Updated: Aug 20
We all have a story. When I started the Massena Yoga Studio I thought I was doing it so that I could help myself while helping others at the same time. At that time there were few local options for yoga and nobody offered hot classes.
I have struggled with my mental health since I was a kid. In my late teens I discovered hot yoga and it really helped me find some peace. Years later I learned through The Harvard based, Herbert Benson Mind Body Institute, that there were real quantifiable anti-inflammatory changes in the body that fight depression brought out by the practice of hot yoga. Personally, I just liked that nobody could tell if I was crying because we were all sweating our faces off and after class I magically felt better. But I am a nerd and I love science too.
So fast forward to when I finally made it through school and began working as a Physician Assistant in a rural area. My days quickly filled seeing sick kids and helping people with their chronic medical issues. Due to our geographical isolation, lack of providers and the demanding work flow I quickly saw my own body and mind deteriorating. My yoga practice had stopped. I began gaining weight, my back and neck ached, I had acid reflux and my hands started going numb. All the things I had seen happen in my patients were now happening to me.
I worked many hours, I had multiple jobs and was always behind on paperwork. I began to sink into a depression. Worse yet, I started to sink into the cycle of compassion fatigue and burnout. I was grumpy and easily frustrated. I remember reading an article that stated that the average age of death of a physician is 62. Obviously that differed by specialty, but I thought "Wow what is wrong with the way they are living?!?" Then I thought, "Wait what’s wrong with the way I’m living??"
So I started practicing yoga regularly again. I landed back in my body. Too much time in academia had me living in my mind only. I started to see how yoga could help my patients like it helped me. So I thought "I’ll become a teacher and open a studio in my home town."
But yoga is sneaky. No matter how we end up on our mat there are always magical forces at play. I never could have predicted that my plan would evolve into what it has. And in the last year, because of the pandemic, I realized that yoga was a huge part of MY wellness plan. But it wasn’t just the studio, the practice or my breathing. It was the COMMUNITY it had created.
Especially over the last year, I have been REPEATEDLY shocked by the people who have stood by me and showed up for me. No matter how big or crazy the ideas I throw out there... I have been met with constructive feedback, encouragement and inspiration from my mailman, my family, my friends, my yoga teachers, the MYS studio teachers, the friends and family (of my friends and family) who got dragged into helping me build something or tear something apart, as well as local government and other businesses.
In the past few weeks I have finally started to feel like myself again. My community is a part of my wellness. And my community extends beyond the people who I directly interact with. It extends to their family and loved ones. This includes their children who aren’t eligible to be vaccinated yet. The threat of the local numbers rising made me realize I need to do my part to protect my community. I need yoga and my yoga family to hold strong. I have continued to mask at work as a PA throughout this whole pandemic. I understand the science behind it.
When the studies started showing the rising numbers in children and school is weeks away... I began to panic. I found myself saying to my loved ones with children "what are you going to do?" So instead of retreating to a place of fear and creating chaos, I decided that I would do what I could do. I need to practice the same precautions I do in my medical practice in the space that I hold for others to create their own wellness at the studio.
In my story, I choose to be vaccinated and wear a mask indoors. Because the studio is so small and we do a lot of breathing. I ask that we all wear one in the studio space regardless of vaccination status. I understand that may have some of you opting out of studio classes, when the numbers settle we will return to the studio without masks and hope to see you.
Vaccines can’t cure diseases (at least not in 9 months), when you are fully vaccinated you can still contract and carry the virus and that virus can be spread to others. If exposed, the vaccine cuts down the amount of virus your body produces because your immune system already has a plan in place (from the vaccine). The less viral replication mean lower chances of getting sick. Being vaccinated also means the number of virus shed is much lower, less viral exposure equals less of a chance of getting sick. Wearing the mask cuts the amount of virus shed and cuts the numbers of viral exposure even more.
Now notice that I didn’t tell you about the things I have witnessed because of COVID in my PA practice, those aren’t my stories to tell. But those things do influence my story. Trust that. I am grateful that my home town hasn’t suffered the extent of trauma that other places have due to this pandemic but that doesn’t make us immune. The fact that this time around children seem to be more vulnerable is the stuff of my nightmares. I rotated thru the NICU and PICU. My first few years as a PA I worked in OB. I know how long it takes for the pediatric transport teams to arrive. We are geographically isolated from advance medical care too, especially for kids. All of these things have influenced my choice to wear a mask despite being vaccinated.
I know that wearing a mask is often uncomfortable and in some cases can feel restrictive and cause anxiety. Focus on your exhalation. I will try to offer more outdoor classes while it is nice out. I will encourage the other teachers to do this as well. I am willing to do private classes and zoom classes. I know that the other teachers are willing as well. I also am willing to hear your suggestions and ideas. Please note this is not the place for political or controversial debate. I am interested in your wellness and a plan to keep building towards that. I respect your personal choice regarding these matters and ask for the same respect. These are trying and unprecedented times. Let us show ourselves and each other grace.
After all, we live in the shelter of each other.