I am one of those people who pondered, even during the first weeks of COVID shutdowns, whether there would ever be an “end” to the pandemic.
I didn’t have an answer, but one thing I DID know was that we needed a place and time to practice Bikram Yoga, regardless of the circumstances. So many of us didn’t take a single day off from practicing. With all of the fluctuations of shutdowns, mask mandates, emotional-political reactions, and illness itself, yoga was the one steady thing that we could count on. Often it was the only thing that seemed consistent and steady.
Plus, this yoga practice has been our natural anti-inflammatory, our mental health care, our pain relief, our strength, and our clarity…. for years… or decades. We weren’t about to give that up. 🙂
But I know that most people went through a tremendous change in routine during that time, and a regular yoga practice was one of the things that disappeared. Understandably.
Physical, mental, and emotional health suffered for so many reasons; a lost or missing yoga practice was definitely one.
This was so heartbreaking to observe, but I also knew that there were so many struggles going on. I was so wrapped up in teaching every day, and modifying my livestream set-up, and just being in business shock in general….that I didn’t personally pick up the phone to say to each of you, “HEY, make sure you come to class today! We need it now more than ever!” (Even if class took place in your living room or bathroom – perfectly humid after you ran the shower! – or basement.)
And then, 18 months into the whole fiasco, I went through a nasty version of COVID (probably Delta) myself. (My teachers and class leaders have been stunningly supportive and community-oriented throughout this time!! Thank you!)
In October/November 2021, as I recovered, I slowly returned to the yoga room. I experienced first-hand the way that my respiratory system improved incrementally – but noticeably – after each yoga practice. I wished I could get the word out to people better! One of the keys to COVID healing – and overall respiratory strengthening, even as prevention – was right here on the mat.
In addition to the formal breathing exercises we do in Bikram Yoga, I also started to realize that every posture in the series is its own type of breathing activation and treatment. Each posture restricts certain movements of the breathing apparatus, whether by depressing the abdominal wall, or backward bending, or twisting…..therefore forcing other parts of the breathing apparatus to be used. In doing this practice, we end up reactivating and using parts of the lungs that have been sitting there, stagnant, for years or decades.
But, back to the circumstances…I also knew – and know – that those most concerned about catching Covid were the least likely to come indoors for something perceived as “group fitness”. I myself had most likely caught COVID either at an indoor wedding reception or family gathering. Places without masks, crowded, indoors, with close contact and lots of socializing and eating and dancing!
But I knew deeply that our yoga room was different, and I wanted to be able to communicate that! I was working constantly to determine safe standards for our yoga space.
I eventually discovered and started using the COVID-19 Indoor Safety Guideline website, published and constantly updated by M.I.T.
And it turns out that our yoga room, as we use it for a traditional yoga practice, is an extremely safe and healthy space to be in.
Everything from background CO2 and type of air filter, to human behavior and breathing levels, is accounted for in our determination of capacity and spacing in the room.
Even now, with a second version of omicron in Summer 2022, here is the prognosis:
We can have up to 25 people in the hot room. We have marked spaces for 21 students plus one teacher, ensuring not only a healthy capacity but also 6-7 feet between each person.
We wear masks in the lobby. We also continue to wear masks for the breathing exercises, because we exhale by the mouth for those (expelling much more CO2 and thus aerosol particles).
During the yoga postures themselves , masks are optional, because yoga postures are always performed with nose-only breathing (i.e. mouth closed).
The following screenshot is my July 2022 update of our hot room conditions, using the above-mentioned COVID-19 Indoor Safety Guideline tool. (It is excellent for checking out your own workplace conditions, if you so choose!)
I know that the numbers in the photo here are small. But this is a detailed accounting of the yoga room conditions, circulation, and “exercise” behavior. It also includes local prevalence rates (I doubled the current published rate, for good measure) of infection in mid-Michigan.
We are very much attuned to the fact that breathing is the core of any yoga posture. We know, practice, and teach that Bikram Yoga is very different from a fitness or exercise class. In fact, it is not at all like typical Americanized yoga class. We emphasize nose-only, mouth-closed breathing … as has been prescribed in all of the Indian yoga asana practices that I am familiar with.
I write this to you with a sincere wish to see you in the yoga room very soon. 🙂 Or in a livestreamed class. We are practicing together, healing together, feeling better together. And there is room for so much more.
If you are feeling concerned about re-acclimating to the hot room, you can try our one-hour classes at 6:00 pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. We’ll also be bringing back some “warm” classes on a regular basis. I know that this will help many of you transition back into your healthy state of heat tolerance and hydration.
I’d love to hear from you, espeically if you need assistance in removing any of the current barriers to your practice – you can use the Contact Form to reach me directly!