As we started to hear about Covid 19 in the United States, my first trip ever to Seattle to teach Yoga and writing got wisely cancelled by my writing teacher companion as soon as the first cases and deaths were reported. I continued to teach yoga in New York City, a lot of the classes being hot vinyasa yoga or hot power yoga, popular forms of yoga that require a lot of physical exertion and heavy breathing. At that point we were just being told to wash our hands a lot and carry hand sanitizer as well. No one was wearing masks in public in New York City except a very few, mostly Asian I noticed.
March 16 was the last day I officially taught yoga in New York City, the classes had dwindled to one or two people, the others already wisely and cautiously staying home, or at least staying out of yoga class.
I arrive May 1 at Sewall House Yoga Retreat, where I have been operating yoga retreats since 1997 from Memorial Day until Columbus Day in northern Maine. My yoga retreat offers small classes, always has. The yoga retreat house only has six guest bedrooms. My mission has always been to offer private personalized yoga classes and yoga retreats. I never put two people in a room who do not know each other and only if they want to to stay in the same room together. I think a yoga retreat should be a time and place for time with yourself, time to connect with others but also importantly a time of self reflection.
So why am I titling this yoga blog article “the crazy contradiction of covid’? Because, having lived in the epicenter of the covid 19 virus since it hit New York City, and owning a yoga retreat in a northern Maine county that has seen only 3 covid cases and no fatalities, I see how the people of New York have risen to the occasion, I have seen the spirit of generosity and brotherhood that only tragedies bring; As Governor Cuomo said, you are going to see the best in people and you are going to see some people let you down. But, as one of my longtime friends said, who has done restorative yoga with me in the past, lost his mother to the Covid 19 virus and is now sorting through her apartment with his brother and his wife, his mother would have been happy to know that the virus has brought his family closer, small as his biological family is. Another dear friend that I introduced to kundalini yoga some thirty years ago also lost his mother. When I mentioned something happening in my life recently, he put things in perspective, reminding me like a good yogi “not to sweat the small stuff”. He has sorted through his mother’s home where he lives, not yet been able to face her room. I believe yoga, at its core the reverence for life and kindness, like the challenges of covid illness, loss and uncertainty, helps us to realize what love really is.
Lastly, as I appreciate the nature of the lake and the woods I walked in today, I also appreciate the many things I saw while walking my dog on the streets of New York. While yoga is meant to make us more self aware, our senses more alive, I noticed things the sign at the Film Forum “there is nothing to fear but fear itself” or the abandoned rusty, part missing bicycle still locked on Houston Street, its brand still painted with the evident word CORONA. How ironic. The contradiction of no people on the streets on New York City helping me sense more, see more, feel more, appreciate more.
Will you come to Sewall House Yoga Retreat this summer? So far Maine is open to Mainers in phase one, if that goes well phase two will welcome outsiders in July. Perhaps our small yoga retreats will be the right solution for those seeking yoga, healing, nature and a place they can be spaced out, far from any of the hotspots. None of us know yet. Time, as it always does, and especially now, will let us know.