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On Wearing a Mask During Yoga

TL;DR: It was fine.

Like many of you, I recently had COVID. It was exhausting and unpleasant but not serious. One of the effects was that I missed some of my regular yoga classes, which made me very grumpy.

This morning, I was finally out of quarantine, per the most recent CDC guidelines (FYI, these are kept updated, so they’re always the most recent!). I still had to wear a mask, though.

The breath is a big part of yoga: Breathing in specific ways, paying attention to the breath, using the breath to soothe the body (science, by the way, agrees that this works). So I admit I wondered what it would be like to do yoga in a KN95 mask. Would it get in the way? Would I feel stifled? Would I be able to relax and breathe comfortably?

No, No, and Yes.

First of all, I made the excellent choice to start with Gentle Yoga. One of the frustrating aspects of even a mild bout of COVID is the fatigue, which often lingers for weeks. Believe me when I say that I am still feeling it. Gentle Yoga was the right choice, with or without a mask, for my slow, heavy, tired body. I have no stamina right now. None.

When I got to the studio, I was only the second student there. Faced with the instructor and a fellow student, I summoned my courage and told them that I was recently out of COVID quarantine. While I wanted very much to do this class, I continued; if either of them would feel uncomfortable doing yoga with me, I would head home.

Because here’s the thing: I don’t know their stories. I don’t know their bodies. I don’t know if one of them is recovering from cancer, or acting as a caretaker to an elderly parent, or any other circumstance that might make them leery about breathing for an hour with someone just out of COVID quarantine.

I needed to give them information so we could make a decision together.

They were fine with it, as it turned out. I awkwardly repeated the conversation with the rest of the class as they arrived, and everyone was fine with it. Yay! I got to stay and do yoga.

Every person smiled, hoped I was feeling better, said thanks for checking in. By the time the class started, we were already more than a group of strangers in a room. We had already acknowledged each other’s humanity, and communicated our care for each other.

It felt really good.

I had realized, on the walk over to class, that I couldn’t not tell people that I was just out of quarantine. I was going to yoga to stretch my body and soothe my mind, and my mind was not going to be soothed if the whole time I was worrying about hurting the other people in the room with my breath. I needed to give them information, and to rely on their kindness.

And after my worry about doing yoga in a mask, it was totally fine. The long, slow, conscious breaths were fine with the mask. At one point when my face was down on the mat, I felt constrained by the mask, so I changed my position slightly, and then all was well. It was less adjustment than I make on a regular basis to accommodate my painful back.

I admit, I spent about half the class flopped on the mat, gently stretching and letting my mind relax. I wasn’t up for more because, ugh, that fatigue. But that’s another nice thing about yoga: it’s all optional. We all have the option to freestyle, anytime, without reproof. I freestyled my way through a class that was the perfect match for my energy level.

It felt great. I missed my yoga classes, like, a lot, while I was sick, caring for my sick family, and in quarantine. Showing up and doing some yoga stretched out my abominably tight body. Focusing my attention on my breathing centered and calmed me. I finished the class feeling better than I had in weeks.

The mask, honestly, was a non-issue.

Then I went home and took a nap.

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