To prevent the coronavirus from gaining a stronger foothold than it already has, a period of social distancing is now being enforced and implemented in many parts of the world, including many states in the U.S., where I live. As I am writing this in April, we don’t know when this distancing will end. Every country's situation is and will be different, depending on the virus’s trajectory and impact. And for many, it is the week-by-week and month-by-month uncertainty that is most unsettling.
Everyone is probably facing some challenges with physically distancing themselves from others. And this time without our wider communities is probably especially difficult for people who already felt alone to begin with. I am thinking about those of us who live alone and perhaps also live very far away from our families. And those who just moved to a new place and don’t know anyone (though none of these factors necessarily leads to feelings of loneliness). If you were already dealing with significant life changes of any kind, going into quarantine may just feel like a double whammy.
I live alone, and five weeks ago I broke my driving leg. Now that I am back on my feet after walking with crutches and basically never leaving my apartment, we are being asked to stay indoors and away from people as much as possible.
I already missed people and my routines for so many weeks. Now this?
But this is important. We know why we are isolating ourselves; it’s to prevent millions of deaths. So how do we, the solos among us, cope on our little islands as we stick it out for the greater good? There is no cure-all, and it will likely take a combination of various resources to pull us through—including therapy. (Apps such as Talkspace and Betterhelp are fantastic online options, and often more affordable than conventional therapy.)
And, of course, there’s yoga.
Below are six ideas you can explore in your home practice that may (as they have for me) ease feelings of loneliness. Try all of them, or just do the ones that most appeal to you.
1. Find presence and connection to all beings through your daily actions.
Open your blinds, pour some tea, play your favorite music, and have a seat at your kitchen table or anywhere that feels right to you. Ideally, play music that reminds you of your inherent connection with all beings (one of my go-to’s is this version of lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu by Luna Ray). Sing along, feel the warmth of the beverage in your hands. Connect to the sounds that you hear and the beings in your environment—house plants and pets if you have them, the clouds in the distance, the sun streaming through your windows, or the rain drizzling down them. The list is endless.
You can bring this joyful practice into anything that you do. I like to chant mantras while I’m outside on a walk (these days a socially responsible walk while keeping a safe distance from others). And yes, you can hum under your breath if you feel self-conscious!
2. Fill your heart with love.
This loving awareness practice from Ram Dass has taught me that I can be my greatest source of comfort. In fact, though I am a social being who loves to be loved, I have come to believe that no one else is responsible for making me feel loved. That’s my job. When you’re done, or just before you sit down for this practice, you might also try wrapping your arms around yourself and giving yourself a big hug. My therapist recommended this practice to me, and I thought it was cheesy at first, but it does (surprisingly) feel pretty good. (Also, now is a wonderful time to dive into Ram Dass’s podcasts.)
3. Move like an unfolding prayer.
You’re probably feeling a little pent up. If it suits you, move your energy by practicing a few sun salutations. As Seane Corn demonstrates here, you can devote your sun salutation to a person in your life or to the benefit of all beings and move through the poses as if they were a prayer. We may not be able to be with people right now, but we can share something with them that’s universal—our empathy. The world needs that right now. And doesn’t it always?
Also, remember that no two sun salutes have to be the same. Scope out sun salute variations online if you’re curious about the possibilities and find one that works for you. For instance, maybe you want or need to practice a chair sun salute!
4. Acknowledge that you feel other things too.
It’s normal to feel consumed or overwhelmed by one feeling. I know because I have been there. But you are probably feeling more than just alone.
Below is a short practice you can do anytime you need to check in with yourself.
Come to table pose and sit back on your heels for child’s pose. Take a block and rest your forehead on top, wrap your hands around the block, and imagine you are resting your mind on the block, and that each thought has a place to land. Ask yourself, “How do I feel right now?” Breathe as the answers unfold and hold space for them.
You can also do this practice anywhere, from any position. I do this in the bathtub most of the time. I sit there, holding myself in a little ball with my eyes closed. I focus on my breath and the sensations in my body and I ask myself how I am. I wait and wait for the answer to come. Sometimes the answer surprises me. Once, my mind told me I was anxious, but my body felt totally fine. When my body said, “I am okay,” my mind felt better just for having consulted my body.
5. Create a virtual sangha that feels as though it’s happening in real-time.
Do you have friends who share your love of yoga? Ask them if they’ll meet with you via Facetime or Skype or Zoom or Houseparty once a week. You can practice together or you can talk about how your individual practices are going. Or maybe you want to start a book club with them to explore spiritual texts or anything else that strikes your collective fancy. Maybe even something non-yoga related like slowly working your way through this year’s New York Times bestseller list together. And if you aren’t busy doing physical practice, you can even “share” snacks!
At least once a day, if you can. Find something, anything, that will make you laugh. I know that even at the best of times, this can be challenging. But besides the fact that laughter releases endorphins, it can also improve our immune system.
And finally, as you explore these and other resources, remember that you really are not alone. The very nature of a pandemic elucidates the fact that we are truly all in this together, every moment of it. While we may not be able to explore and experience the world in the same ways we used to, when we awaken to a new morning we can count that as a blessing. And through the process of self-isolating, we ensure that more people can count that among their blessings too.
May some of these suggestions bring you comfort in the days ahead. You can also take comfort in knowing that you are doing your part in all of this. Remember that nothing is permanent... including the isolation we are now enduring.