When a wave comes, it washes over you and runs up the beach. The wave turns around, and recedes over you, going back into the ocean…This is like the breath, which exhales, transitions, inhales, transitions, and then starts the process again.”
James Nestor, Breath (interpretation of Yoga Sutra 2.51)
There is nothing more essential to our health and well-being than breathing. We take over 25,000 breaths in a day and in the last couple of days wearing a mask at work and other indoor public venues I have become even more aware of my breath. The last time I was wearing a mask I became very aware that I breathed through my mouth and not my nose more frequently than I thought. This motivated me to take a deep dive into the book “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art” by James Nestor. I can highly recommend reading this book to any human being that breathes!
So whether you agree with the mask wearing requirement or not it does seem like they might be here to stay at least for the short term. In my workplace I have certainly seen my colleagues adjusting to mask wearing including feeling like not getting enough breath in or feeling dizzy or lightheaded from possibly hyperventilating. There is also the thoughts and emotions as we adjust to wearing a mask, the annoyance, frustration and irritation. That is just at work sitting working on a computer in an air conditioned office so I spare a thought and have empathy for people working with various PPE in hot summer weather conditions.
The mask exemptions do state that you don’t have to wear a mask indoors while engaged in strenuous or vigorous exercise or physical activity such as running on a treadmill. However Dru Yoga which I teach is not that vigorous so masks are still required for my indoor yoga and meditation classes. The exemptions do state that a person can remove a mask if the nature of a person’s work or the activity they are engaging in means that clear enunciation is essential. My intention is to wear my mask as you all arrive to class and if the group feels comfortable and feels they cannot hear my voice properly I will remove my mask for the class. I will make sure I am a safe distance from participants at the front of the room. My intention is to continue to create a safe space for us all to practice.
So you might feel apprehensive or anxious about coming along to practice yoga or meditation with a mask on for a number of reasons. Yoga and meditation do involve the breath particularly specific pranayama (breath practices). The flow of air could be impacted by wearing a mask and as the body, mind and breath adjust you may feel light headed, dizzy or short of breath. Please do discontinue the practice at any time you need and you are welcome at any time to take a break outside with your mask off.
Practicing low to moderate intensity exercise or physical activity, while wearing a mask, such as Dru Yoga, is inconvenient but in most circumstances safe. If you have any concerns or health conditions to consider do speak to your health professional. It will feel different but give your body time to adjust and habituate to wearing a mask. Over the weeks of wearing a mask your amazing body will adapt along with your breath. As for the mind maybe take this inconvenience of mask wearing as an opportunity to notice your breath, to notice how it feels to breathe wearing a mask and meeting things were they are at with a sense of acceptance.
In my meditation class I take you through the three acceptances as we come to sit and practice. To accept your environment, the sounds, the situations. To accept your body, the sensations and irritations. To accept your mind, the distractions or self talk that arises. I also resonate with the Four Remembrances from Tara Brach in her book Radical Compassion. To pause for presence, allow yourself to be still. Say yes to what is here, meet yourself where you are at. Turn towards love, feel kindness to yourself and others. Rest in awareness, let everything be just as it is.