Silver Linings of Practicing at Home
The entire yoga world has been turned upside down during this global pandemic. Once teeming studios, filled mat to mat with bustling communities of practitioners and windows fogged from the collective breath, feel like something from another lifetime. Yoga teachers have had to completely shift the paradigm of their teachings, missing out entirely on the tactile and sensory feedback from being in the classroom – hearing the breath and watching bodies move – these are now merely memories of teaching in person. Not a single industry, or human, has gone unaffected by the pandemic. And yet, through it all, the practice is still the practice. The yoga remains.
As a yoga teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area, I can recall the weight in my heart on the day I shared with students that we would be ‘temporarily suspending public classes until we knew more.’ There were tears but our naivety at that moment helped us believe this would swiftly pass. What none of us knew then was that our beloved studios in California would remain closed for over six months, and as of writing this today, quite possibly much longer. We are all; studios, teachers and students, caught in the crux of uncertainty on when, and how, studios will ever reopen to safely welcome us back – to our mats, our community and our practice. And yet, the yoga still remains. The ‘capital Y’ Yoga is unphased by a virus or any global calamity.
Throughout the ups and downs of the last six months, the constant pouring over newsfeeds to find information on our potential ‘reopening’ I have held onto the practice like a life raft, a buoy of hope during this wild ride. Like so many other teachers, I was quick to shift all of my regularly scheduled public classes online. My intention was to keep my normal rhythm of classes so that the community of practitioners I have been blessed to teach could hold onto some sense of normalcy and routine during the ‘shutdown.’ My inbox was inundated with gratitude from students thanking me for keeping this alive as a place to turn to when everything else felt so chaotic. This was for all of us. Students may not have known that teaching was, and is, an incredible anchor for myself during this time.
In the early months of quarantine, teaching gave me a sense of purpose and a sense of hope during some of the most dark moments of 2020, and as we’ve all experienced, there have been plenty. Not only are we navigating a global pandemic, but we are also facing a reckoning with racism on a massive level. Closed in quarantine, without our normal distractions and busyness, we have all been face to face with many painful realizations on the dark, disturbing history of something we’re all part of. And yet amidst it all, hope has presented itself in the most uncanny and unexpected way for me. Everytime I sign in to teach online and students arrive with wide eyes on the other side of the screen, I see a glimmer and flash of hope. Students are lighting the candle of hope as they brighten up their homes with the flame of a home practice. Yoga is finally taking root where it is needed most, in our homes and in our communities.
For the majority of yoga’s lifespan in the west, the practice itself has been quarantined inside studio walls, limited to those that could afford studio rates and also have the wherewithal to get themselves to the studio to practice. This indeed has been a luxury for some and a challenge for many. Now, largely due to the pandemic’s effect of shifting everything online, yoga is presenting itself to a larger audience that is ready to invite it into the warmth of their own home. As a teacher, I get the distinct honor of seeing more into each student’s world, and the same for them into mine. I get to see their partners in the background, their pets coming to check in on them during savasana, how the decor exemplifies and represents their artistry and how they present themselves in the comfort of their own surroundings. Yoga is right where it should be, deeply embedded in the fabric of our daily lives – done from the safety of our homes.
Believe it or not, many students are just now arriving in the practice and finding yoga for the first time through the online realm. Just the other day, while surfing in a fairly remote area in Northern California, a fellow surfer paddled up out of nowhere and said, “Hey, aren’t you Nat Kendall, the yoga teacher?” He went on to explain that he had never practiced yoga before Covid and had fallen in love with the practice now that some of the barriers were removed. There was no concern about the judgments or comparisons that happen in a crowded studio. He didn’t need to feel like an ‘expert’ to attend, didn’t need to know the dresscode to be let in. He felt ok to simply arrive as himself and finally meet the practice from his home.
Another new student I have met through the virtual classes had also never once taken a public class, or any class at all, before the pandemic. He has embarked on his yoga journey taking his first ever class with me online. Acknowledging this reminded me of the power of setting up the right conditions for students to create and nurture an unshakeable connection with the breath. Hearing and feeling his breath without the distractions of other students has set him up to always be in tune with the true teacher of our practice – our inhale and exhale. He has just concluded a four week workshop series online with me and I know, with all my heart, that yoga will be an infinite place of solace and refuge for him, guided by his breath, at his own pace.
For many, the seeds of practice have now been planted in a safe and nourishing environment to thrive. Thanks to this online shift and platforms like Practyce.com there is a ‘blossoming’ in place happening across the globe. When yoga fortifies itself in our own home, something magnificent is happening. We are finally inviting the practice off the mat and into our relationships, our meal times and even our families and pets get a glimpse of what we’re up to. Our practice has the power to inspire all those around us. Inevitably it spills off of our mats, out of our windows, out the doors and into our local communities. The clarity, presence and awareness we develop through the practice starts to show up in service where it matters most – supporting and inspiring all those around us. And the silver lining of 2020, is that finally, yoga has come to life.
By Nat Kendall
September 10, 2020