At its core, the philosophy of yoga is to be at one with our bodies and in tune with what it needs. Practicing yoga provides the opportunity to cancel out the white noise for a little while and find some comfort in our own isolation. What was once considered an act of prayer and purification some 3,000 years ago in India, is today a global movement with various modern interpretations. Throughout the story of the evolution of yoga, however, is one common theme – the need for humankind to momentarily withdraw from society and spend some time focusing on ourselves, contemplating life’s biggest decisions and setting intentions and goals for our future.
With the entire world currently experiencing ongoing whiplash from the Coronavirus pandemic, the idea of isolation is one that is all too familiar to us now. So far during our forced captivity we’ve been told to make the most of our free time, using isolation as a vessel for learning and exploration of the unknown. And sure, it’s been great. We’ve read a book or two, listened to some interesting podcasts, hell, we’ve even mastered the art of le pain de banane (that’s banana bread, only fancier because it’s in French). But now that we’ve explored all things conscious, it’s time we invest in the unconscious. and give our mind, body and soul some time to digest, reflect and reset.
Ruby Wall is a Hatha Flow and Yin Yoga teacher based in Melbourne. An advocate for living a slower and more present life, Ruby has been utilising isolation to share her practice with the digital community via her Instagram page (@rubysriwall). Her journey to yoga is one that isn’t too different from most, turning to practice as a means of exercise before eventually falling head over heels for the yogi life.
Throughout the story of the evolution of yoga however is one common theme, which is the need for humankind to momentarily withdraw from society and spend some time focusing on themselves.
According to Ruby, the first step to healing is self-love, followed by creating a calming space for your practice.
“Self-care and self-love are synonymous to me. It is being in-tune with your body and deeply listening to what It needs and giving yourself the space, time and attention to nurture these needs.”
“I love the ritual of creating my sanctuary or sacred space for my practice. It really helps get me in the mood to relax and draw my focus inward. I burn palo santo to cleanse and clear the energy of the room, turn on the salt rock lamps, either light a couple of candles or burn my favourite incense. It also really helps if you’re lucky enough to have a space where you know you won’t be disturbed by partners or roommates and is away from your laptop and other distractions.”
For those experiencing increased tension in the body or sore muscles due to being hunched over screens or makeshift WFH desks, Ruby recommends starting with a spinal roll and child’s pose to help relax the body.
“Spinal rolls are a great way to release tension in the lower back, neck, hamstrings and stretch out the spine.”
Ruby explains “Begin with feet hip distance apart, then slowly roll down the spine so that your fingertips graze the floor, taking as a big of a bend in the knees as you need to feel a release in the back body. Allow the neck to hang, and gently hold the elbows and sway side to side. Release the elbows and gentle bend into the knees, press into the feet, inhale as you roll up the spine, noticing the sensations that move through your back and legs. Reach your arms above your head at the top and take a little back bend, gently pressing the hips forward and the gaze up and back. Exhale the breath out as you roll the spine down. Repeat as many times as you need to feel a sense of relaxation and opening in the back body and hamstrings.”
The child’s pose, or balasana, is a resting pose and is usually used as an interim position between more difficult poses as a means to reset the body. It allows you to gently stretch the hips, thighs, ankles as well as calm the brain, release stress and relieve any back and neck pain.
“Take the knees wide apart and lower the chest between the thighs, forehead to the floor, arms extended out above the head, palms face down. You can feel a nice stretch in the hips, lower back and arms. It also allows you to breathe deeply into the belly and calm the mind by focusing on the expansion of the lower back and ribs and you inhale and a sense of softening and grounding as you exhale, bringing the hips closer to the heels.”
For those struggling with increased levels of anxiety or difficulty in concentrating, Ruby recommends practicing breathing techniques in order to bring your attention back into the present and help the mind from wandering off.
“A simple breath practice which really helps me when I’m feeling overwhelmed is called samavrtti, or 4/4 breath. Simply inhale in the nose for the count of four and exhale through the nose for a count of four. When you are comfortable, begin to add a pause at the top of the inhale for four counts and a pause at the end of your exhale for four counts. This breath is calming and grounding and allows you to focus entirely on the movement of breath through the body.”
Finally, if time permits, Ruby says the best thing we can do for our mind and body right now is to treat ourselves to self-care day, away from the buzz of daily life. Simply put, “Put that phone on do not disturb.”
“Number one, let people know that you will be out of action for X number of hours. Begin your morning with a gentle yoga flow and meditation practice or a long walk. Take your time with everything you do and be conscious of every action you make. Slowing down your daily habits and putting love into even the most mundane things. Give yourself the space to be grateful for the little things, like that perfectly latte or the way the light streams in your window. Use lavender essential oil in a warm bath and read that book that has been sitting on your bedside for months. Light that candle that you were saving for a special occasion. Prepare your favourite meal, using fresh ingredients and produce. And I mean, would it be a self-care day without a face mask?”