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Locked down but not out in Italy

Singing from the balconies! One nice thing about this crisis ... solidarity! “Guess you’re not living like a tourist anymore,” was the funny, truthful and somewhat gut-wrenching message of a friend the day the lockdown in Italy began. Today is day 6. My beloved Italia has been hit hard with the COVID19 epidemic. With the second largest elderly population in the world, the epidemic has meant a disproportionate amount of deaths in the country. So though I haven’t been worried about contracting it myself, this isn’t about me or someone like me who, if contracted it would probably have a sucky couple of weeks and then recover. It is about if someone like me contracted it and then spread it to a person with a complicated health history or an elderly person with a weakened immune system. Eerily orderly: Lines for the grocery store, each person one meter apart In a country with no concept (and no physical room really) for personal space, and in a city with reproachable hygie

Resisting Peace

Photo Credit
I am a bit of a skeptic. I like to learn things for myself, a "learn it the hard way"-type of gal. So it only stands to reason that I stay at least an arms-length away from any kind of new trend in society...  I don't always deliberately boycott these things; I just lack the intrigue to try them. For instance, I only started watching "Sex and the City" after it was off the air. I only became interested in reading the "Da Vinci Code" after the movie was out and the TV stations had found something else to talk about. I still haven't read any of the Harry Potter books, and I can't remember which of these movies I have seen...

This has also been the case for me regarding yoga. All I remember about the yoga trend when it first came out is Madonna talking about the wonders it had done for her 50+ year old body. (Everything I said above about fads is tripled when applied to celebrity-endorsed ones.) So for years, many years, I have resisted the thought of even stepping into a yoga studio.

Besides, I thought, I am the type of person who listens to techno music and goes for a run to release stress. How could I ever benefit from breathing exercises and poses? It wasn't for me. I was sure of it.

And then the last three years happened- when life has felt more out of my control than I have ever thought it could feel, especially being the control freak that I am. In every area of my life, I found myself repeating, "There is a reason for this," "Everything has its purpose and time," "Che sara sara" and every other saying, advice and/or mantra that more eloquently expresses: "What the hell is happening???"

I still went for runs during this phase, a necessary physical and mental exercise for me, and it certainly relieves the anxiety that seems to boil and get bottled up  from sitting down for eight hours of the day. However, running hasn't done much for me feeling like, "The mess is OK."

This probably isn't how yoga is traditionally advertised either, but the more I talked to my friends about their own love affairs with the practice, the more I got that sense. Yoga makes you focus on the present and makes you at peace with whatever is going on in your life. So for me, that equates to learning to live at peace amid the chaos, as opposed to trying to fix it, which has been my strategy for the last 31 years.

So I put prejudices and judgements aside. I gritted my teeth and put on the yoga pants that I had begrudgingly bought awhile back (as all sportswear has somehow been labelled "Yoga-wear"), and I held my tongue as I told people where I was heading that night. And then I stepped into a dimly lit, but beautiful studio with high, ornate ceilings, wooden floors and bay windows.

Stroga Studio. Photo Credit: Welcome DC

As it turns out,Yoga wasn't about sitting crossed legged like a lotus and breathing. It was constant movement, pushing your body to explore different positions and testing your own strength, flexibility, posture and endurance. An hour and fifteen minutes later, I had shaped myself into positions I still don't quite understand. I was melting into a river of sweat, the likes of which I only see after an hour + run, and I realized that for 75 blissful minutes, my world stopped. My only concern had been the form of my body. And at the end of that one hour timeout, I suppose, like any vacation, I did feel... peaceful. Who knew?

I guess Madonna was right.