KUCHING: The Covid-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions have brought life to a standstill for most of the society.
With the implementation of the movement control order (MCO), people have had little choice but to be cooped up at home for extended periods of time.
While some people simply surrender themselves to weeks of boredom in isolation, others have seized the opportunity to make the most out of the situation.
Puteri Maryam Aliya Evetovics, 22, used the opportunity to hone her yoga skills and even become a yoga teacher.
She had been doing yoga for several years prior to the initial MCO last year but started becoming more serious and consistent with her practice when the lockdown commenced.
“There was too much going on in my head – feelings of all my plans for the year being cancelled, of not being able to work and of not progressing in my life.
“It was just really way too much unnecessary over thinking and yoga helped me to get out of my head and into my body, focusing on only the present moment, which is the only moment we ever really have,” she told New Sarawak Tribune.
She said worrying about the past or being anxious about the future only brought her sufferings.
The beginning of her yoga journey
Maryam said she took to yoga after sustaining an injury.
“I used to be into intense sports and I was also the kind of person who kept pushing myself over my limit until I injured both my wrists and ankles really badly,” she recalled.
She said she then delved into yoga as it was the only form of movement she could do at the time.
“But I’m grateful for the injury because it taught me a huge lesson and allowed me to really slow down and it also showed me the benefits of slowing down,” she said.
Improving mental and physical health through yoga
While the Covid-19 virus is a threat to physical health, the pandemic situation itself has also significantly impacted mental health in the society.
Maryam said yoga had enhanced her mental health during the ongoing pandemic.
“It makes me more aware and mindful of the present moment, making me cherish and love myself. It helped me to be more compassionate, loving and forgiving towards myself.
“Therefore, I have become even more compassionate and forgiving towards others as well because I realised we are all just trying our best with what we know, especially in times like this pandemic when most people’s mental health problems have probably been exacerbated,” she said.
Maryam said yoga also helped her physically by increasing her flexibility as well as muscle strength and tone.
“After yoga in the morning, I will always feel so energised throughout the entire day and even more so than if I take a big cup of coffee,” she remarked.
She said yoga had made her more peaceful, grounded, disciplined, happy, as well as less reactive and less judgemental while also keeping her body healthy.
From practising to teaching yoga
Maryam said while staying with her parents during the lockdown, one day she decided to teach them yoga for fun.
“During that session, I instantly found something I love just as much or probably even more than practising yoga — teaching and sharing with others the powerful healing modality that yoga is.
“Just the bliss and peaceful smiles my parents had after the practice brought so much joy to their hearts,” she said.
So, Maryam quickly started to do research on yoga teacher training courses and found one in Kuala Lumpur (KL) last September.
After attending it, she started hosting yoga classes at a park in KL every weekend.
“Then here in Kuching, I started doing private classes, hosting classes at my home. Recently, I also started teaching at a new gym called Elevation Fitness,” she said.
She added that prior to the latest MCO here, she also taught yoga at Nanga Damai, Santubong on Sundays.
“It is a beautiful place at the foothills of Mount Santubong,” she said.
Advice for those who are keen to start
“Just start!” is Maryam’s advice for people who are interested to try out yoga.
She said those new to yoga could start with a simple five- to ten-minute practice, adding that there were many teachers online and face-to-face sessions.
“When the Covid-19 situation improves and things start to open up, find a teacher that you have a connection with and who has energy that resonates with you.
“You can check out some yoga classes once things start opening up,” she advised.
Maryam pointed out that the first session in most yoga classes was usually free of charge, and thus encouraged interested newcomers to try yoga out for themselves to see if they would enjoy it.
“Movement is medicine and the best movement practice is the one you enjoy most! So go ahead and experiment, and find out what brings you the most joy,” she said.