A blog by Ana Leroy, our dear Centered Yoga Teacher in Mexico
March 19 marks a year when Mexico went into its first confinement due to the COVID19 pandemic.
Travel and movement restrictions in Mexico were always been partial, never as strict as they were in Asia or Europe: Mexico never closed its borders and always allowed the transit of its citizens from one region to another. No other country in the world has experienced such high mortality rates as Mexico: 1 out of 10 people who get COVID die and we are still experiencing 1000 official deaths per day. The pandemic is far from over.
In the midst of this pandemic madness, I often wonder how I have been spared from the virus when one out of four Mexicans have gotten infected. Several things come to mind and Yoga is one of them.
Yoga is not really that popular in Mexico because it is expensive. A Yoga class at a studio hovers around 10 USD. Gyms are very popular here because they are cheap (20 USD a month). Gyms also promise to “get your body fit”. Forget Yoga, who cares about “centering the mind”? Also bear in mind that in Mexico City – a 25 million megalopolis – 15 million people live in poverty so yoga studios are a luxury reserved for a very well-off audience.
With this context in place for Mexico City let’s now focus on Yoga.
Almost no one realizes that Yoga is training for the mind. Most people in Mexico associate Yoga with some sort of “oriental practice” that allows you to twist your body in crazy shapes. When I tell people, I have been practicing Yoga for 20 years they cannot believe it. Even less when I tell them my age and they see my three kids! People always say: “I should do Yoga then”. I just roll my eyes out and greet them back.
When the pandemic hit, I was already stressed. Yes, Yogis DO stress. The father of my children had to move back to the United States to find work because the economic crisis in Mexico ran deep. Pandemic reality also sank in:
“In the next year (yes, 365 days), I have to confine myself and take care of my three kids (ages 12, 8 & 5 ½) all on my own. Doing online schooling. Plus, remote work. Plus, teaching (I teach international trade at the University AND Yoga). Plus, regular house chores. AND long weekends with no “Dad” to coparent. 365 days. No breaks. No rest. No travel. No fun. No Privacy. Just Doing. No Yoga. No Nada!”
Those were my daily thoughts. Do you really think I had time or appetite for yoga under this new reality? Nope.
I did not practice almost any Yoga from March to August 2020. I just could not fit it in my schedule with 25 Zoom meetings a week and I honestly was too tired to do it. Plus, I refused to do it in the apartment with my three screaming kids in the background.
Forget about Zooming for Yoga Class. I am a Centered Yoga Teacher and Yoga is all about awareness. There was no way I was going to connect my mind to a device “to do” a Zoom Yoga class when everything I have learned about Centered Yoga with Dona Holleman was about “not-doing” and “undoing postures”.
But by September 2020, I was fed up. I was stressed, irritable, tired and I had four “savory” kilos on me. I stared at the mirror and I said to myself: “You are going back to practice TODAY”. I literally dragged myself to Parque Hundido (“sunken park”) one Sunday morning just two blocks from my apartment. Part of me did not want to go back to the Yoga mat. I was tired. I was heavier. I was busier. “Life sucked.”
But I did it. I rolled out my mat and there I was practicing Yoga again.
It has been six months since that Sunday morning. Nothing has really changed “on the outside reality”: We are still doing online schooling, I got tons of remote work and teaching, plus daily house chores, and the father of my three children still lives in California. More so, the pandemic is still raging throughout Mexico City amid little vaccinations.
But something changed. Something changed “within”. By resuming my Yoga practice, I began to focus on myself again. I literally began to “center” in the midst of the pandemic chaos. My mind centered. Aside from the physical benefits of resuming my Yoga practice, I regained Yoga’s greatest gift: A Centered mind.
One of the basic premises of Centered Yoga is to become aware. Back a year ago I was not even aware I was so stressed! Yoga practice allows your mind to center. It is very simple. A simple practice for a complicated mind. The mind, often called “the monkey mind” is full of thoughts.
Hindus taught Yoga postures as part of military training, which required focus and complete attention, in addition to physical fitness. Hindus realized that Yoga allowed them to center their minds, allowing their body to follow suit and become present. Fully aware. Ready for combat training.
During the pandemic, almost every person I know in Mexico has focused on “how NOT to get this virus” rather than focusing on how to maintain our health or keep our sanity: Stress is strongly fueled by our thoughts and what we think.
One of the worst side effects of the COVID19 pandemic has been chronic stress, fatigue and anxiety due to the severe confinement and the stressful conditions of being kept indoors in large cities, like Mexico City. One out of three friends have experienced fatigue, insomnia and anxiety throughout the pandemic year. But guess what? Almost no one practices Yoga.
The practice of Yoga allows the mind to free itself from distressful and cataclysmic thoughts. Every morning when I practice Yoga in the park, I am literally doing a “daily cleanse” of ALL thoughts. As a bonus, I am strengthening my body and building up my immune system because Yoga maintains your health in an amazing state for the long-run.
COVID19 , like any other virus, attacks your immune system and in particular, your lungs. There is perhaps no other practice right now as necessary to prevent (and recover from) COVID19 as Yoga.
Centered Yoga exercises work the front, back, side and interior parts of the body. Yoga postures, though appearing static externally, have dynamic action within: The eight vital principles of Centered Yoga as developed by Dona Holleman promote body awareness and they foster internal consciousness, centering the mind.
Why then are not more people practicing yoga? That is the million-dollar question.
In Mexico, as in most countries in the West, we tend to focus on fixing the body once it becomes ill. So, if you get COVID19, we have to fix it: “Kill the damn virus”. Western societies do not focus on maintaining health and I am doubtful that even this gruesome pandemic will help change this attitude towards our overall health and state of mind.
It is March 2021 and I feel great. I am alive. I am healthy but I am also focused. My Yoga practice is back, perhaps stronger than ever. The park where I practice has become my new “Yoga Lab” where I have found amazing props (park benches, trees, fences) to help with my Yoga practice.
I am beyond grateful. I am Centered again.
You can follow me in Instagram as @centeredyoga_mxcity