covidYAMA and coroNIYAMA

as coronavirus sentences us to solitary confinement, we are each given a unique opportunity to step back, take inventory, and think about who we were coming into this pandemic…and who we will be coming out.

we are all suffering in our own way, be it emotionally, financially, mentally or all of the above. and while it’s very easy to make this challenging time about ourselves and our losses, if we reframe it in a way that acknowledges that the whole world is going through the same thing, we can ease our minds and refocus our energies in positive and productive ways.

i have been thinking about my stay-at-home experience in relation to the yamas and niyamas of patanjali’s yoga sutras and it has been an uplifting spiritual exercise. maybe if we all think and feel a little deeper, we can find meaning within all this crazy chaos.

ahimsa (non-violence): there is no greater kindness on earth than to save a life. if you are truly committed to this cornerstone of all yogic behavior, you won’t do anything that puts anyone’s life at risk. that means staying inside unless absolutely necessary and keeping your germs to yourself. you don’t know if you have the virus and don’t want to find out by giving it to someone you love…or anyone for that matter.

satya (truth): be sure that you are being honest about your process. does stay inside really mean stay inside? or are you finding excuses to go out unnecessarily, see friends and/or family, or visit the store when there is nothing you really need. instead of looking for loopholes and ways around the requests of our leaders, let’s trust that they are all doing the best they can with the information they’ve been given. honestly, listen.

asteya (non-stealing): just because the government is giving away “free money” doesn’t mean you have to run out and take everything you can get. if you need it, it was put in place for you. but if you can sustain yourself, let that government money take care of those who can’t. know that everything comes at a price. the more money we take from our government and the more we defer payments that we can easily afford to pay, the more we contribute to the bankruptcy of our nation.

brahmacharya (celibacy): these days, this is the abstinence of all physical contact with all people. frustrated that you can’t see and touch the people you love? how about thinking about it like this: there has never in history been an easier way to make a real and positive impact on the whole world. stay inside, save lives. every time you go outside and interact with the world at large, you increase the chances of everyone around you…and everyone around them…and everyone around them…getting sick. simply staying inside is the simplest and kindest good deed and, as such, it should make you feel fulfilled instead of frustrated. you are doing good.

aparigraha (non-greed): in the most basic terms,  you don’t need enough toilet paper for the next five years. when you clear the shelves of toilet paper, bleach, hand sanitizer, wipes, you put your needs above those of your community. take only what you need and leave the rest for others.

saucha (purity): wash your hands. often.

santosa (contentment): contentment accepts the things we cannot change. instead of getting upset about how staying at home is destroying our lives, we lean into the process and are grateful for this mandatory stay-cation.

tapas (austerity): let’s be honest, it’s easy to lose ourselves in process of staying at home in our pajamas all day. or…we can structure this extra time with discipline to improve ourselves and work towards accomplishing new goals. not a bad idea to stick to a real-life schedule (even in your pajamas), not only so this time is productive, but also so we can more easily segue back into the real world when that glorious day finally comes.

svadhyaya (Self study): instead of binge watching tv all day, take this time to pick up any scripture that helps you to understand the truth of being. it can be the bible, the torah, the koran, the bhagavad gita, the i-ching…anything that brings you closer to attaining understanding of universal truth. when we lose the spark of our egos to the flame of a shared consciousness, our individual pain begins to fade away.

isvara pranidhana (submission to a higher power): when push comes to shove, this is the only one we really need. when you submit to a higher power–doesn’t matter if you call it god, jesus, allah, buddha, shiva or anything in between–you submit to the understanding that everything has a purpose and everything is happening exactly as it should. to everything there is a season. some seasons may be rougher than others, some will be brighter. but all seasons turn and all seasons pass. faith is the unconditional understanding that everything will be okay in the end. and, if we’re lucky, somewhere in the middle, too.


  1. Brabra on April 11, 2020 at 2:00 pm04

    “ you submit to the understanding that everything has a purpose and everything is happening exactly as it should. ”
    Shana, no, no, no, a thousand times no! Think of all the innocents who are suffering right now, victims of cruelty, injustice, brutality… humans and nonhumans. There is no proof either way for any diety and the universe is not sentient. It doesn’t care about any one of us.

    • Shana on April 11, 2020 at 2:00 pm04

      my dear brabra (), how i love you so and 100% respect everything you say.
      i actually agree with you. there is no way to reconcile the pain and suffering in this world with the concept of a benevolent higher power.
      however…this is really a discourse on what the yoga sutras say, rather than what i say…
      and…maybe there is a complex reason for things that we simply can’t understand. the “order” of the universe doesn’t purport to be a kind order in any scriptural text. it only says that it is an order.
      perhaps that higher power created the universe and left it to fend for itself and create the good and the bad–perhaps even sometimes as chaotic randomness–so that the full human experience can be experienced in all its facets.

  2. Dari on April 13, 2020 at 2:00 am04

    shana-asana for dristi

    • Shana on April 13, 2020 at 2:00 am04

      You are always a classic! 😉

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