Yoga practice reaches new heights during the pandemic

By Sammi St. Leger

Since the pandemic began, there has been a surge in individuals practicing yoga.

Yoga offers a solution for staying in shape, with many gyms closed down throughout the United States. Plus, it is easily done while social distancing in the safety of one’s home.

Senior at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana Bianca Han said she does yoga for a greater reason than just staying in shape. Following the at-home Youtube channel “Yoga with Adriene” has helped her mental health – keeping her calm throughout the duration of the pandemic. 

“I was just really stressed and always just kinda on the go. Not on the go physically, but just mentally I was like, I have to do this and this.

These yoga videos helped to relax and take my mind off things and just settle down for a moment and take a deep breath and realize it was all gonna be ok,” Han said.

Kristina Reese, lead teacher at Hatha Yoga and Fitness in Champaign, Illinois, explained this therapeutic effect.

“The breath can help calm us, tap into the parasympathetic nervous system so we’re not so much in this fight or flight or freeze, but we’re able to rest and digest,” Reese said.

Reese said any amount is beneficial.

“A little bit helps so if you feel like you know especially either I’ve got so much going on or I don’t know what to do with my time just taking those five minutes to breathe to get upside down, do a downward facing dog or just like let your neck and head relax. Especially if you’re doing a lot of virtual check-ins or classes, we spend a lot of time like this then (bent over typing) and so it’s so important to do this (connecting palms behind the back) to get a stretch across the chest.”

Reese teaches small in-person classes with yoga studios now allowing small numbers to attend class, and she also teaches online classes over zoom. This helps create a sense of community while staying safe social distancing at home.

While the pandemic progresses, yoga offers moments of happiness in times of darkness. Hans’ time on the mat has highlighted this.

I’ve gotten a lot more flexible and also like I’ve gained some balance… I always felt a little more positive after,” Han said.

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