A time for enforced Self Care!

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I recently tested positive for Covid. While watching others around me test positive with various degrees of severity, I felt like it was almost inevitable that I would contract the virus at some stage. Somehow I managed to evade it for a couple of years, even though I have worked through the pandemic, closely with Covid positive people.

The timing of me testing positive pointed towards universal and divine timing at play. I had just come back from holiday and it was a day after my birthday (which I spent happily alone recovering from a whirlwind holiday). I hadn’t been at work for a week which meant that none of my work colleagues would be affected.

Forced into isolation for at least 7 days, I had the pleasure of enjoying stunning autumn days in my humble abode, away from the responsibilities of the outside world. I’m grateful that I made the decision to get vaccinated as my symptoms after the first two days were actually quite mild.

As a long time student of Oriental Therapies and Yoga, I felt like I had an abundance of tools to deal with the virus. My children dropped of some rye sourdough, freshly picked lemons and oranges and I was set. This was going to be a lovely opportunity to focus on self care, and simply go with the flow.

Oriental Therapies refers to any sort of negative impact on the body, as a pernicious influence, whether it be bacterial or viral. This can be an external pernicious influence (EPI) which is a superficial attack (such as an upper respiratory tract infection) or if left unchecked can develop into an internal pernicious influence (IPI) which is on a deeper level and harder to treat, (such as a lower respiratory tract infection or pneumonia). I wanted to keep this virus at a superficial level so it wouldn’t enter too deeply into my body.

The body’s natural defense against any sort of attack is the inflammatory response, such as phlegm created in response to foreign bodies in the upper respiratory tract. However an exaggerated inflammatory response can be harmful, as seen in autoimmune disorders. In Oriental Therapies, inflammation is synonymous with the condition of Damp, which makes sense when you think of phlegm – a sticky, damp substance. Damp also creates a sense of heaviness and lethargy, as well as the brain fog so often associated with Covid, or most illnesses for that matter.

Certain foods exacerbate Damp, whereas other foods help to break it down. Foods such as red meat, alcohol, refined sugars, saturated fats, yeast, dairy, bananas, tomato concentrate and orange juice are examples of foods which create damp in the body. This makes sense when you consider the texture of these and how they make you feel after ingesting them.

Other foods help to break down damp. These include just about anything with a bitter flavour (so under-represented in the western diet!), pears, basil, green tea, garlic, seaweed, ginger, lemon, barley, buckwheat, rye.

With this in mind, my drink of choice is green tea with lemon, honey and ginger, (as well as lots of water!) I make a big pot and simply sip it over a few hours.

My lunch of choice is a simple soup with cooked chicken, soba noodles (made from buckwheat), greens, carrot, miso, garlic, ginger and seaweed, all thrown in together. It smells amazing and I’m grateful that I haven’t lost my sense of smell! A toast of rye sourdough with butter is the perfect accompaniment.

My dinner of choice is a simple curry made with whatever veggies I have on hand. At the moment these include onion, choko (thank you neighbours for sharing these from your garden!), potato, mushrooms and greens, and served with rice. Curry is a pungent flavour which is renown in Oriental Therapies for expelling EPI’s.

I’ve also been craving pears and shortbread biscuits. The chocolate easter eggs that I was craving last week, I cannot stand the sight of, this week!

This is hardly the time to be indulging in raw foods as these are harder for the body to digest according to Oriental therapies, which claims that these subdue the digestive fire. On the other hand, cooked foods are already ‘partially digested’. The same is true of drinking cold drinks which ‘put out the digestive fire’.

The beauty of Oriental Therapy is that it is very much about the individual rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. So if the sound of these foods sounds totally unappealing to you, then by all means find some that do. Tune into your body and listen to what it has to say to you. By all means experiment. If you are craving a particular food, notice how it makes you feel after ingesting it. Your body will tell you.

If you have been forced into isolation through Covid, or any other illness, take this time to practice self care. If you feel like binge watching your favourite series, give yourself permission. If you feel like sleeping in the day, give yourself permission. If you feel like sorting through your wardrobe, give yourself permission. If you feel like sitting and looking for images in the clouds, give yourself permission. This is not a time of ‘shoulds’ but a time of being in the moment and deciding how you want to spend that moment, for after all, life is a series of consecutive moments.

Yoga has taught me to listen to my body, ask what it needs in the moment, and honour that. If I feel too tired to sit upright for meditation, I can do so in a semi reclined position, or in Viparita Kirani (legs up the wall), or in supported Bridge pose, with a bolster under my sacrum.

I ask myself, where do I feel tension in my body, and what can I do to relieve it. If my body is fighting a virus and I am feeling tired, this is not a time for vigorous sun salutations, but a time for gentle stretching and restorative poses. I don’t overthink it, but rather step on the mat and be guided by my body.

So if you find yourself forced into isolation, allow this time to be one of self care and nurturing, whatever that means to you. You are here and now, so you may as well enjoy it! Allow yourself to let go of expectations. Allow yourself to play, to rest, to restore, to be.

Yoga during Covid isolation

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So just before the Covid lockdown, you find your perfect yoga teacher and class. The time and date works well for you and the teacher gets you. You even feel comfortable with the other students. You feel like you have finally found a yoga class that you can commit to long term.

Enter Covid 19 restrictions and all bets are off. No more yoga class, unless you decide to go online. You can do that, you have the space at home and your wifi is pretty good.

You set yourself up in preparation for said class and you are proud of yourself for not giving up on yoga. The class begins. The teacher apologises as she has never done an online yoga class before. She starts to take you through some warm ups and some breathing. You feel yourself relaxing into the class and into your body. Other cares and worries are getting left behind.

Then it happens. The screen starts to glitch for a few seconds, then freezes, before internet connection is lost. You feel stress creeping fairly quickly into your body. Then somehow internet is reconnected and the class continues. You catch up. You feel better.

Then it happens.. Again, and again. Internet is lost. You feel like screaming and you want to throw the laptop out the window. You remember that this is a yoga class and you are supposed to be relaxing.

Somehow, all those years of listening to the words of your yoga teacher come back into your mind. You close your eyes.





You become aware of tightness in your chest, tension in your shoulders and belly. You recognise these as the result of feeling frustrated and angry. You soften your belly, allow your shoulders to drop and deepen your breathing.

You realise that you cannot control internet connection. Let it go.

You have an hour of time that you have set aside for a yoga class, and your yoga mat is rolled out. You feel like you are all dressed up with nowhere to go. Ok so you can’t go to yoga class, and the online thing isn’t working for you today.

But maybe there is another way. Maybe you can simply do your own yoga. You stand in mountain pose on your mat and close your eyes. You follow the breath moving in and out of your body.

You realise your shoulders have tensed up again. You roll them slowly a few times and notice warmth and movement of energy throughout your body all the way into your feet. This feels delicious.

One thing leads to another.

Before you know it, you have worked your way through an entire hour of yoga.

Is this yoga? Or is this you just mucking around?

What is yoga anyway?

Yoga means to unite, to connect, to yoke.

As long as you are connecting with your body, your mind, your spirit / higher self, and your breath, you are practicing yoga. As long as you have a sense of self awareness of these aspects of yourself, you are practicing yoga.

Thoughts will come and go, feelings will come and go, insights may come. You may feel a sense of connection with all that is…a sense of oneness. Allow your yoga session to be what it is, without judgement. This is your yoga session.

I like to call this INTUITIVE YOGA, where you tune into how you are feeling at the time and allow yourself to go from there. The inner wisdom of your body and being is your guide.

I will be writing more about Intuitive Yoga in the following weeks. Watch this space…..