On day 14 of being sick during the spread of Coronavirus, I reached a breaking point.
This was supposed to be the day I got better, the day everything returned to normal, the day I stopped getting scared this tightness in my chest would somehow accelerate and threaten my life. Being sick doesn’t normally come with a fear of death — at least in the world I grew up in, another layer of my old privileged reality exposed. Anyway, self-reflection on that anxiety wasn’t helping me at all. And while TV was doing a great job of letting me avoid reality, the pain in my body, and a growing horror at the way the crisis was unfolding across the country, meant avoidance could only go so far. After two weeks of denial and lethargy, I needed a different response. Because the pressure in my chest is still there. And pretending it wasn’t was no longer working. Without the ability to get tested, I still don’t know if I’m simply ill, sick with COVID-19, or something else. At this point, it kind of doesn’t matter.
So, last week I turned to the one thing in my life that has significantly helped me cope with anxiety, depression, self-hatred, disassociating, numbing out, trauma and PTSD. It’s not a miracle drug, or maybe it is, but it’s also simply yoga. A word for the skeptics: The way yoga rose to prominence in America is littered with so much bullshit, and skinny, white, blonde too-cheerful avatars that it’s not surprising to me that I judged the practice on principle for the first two and a half decades of my life. It’s not surprising to me that many people have that eye roll reaction even now — I don’t blame you, I was you. But this simple, ancient technique of strengthening the spine, stretching the limbs, and focusing on the breath has already gotten me through more of my own shit than all the religion, alcohol, sex, self-help books, relationships, and any other drug I’ve used in an attempt to stave off despair in the past. I’m sharing my experience with yoga not because it’s trendy or cute or cool, but simply because it’s the only thing I’ve found that actually works. And now that we’re all confined mostly to indoor spaces, it’s an even better option.
If you’ve read this far, then maybe you’re not totally opposed to the idea of letting yoga into your life while stuck inside during one of the most anxiety-fueled periods of American life so far. In which case, this information is actually useful to you: For the duration of the pandemic, the LA-based studio Yoga Works, one of the most respected franchises in the country, is offering all of their online content completely free during this time. (I’d like to note here that yes, Yoga With Adriene is also free, and a great option, but Adriene is one teacher with a very specific style. If she annoys you, there’s only Adriene.) The Yoga Work offerings are very extensive, and include programming for both beginners and experts, with a number of different teachers on many topics and styles of yoga. There’s something here for all ages, body types, skill levels, and moods. If you’ve never done yoga before in your life, there’s a class for that. If you’re an advanced yogi looking for workouts, there’s classes for that. And if you’re lapsed practitioner trying to dive back in, there’s plenty of options for that, too.
Setting up a free account is easy — go to myyogaworks.com and begin the process of filling in your information by clicking the green “login” button in the upper right corner. From there, When it comes time to input payment or a credit card, write the code ONLINE into the promo code section, and your free account will process through and automatically become active. If you do have the means to pay during this time, the subscription is still only $15 a month — divide that by over 1300+ classes, and it’s a pretty good deal per class.
Once you’re in the system, I highly recommend taking some restorative yoga classes to begin. These classes mostly consist of lying in long, passive stretches for 3-5 minutes at a time, and you can go much longer if a pose feels good by just pausing the video. It’s not the flow-based vinyasa designed to work up a sweat, but a different side of the process. Thes series of poses are used to strengthen the immune system and give the inner body and the parasympathetic nervous system a chance to rest. Whether you’re currently sick or just riddled with anxiety, giving a boost to the parasympathetic nervous system — aka the “rest and digest” functions of the body — is exactly what most people need right now.
I’m still trying to figure out how Cinnamon can best serve our community during this time of quarantine. I want us to offer content that’s actually helpful, and I realized that signing up for this free service and recommending restorative yoga is the main thing I’ve been texting and emailing all my close friends about over the last week, so it seemed like the most useful thing to post on the site, too. Practicing restorative yoga every night before bed, while FaceTiming a friend who does the class along with me, has been one of the most stabilizing forces in my life during my third full week of symptoms. Hopefully, knowing about this resource can help offer some relief to someone else reading this. If there was ever a time to begin a yoga practice, it’s definitely now.