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Interview with Apurva About Yoga Sessions

Apurva’s been leading yoga sessions on Facebook Live during the stay-at-home order in Chicago. Learn more about why Apurva wants to share them with the SWOP community in Apurva’s answers to questions below.

Where did you learn to practice yoga? 

I started doing yoga in college, which offered free classes for students throughout the week. I was struggling with my mental health and feeling a lot of stress, and the classes helped me physically ground myself. I learned different postures and sequences by attending classes at different studios or following along with YouTube yoga teachers. I’m not a certified yoga instructor, which is important for people to know. 

I understand that leading Facebook yoga classes began out of a need to adapt your work because of COVID-19 — is that right? How does leading yoga practices fit in with your other work at SWOP?

Yes, that’s right. Before COVID-19, I incorporated a bit of yoga into nutrition workshops and got a lot of positive feedback from participants. During the first week of the stay-at-home order, Jessica had the idea to share workshops and workouts on Facebook. Everyone’s routines were disrupted, and people suddenly had a lot of unstructured time on their hands. Doing a yoga sequence—especially first thing in the morning—incorporates mindfulness, movement, and structure into the flow of your day. I like the platform of Facebook Live because an additional feeling of connectedness forms between people who are doing the same sequence in real time, even when they can’t see each other. 

One mission of the National Health Corps Chicago and my role at SWOP is to reduce health inequities in different parts of the city at individual and community levels. My role at SWOP focuses on health education and health literacy, which are two important community intervention points. I usually facilitate nutrition workshops through the American Heart Association’s Healthy for Life program at CPS schools (now the workshops are on Zoom). But the yoga fits right into the goal of encouraging healthy eating and physical activity for the community and giving people access to the resources to do so. Yoga isn’t a substitute for aerobic and strength exercise, however! 

What do you consider as you plan/practice the Facebook yoga session?

While I plan sequences, I’m really mindful about choosing postures with minimal risk of injury or pain. At-home yoga and workouts pose different risks for injury, especially on the back. I try to choose movements that beginners and people with less mobility can engage with, but yoga, especially, encourages people to pay attention to their bodies and stop a movement if they feel pain. I also keep the videos on the shorter side, because incorporating 20-30 minutes of yoga into your day feels much less overwhelming than an hour. 

COVID-19 is impacting relationships, bodies, work, and more. How can yoga be supportive during these uncertain times?

You don’t have to feel 100% to do yoga. Part of the practice is to accept your present mental and physical state, even if it’s not your best day, and still work mindfully through a sequence. Yoga can be a healthy way to reduce some stress and anxiety and to practice thinking clearly even through uncertainty and instability. At the very least, you’ll get some movement into your day.

Speaking of which, people who are working at home are most likely spending a lot of time sitting down, which is not great for your health. In addition to taking a stretch break every hour, you can take a break in the middle of your day to do a yoga sequence. You can also do yoga together with the friends and family you live with. Sometimes it’s harder to workout on your own than when you’re with others. There’s no age-limit to yoga either. You can include your kids or older family members as well.

What do you appreciate about yoga? 

Yoga has become more popular over the last decade, so I’ve loved the community the most. Like I mentioned above, I appreciate how yoga doesn’t have to be a competition or challenge with anyone. If I’m less flexible or more tired one day, it’s just an indication of how my body is doing that day, and I try to work with it without judgment. I also appreciate how yoga trains you to mindfully deal with discomfort. When a posture feels uncomfortable (never painful), you learn to breathe and relax into the movement. I think it’s a great skill to practice in life as well. 

Are there any other resources you recommend during the stay-at-home order? (probably online, but other ones too! and anything related to your work at SWOP)

Yes! Yoga With Adriene is a great yoga YouTube channel with hundreds of high-quality yoga videos (much better than mine) for a variety of moods and themes. The American Heart Association is a great web resource during these times.They post daily at-home workouts on FacebookLive.Their website has resources and information for how individuals who are at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19 can take precautions and manage their health. They also give out free, downloadable heart-healthy cookbooks! For meditation, I recommend the app Headspace, but if you’d like something less pricey, Calm and Insight Timer. Or, there are tons of YouTube meditations as well. And again, for basic needs and resources, SWSOC has a team of dedicated parent navigators who are working to connect people to community organizations and resources that can help out. 

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