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How yoga helped me deal with the effects of Covid-19.

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It has been a long few months since the lockdown started. Things are slowly getting back to a relative ‘normal’. However, a lot of people are still dealing with Covid-19 related long-term symptoms. More and more information about this is starting to emerge from many sources. Following my post from a few weeks ago (see here My COVID-19 journey – long-term effects), I wanted to share the ways that I dealt with my symptoms. The most persistent ones that I experienced are fatigue and anxiety. How do you cope with something that do not know much about? Because of the unpredictability of the symptoms, it was difficult to plan things or stick to my usual schedule. Yoga was my number one ‘go to’ during the times when my anxiety levels increased.

Anxiety

I have been suffering from anxiety since I was a child. I can still vividly remember my first panic attack when I was 8. Over the years the intensity of my anxiety has changed. Its levels depend on what is going on in my life. The lockdown caused a huge increase in my anxiety. The uncertainty was the biggest source of fear. Not knowing how long this will last, or how affected my family and friends will be, was causing me to sleep badly and feel very irritable. I could not help, but constantly worry about what would happen if my daughter Sophia was ill. She has a Down’s syndrome and her health issues make her immune system more vulnerable to infections.

I used a few ‘tools’ that helped me deal with anxiety – yin yoga, meditation, breath control and mindfulness. Mindfulness took the form of baking – I baked so many cakes! Then gardening – I started growing everything – potatoes, aubergines, tomatoes, chilies and even tomatillos(an ancient Aztec vegetable). I was essentially trying out things to see what worked. Due to my fatigue, I was usually only able to do a couple of them each day. The ones that I found the most helpful were yoga, meditation and breath control. They were swiftly followed by freshly baked cake and decaf tea(reducing my caffeine intake really helped as well). I’ll be including my favourite mindful baking cake recipes in the next post(and not just the banana cake!)

Yoga

I replaced my usually very dynamic vinyasa yoga practice with a slower and calming yin yoga. Each pose is held for a few minutes in yin yoga. Instead of the fast-paced and sweaty vinyasas, the movement is very slow and simple. It has a really soothing and grounding effect on the parasympathetic nervous system. I love the meditative aspect of yin yoga practice. It allows you breathe really deeply and relax your whole body. I also found myself practicing a lot more yoga nidra, meditation and pranayama (breath control). On some days I could only manage one or two things. For example, I would sit 20 minutes in meditation and practice 20 minutes of yin yoga. On other days, I would only practice some pranayama. I would start off each practice feeling very irritated and struggling to sit still. After a few minutes, I would feel my breath relaxing and the tension slowly leaving my shoulders and my belly. My sleep was improving and I felt more rested in the morning. If you have not tried yin yoga yet, give it a go, it will change your attitude to relaxation completely.

In my experience, anxiety is something that cannot be cured completely. However it is possible to learn the tools to manage it better. When I started practicing yoga and meditation around 11 years ago, I experienced a major shift in my life. Yoga allows me to connect with my body and get out of my head. Meditation makes me take a step back and look closely at what is going on in my head.

There are some great resources to manage anxiety, one of them being Anxiety UK. It is an organisation that can help with many aspects of anxiety and related disorders. See https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/get-help/