Yoga & Mindfulness Through a Pandemic – Part 1

Shared by Danja Yoga Co-Owner & Lead Teacher Training Facilitator, Daniel Sernicola, with written reflections by our Yoga Teacher Training students

The following is the first of five short essays written by our Danja Yoga Teacher Training students. These students are in the middle of a 200-hr training that began in September 2021. They graduate in June 2022. Covid-19 has changed much about the yoga world. There\’s been opportunities along with set backs for our students.

The words of our teacher trainees share both vulnerability and the realness of this situation, and how practices of yoga and mindfulness can really be an antidote for the pandemic at hand. I feel hopeful to have these teachers emerging into the world at a time where self-care, wellness, and mindful teachings are very needed. Daniel Sernicola

The prompt: 

How is yoga influencing your time during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

What are you learning about yourself during this time? 

How can we use the Danja Yoga 200-hr Yoga Teacher Training to be of service to our communities and the world right now?

The situation is very real. When the COVID-19 virus came about, reality became intense. I feel as though we depend so much on our structures, but what do these mean when we cannot prevent a pandemic from sabotaging our communities? When everything falls, clarity ensues. Despite the chaos, yoga has been able to assist me in finding clarity during this time. When worldwide suffering becomes evident, how can we keep living blindly, unaware of the light that exists in each and every one of us? I had a lot of fear during the beginning of the pandemic– I wanted answers. “How will the world look a month from now?” “What about a year?” “What will happen to my life? My plans?” I had plans!

My plans not coming to fruition was a blessing. Because my studies became online, my Spring break trip to visit my sister on the beautiful island of Maui became my residence for the first segments of COVID-19. Here, I decided to start the 30 Day Deepak Chopra Meditation Challenge. I felt that routine, as a sense of normalcy, would be beneficial to me during this time. After all, it was the only sense of regularity I could grasp unto. An average of 30 minutes of my day, each day, was taken out in order to dedicate myself to this challenge–Discipline! This was difficult. Though, every day, after every meditation, I felt calmer, more relaxed, and more awake– I knew that the initial action, which at times seemed difficult, would pay off immensely. Still, I use meditations I learned in that challenge to support my well being.

At times, I find it easy to forget all of the wonderful, and difficult lessons I have learned along the way. Sometimes I know they are inside, but I am struggling to dig them out. “How do I know this is true in my heart, but am unable to feel its truth at this time?” “I am disconnected. And how do I reconnect? Yoga.” I have had practices on my mat in deep emotional pain, sobbing as I’m in Balasana, or Child’s Pose. Though I’ve found it extremely difficult to move my body while in emotional pain, gentle Yoga practices have helped me release and reconnect during dark times. Many important life lessons have been realized on my mat. The more I practice Yoga, the more I realize the journey is never over. We have the power to tap into limitless capabilities on our mats. Knowing this, I persist and try my hardest to practice, even in a small way, during times of hardship. Yoga has been a constant in my life for over six years, and now it’s calling me more than ever. I am super grateful to be enrolled in the Danja 200hr Yoga Teacher Training Program.

In the Danja 200hr Yoga Teacher Training program, four other students and I attend weekly classes in order to dig deeper into the intricacies of Yoga practices. Learning history was humbling– I had been practicing for over six years, yet there were so many foundational Yoga texts I had never even come across. In some texts, I felt completely aligned and understood by the concepts of the tradition. While reading others, I did not. Here, I’ve learned in a deeper way about the uniqueness in each and every one of us. Each student will come out of teacher training having been trained the same– Though, each of us will choose the niche manner in which we pass down knowledge.

What better way to feel well-being than to help others? Our ability to feel contentment from Yoga practices stems from generations of tradition that have come before us. I feel called to share the benefits of Yoga to impact lives in a positive way. Since everything impacts everything, even though our contributions may feel small, they are changing the world in every moment.

While anatomical studies at Danja have taught me about the importance of catering to different bodies, learning and practicing meditation techniques as a class distilled in me the power of creating a Yogic space. Though Yoga can be practiced from anywhere, practicing in a community allows for discussion, and observation of other’s perspectives and their growth. It has been an absolutely beautiful process of evolution– I feel it in myself, and I see it in others. Studying the basics of Sanskrit has provoked my language to evolve. Learning about the vibrational language in which Yoga wouldn’t live without has caused an unspeakable deepening of my relationship to Yoga. Asana (poses) is an integral aspect of Yoga practiced in the United States. Learning them in depth has reiterated the lesson to me that the ability to find relaxation in tension, strength in difficulty, and peace in the storm is possible through mindfulness, and linking breath to movement.

Sharing Yogic concepts to promote well-being is important at all times, and undoubtedly in a global pandemic. Though there is still time to be had, and more lessons to be learned, I feel like the journey of a Yogic lifestyle allows us to serve our globe in powerful ways. Through learning how to lift ourselves up when we are down, we learn to help others awaken.

Andre Mershad (they/them)

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