Over the last three years, we have been pushed to expand beyond our containers of comfort as individuals and as a community. First, it was a matter of survival as we recovered from the pandemic, violence, marginalization, and the loss of personal freedoms. Now that we know we can “do hard things” (to coin a COVID buzz phrase), we answer the call to redefine ourselves and our place in the community.
During the pandemic so many of us changed the way we worked, restructured our family units, and confronted the stability of our mental health in a crisis. Maybe we quit drinking, bought a rowing machine, got a dog, or created a “pod”. Healing practices across the board saw an increase in business in 2021 and 2022. The isolation of lockdown provided a perfect incubator for exploring health and healing through individual yoga therapy.
Yoga Therapy in the Viniyoga tradition supports a discipline inspired by the pañcamaya model, which acknowledges five parts comprising our whole: body, breath, mind, emotions, and behavior. If we practice yoga only to improve our physical flexibility, then we ignore the potential for expansiveness in our breath, or openness in our attitudes, or authenticity in relationships. Yoga Therapy also understands the effects of stress on our systems – so having worrying thoughts about the pandemic impacts not just the thinking mind. They also show up from a worn-down body, disrupted sleep, low frustration tolerance, and hopelessness.
Working with a yoga therapist is like making a blueprint of yourself and building a yoga practice personal to your growth. Everyone has different structure, history, challenges, and goals, but the practice can be personalized to bring optimum benefits to the individual. By adopting a practice embracing these five elements, the individual can expand beyond a single, or even dual, dimension. We can evolve into better versions of ourselves.
Communal baths show up in health rituals around the world and connect human beings through the practice of self-care. However, in COVID time, many of us became nearly phobic of gathering in groups. Re-connecting with other humans and sharing our discoveries complements the very accessible introspective self-inquiry of the last few years. So elemental is the act of cleansing and purifying, doing it in a community synergizes and heightens the benefits. Water holds the ability to erode, on a physical and energetic level. We can use it to move emotion and soften tissue at the same time. When a group of strangers enter the baths in a therapeutic way, they make a commitment to heal together. This happens first on an individual level and then becomes collective.
Beyond the communal and cleaning properties of water,the positive effects of body work drastically increase when a client does a steam, sauna, soak, or cold plunge before or after the treatment.
It is ours to choose how we will evolve beyond the COVID age. In our socially distanced, individual-screen, disconnected world, we forgot our ability to impact our communities by gathering, clarifying, and raising the vibration of healing for all. It is time for us to move within and beyond the self, and remember we belong to each other. We can use the ancient practices of yoga and communal bathing to adapt to modern challenges. By integrating this wisdom, we commit to self-care and share in the process of curative connection.
Sarah Jane Wroblewski is the director of Panchamaya Yoga Therapy Clinic, a virtual and in-person clinic practicing Yoga Therapy as it evolved from the Viniyoga Lineage. Panchamaya partnered with Nell Ruekl and Watershed Spa in 2022. Their missions particularly align to empower individuals to improve their health and live a life of wellness and connection. Watershed is a full-service spa and communal bath and offers a host of alternative modalities, including Yoga Therapy, in their modern, inclusive interpretation of a communal bathing and healing space.