a great way to transfer germs from one student to another. Teachers should not be touching students during this time, but if yours is, it would be wise opt out.
Look for hand sanitizer as you enter the studio. Every single person who walks in touches that front door knob/handle, and there's no way the studio will have time to sanitize door knobs after every single person enters the space. The studio should have hand sanitizer on-hand for their staff as well as students.
Watch out for reusable cups during this time. Bring your own water bottle to class.
Remember door handles! Even on your way out. You will touch a door handle, then touch your belongings, your steering wheel, etc. Sanitize your hands when you leave.
Has the studio communicated their updated cleaning practices in response to COVID-19? Make sure they are cleaning and sanitizing everything on this list and then some (think floors, other shared spaces like restrooms, changing rooms/locker rooms). If they have not updated their cleaning practices with their new virus, they're not a safe place for you to be right now.
These items are important to keep in mind if you gather among your friends to do yoga right now as well. Germs are everywhere! Even if you think you're "too young to get Corona", you can absolutely spread it to the immuno-suppressed or elderly. Be responsible and do you part.
Another suggestion I have at this time is to get out in nature.
What? You may be thinking, this is the opposite of staying indoors! True, but you know where people are not catching Corona? The woods. In the CDC's Cleaning and Disinfecting Recommendations, they list "open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area" as part of their cleaning strategies because the virus hangs on stagnant air, not fresh flowing air. I live in the Central Virginia area surrounded by beautiful mountains and hiking trails. If you also live around here, or if you are in an area with access to nature, I would encourage you to get out there! Especially when you feel Cabin Fever start to set in.
As a disclaimer/to clarify, I do mean nature, like the woods and state/national parks. Not "parks" like the ones for kids with playgrounds full of germ-collecting hard plastic and metal surfaces. I mean real nature, with trees and other plants full of leaves that naturally clean the air around us. Places where people don't live and spread their germs regularly. Places where it's easy to find a sense of peace and calm, which is a pretty big need for most of us right now. I know that in some places, like the mountains outside of the Denver/Boulder area on any given Summer weekend, State Parks and local nature reserves may actually be packed with people. If you are adventuring out in nature during this time and encounter large crowds, refer to what the CDC says about social distancing and try to keep about six-feet between you and others.
If you live in a big city without direct access to nature, consider taking walks around your neighborhood to get some fresh air when you feel Cabin Fever coming on or just need to stretch your legs, again, noting the recommendation for social distancing when encountering others on the street, and refrain from hugging or shaking hands with neighbors and friends you see. (Maybe just wave for now.)
If you are someone like myself and are taking the national/local recommendations of social distancing, I would encourage investing in some of your own yoga props if you can afford to and checking out some online yoga classes. There are tons of free classes from all different kinds of instructors on YouTube, and if purchasing your own props is an expensive endeavor at this time, below is a list of items you can use at home as props:
Books as blocks to bring the floor closer in standing poses
Throw pillows as blocks under knees in restful poses like Reclined Bound Angle and under the heart in Restorative Fish Pose.
Stacked pillows or blankets in lieu of bolsters
Ties or belts as straps
Blanket or large towel as yoga mat (use a towel on carpet or double/triple up for cushion on hard floors)
If you know me, then you know I constantly encourage self-care. Now, more than ever, we should all be taking the time we need to care for ourselves. This could mean distancing ourselves from the media (even social media) for some time, or doing something to pamper yourself. Restorative Yoga is a great way to relax the body and calm the mind. For a free one-hour Restorative Yoga class plan that you can do at home using items you already own as props, click here.
I hope everyone remains safe and well, and that you all take a little time to decompress and relax during this stressful time in our country.