Wednesday, May 13, 2020

How Can Yoga Help During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Community Members Speak Out

Katharina Pewny, Berlin, Germany, and Savanna Scott, Little Rock, Arkansas
Here are some thoughts on yoga's role in the COVID-19 pandemic from responders to our recent call for interviewees on Accessible Yoga's Community Page on Facebook. 

Read what Katharina Pewny from Berlin, Germany, and Savanna Scott from Hot Springs, Arkansas, shared with us.

Priya: Where are you located and how would you describe your personal yoga practice?

Katharina: I am located in Berlin, Germany. My personal practice has a strong meditative focus, inspired by Zen Buddhism. Furthermore, unconditional love as represented by the white Tara, a Buddhist dakini, or goddess, means a lot to me. My asana practice is informed by a fusion of Hatha Yoga and contemporary biomechanics (fascia work). It is very important to me to practice and teach postures and movements that support myself and others in daily tasks such as sitting, standing, walking, and lying down. By this I aim to strengthen the myofascial muscles that help us sit, stand, walk, and lie down.

Further, I practice restorative yoga, and when I have health issues, I invent adaptations for myself. I am a big fan of what I call “couch yoga” (I'll explain it in the next answer). For me, one sentence by Manoj Bhanot, with whom I practiced in Belgium, is key. He said, “You have to create a practice you love, otherwise you won't do it.” This has been my intention for the past 15 years.

Priya: How has yoga helped you during the COVID-19 pandemic (please be specific)?

Katharina: Yoga has calmed my mind, lightened up my soul, and constantly reminded me to have patience with myself and of the necessity of self-care. All these effects are nourished by meditations I do in the morning. This is very important to me because when I develop these qualities for myself, I can also share them with others in my communications.

Each evening, I do approximately an hour of restorative postures on the couch, what I call "couch yoga," that brings my mind, body, and soul into a calm state. This helps me to sleep well.

During the daytime, movement practices help me get moving. When doing these, I follow my bodily instincts rather than a strict plan. As I teach just one class now (online), I have time to develop my movement practice. This helps me to stay healthy, strong, and balanced on the bodily level. The combination of meditation, restorative, and movement practices support me to stay healthy on all levels of being.

Because I have to stay inside so much of the time, COVID-19 has given me the opportunity to further incorporate what I learned in the intense teacher trainings of the past two years into my own practices—to digest what I learned, so to speak. Also, the possibilities to join online meetings and even practice with the AY sangha increased for me, and this means a lot to me.

Priya: How can the yoga community help those who are suffering the most right now?

Katharina: In my view, the nourishing and spreading of loving kindness, close listening, and acceptance of the current situation is key. I see this as a core mission of mine as a yoga teacher, and I find it in the various yogic communities I am part of. We have the trainings, intentions, and tools to connect to holistic world views and ways of being, and it is my belief that we can foster and spread these via teachings, writings, and, most of all, through the way we move and live in this world.

As far as online teachings are concerned, the positive effects are accessibility because people can practice at home and do not need to travel with public transportation or transport assistance. At the same time, online meeting tools such as Zoom are less or not at all accessible for people with hearing impairments and for anyone who is less familiar with online communication tools. Still, participants tell me that the practice at home is very helpful for them during this crisis. So in my view, the online teaching and the mindful communication are very important right now.

Please note that I am located in Berlin, where the infection and death rates are very low compared to other places. Also, the health system is stable, developed, and accessible here for people with and without European passports. I am not sure how to reach the extremely vulnerable group of migrants who are locked in camps at the European borders, however, I believe that yogic mindsets as described above can raise awareness about responsibility, vulnerability, and in the end, social justice. This is what drives me.

My name is Katharina Pewny. I did my teacher training in Zen Yoga at Dynamic Mindfulness in Berlin and started teaching a year ago. I was teaching a range of classes with a focus on adaptive and restorative practices. In 2019 I did both a Senior Yoga and an Accessible Yoga training (the latter at Amazing Yoga in Vienna with Jivana Heyman, Liz Oppendijk and Isadora Bilas), and starting a couple of months ago I've been teaching an integrated chair/mat class, now online, for Berlin's oldest women´s center. As I have had an operation and recurrent health problems myself, my mission is to offer practices for a range of movement abilities. I started to practice in my early 30's, and in the past two decades I have been able to enjoy a whole range of different yogic movement practices. You can find me here: and


Priya: Where are you located and how would you describe your personal yoga practice?

Savanna: I’m located in beautiful Hot Springs, Arkansas. My personal yoga practice has evolved over the past ten years, but I return to my mat day in and day out with more training and wisdom but with the same intention: to make more space for the good in my life. My practice has been a grounding force, through COVID more than ever, and I’m so honored to be able to share that with others.

Priya: How has yoga helped you during the COVID-19 pandemic (please be specific)?

Savanna: For me, COVID brought up a lot of emotional upheaval related to survival instincts, and my practice was an incredible resource for me to ground, as well as come back into my breath and my body. This mindful presence is, in my experience, the most powerful part of my practice. Once I was able to come back into my body and my breath, I have been able to stay present and much more emotionally regulated.

Priya: How can the yoga community help those who are suffering the most right now?

Savanna: Mindful presence is such a powerful antidote to overwhelming feelings, anxiety, and fear; this is, in my opinion, the greatest gift that we as a community have to offer those who are struggling the most in this pandemic.

Personally, I have transitioned all of my classes to a mobile platform and all of my classes are offered on a pay-what-you-can basis.

Savanna Scott has trained all over the world with teachers such as Rachel Brathen, Lara Heimann, Kino MacGregor, Zabie Yamasaki, Tiffany Cruikshank, and Ram Jain. She has completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training, a three-day Transcending Sexual Trauma Through Yoga training, a 50-hour yin yoga training with Arhanta Yoga Academy, is currently enrolled in an 85-hour pre/postnatal training, and will begin her 300 hour/Year 1 of yoga therapy in July! Savanna is also an Intermediate student in the three-year Somatic Experiencing Training Program, which focuses on building resilience within the nervous system.

Savanna has taught at festivals and studios to students from all corners of the US, with over 1,000 hours of yoga teaching experience accrued, is registered through Yoga Alliance as an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher at the 200-hour level (E-RYT200) and a Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider (YACEP). Her passion is the interplay between the movement, the myofascial system in all its intricacies, and mind-body awareness. Her current schedule consists of Yoga to Complement Therapy (Accessible), Fascia Flow, and Restorative + Nidra (Accessible). See for more information.

This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

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