By Kavyasri Gouda and Radhika Kulkarni
With businesses and restaurants shut down and social distancing rules in place to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s getting harder for people to stay connected. Activities that were once a part of our daily lives are now canceled or postponed by local governments. Visiting places like gyms or stores could be more trouble than it’s worth due to the risks of exposure to the virus. According to the Center for Disease Control, it’s especially harmful to people over the age of 65 with pre-existing conditions to contract the virus. As a result, many people are stuck at home in self-quarantine and must find new hobbies and forms of entertainment to fill their empty schedules.
Yoga is one such activity that promotes fitness and self-care. In an article published under the Harvard Health blog, author Marlynn Wei states that “A new survey conducted by Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal reports that the number of Americans doing yoga has grown by over 50% in the last four years.” On an otherwise inactive day spent at home, yoga is a form of exercise that can improve daily health. These facts are precisely why Prabhat Joshi, an Arizona resident, works to provide free virtual yoga classes to his community. In the bustling city of Phoenix, Joshi Ji takes the peaceful hours of the early morning to practice yoga. He first learned yoga when he was three from his father. Since then, he has learned more yoga techniques and practices it with his family. Instead of stopping there, Joshi Ji took the extra step to become a certified yoga instructor and teach others the art of yoga. He practices traditional Indian yoga as well as pranayama, a set of breathing exercises. Joshi Ji has taught in-person yoga classes for the past few years but he has moved to entirely virtual meetings for the past four months after all in-person activities were restricted due to COVID-19. He has utilized Zoom to host live meetings and has created a channel on YouTube to post recordings of the sessions. By moving online, his audience has greatly increased in size. His most popular video, which celebrated International yoga day, has 215 views.
There is still a large percent of the population that has never tried or even heard of yoga. One of the reasons is the perspective that yoga is exclusive or something that is “designed primarily for young women or for those who are already flexible, athletic, or spiritual” (Wei). Another viewpoint is that yoga is a treatment and not an everyday exercise. This is reflected through Joshi Ji’s audience, which mainly includes middle-aged adults and seniors who are affected by both mental and physical troubles. However, Joshi Ji states that one does not have to be a certain age or have a certain amount of athleticism to practice yoga. There are people from the East Coast, the Midwest, India, and many other regions from where people tune into his yoga sessions. He has received valuable feedback from his audience, most importantly, seniors. After attending his sessions, they have noticed that their respiratory system has strengthened, and their posture and vertebrae issues have significantly improved. Anyone can practice yoga, even if you are completely healthy! In her blog, Wei reports, “Yoga has been shown to improve health. Several studies have found that yoga can help improve cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, balance, and overall quality of life… reduce stress, anxiety, and pain. In addition, people who do yoga are 20% more likely to have a positive image of their own physical and mental health.” Wei includes that the benefits of yoga are not strictly physical- people who actively do yoga are more likely to eat healthier, practice better moral values, volunteer for causes, and donate.
Moreover, Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, writes in a statement that “adequate physical activity improves muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness, enhances bone and functional health, and helps prevent depression…it also reduces the risk of life-threatening noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension, stroke, heart attack, and diabetes.”
Knowing these benefits of physical activity, Joshi Ji decided to give back to the community by starting yoga lessons online. Although people couldn’t leave their homes, they could still stay healthy by practicing yoga. He hosts the free online classes four days a week, from 6:30 am to 7:30 am MST. All it takes is one quick search of “Prabhat Joshi” on YouTube, and his channel can be easily found. Even though COVID-19 has made many aspects of everyday life more challenging, yoga is still accessible to be practiced and provide relief through the efforts of people such as Joshi Ji.
Singh, Poonam Khetrapal. “Yoga Is a Valuable Tool to Increase Physical Activity and Decrease Noncommunicable Disease.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 20 July 2018, www.who.int/southeastasia/news/detail/20-06-2018-yoga-is-a-valuable-tool-to-increase-physical-activity-and-decrease-noncommunicable-disease.
Wei, Marlynn. “New Survey Reveals the Rapid Rise of Yoga – and Why Some People Still Haven’t Tried It.” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard, 7 Mar. 2016, 9:00 AM, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/new-survey-reveals-the-rapid-rise-of-yoga-and-why-some-people-still-havent-tried-it-201603079179.