by Samantha Hilburn
As public access to parks and green spaces becomes increasingly restricted in an effort to flatten the curve, the outdoors may no longer look so inviting. I invite you to look inward instead. Have you tried yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises to ease the stress and anxiety of this global pandemic? Studies have shown that practicing yoga can not only improve mental health but also increase strength and flexibility, protect from injury, balance metabolism, build immunity, and boost respiration, energy, and vitality. That’s right – yoga supports your immune and respiratory systems, both key players in your fight against COVID-19. Social distancing isn’t the only thing scientists are recommending these days.
For beginner and advanced yogis alike, now is the time to hone your practice. All you need is enough space to roll out a mat, rug, or towel. Peace and solitude may be hard to come by in a home crowded with parents, siblings, and family pets, but so goes the challenge to focus your attention on only your breath and movement. Begin by noticing how you breathe naturally. Is your breath shallow or rapid? Simply gaining awareness of your breath invites it to slow and steady. Breathe in through the nose, inhaling deeply, filling your lungs completely, feeling your chest rise and expand…then exhale through the nose, long and steady, making room for more cool, fresh air on your next inhale. Experiment with holding your inhale or exhale for a moment, alternating nostrils, or placing a hand on your heart to feel your chest rise and fall. Take comfort in the strength of your deep, slow, and steady breathing that gives you life.
Dozens of smartphone apps, YouTube videos, and podcasts offer guided breathing, mediation, and yoga sessions tailored to your needs and level of experience. Whether you have five minutes to calm your nerves before an online exam or an hour set aside for a full yoga workout, find what works for you and your schedule. In response to the current outbreak, these apps are now offering free or reduced-cost services to inspire your yoga and meditation practices in quarantine:
- Down Dog provides a variety of fitness services, including Yoga and Yoga for Beginners apps both available for free until May 1 for all users and until July 1 for students, teachers, and healthcare professionals. I tried this one out for the first time over Spring Break and loved the customizable class type, pace, length, teacher voice, background music, and more.
- Zenia developed the first AI-based virtual yoga assistant to give vocal adjustments and corrections during your home yoga classes, with free access until April 12.
- 5 Minute Yoga guides you through five minutes of yoga for a quick and free mindfulness fix with a variety of poses and progress tracking features suited for beginners.
- Headspace is a popular meditation app now offering several of its meditation collections for free.
- Balance is another meditation app now offering free one-year subscriptions to personalized guided meditations.
- Dark Noise produces sounds like campfires (backyard camping, anyone?), rain, thunder, white, noise, and more – ideal for meditation. Dark Noise Test Flight is free to try during the coronavirus pandemic.
Yoga can be your indoor or outdoor adventure inward. Take care of yourself and honor the connection between your mental and physical health. Be well, friends. Namaste.
About the Author
Name: Samantha Hilburn Year in School: Junior Major: Geology, Environmental Studies (Minor: Economics) Hometown: Shreveport, Louisiana Favorite Outdoor Activity: Climbing, hiking, skiing Favorite Camp Food: A hearty trail mix of Shaina’s worst allergens Ideal Outdoor Adventure Trip Destination: Rocky Mountains or Desert Southwest If you were stranded on a desert island, what/who would you bring with you: Hammock, yoga mat, sunscreen, peanut butter