Spring semester 2020, SARS-CoV-2 (better known as COVID-19 or Coronavirus 2019,) hits the United States. I am in graduate school for a Master’s of Science in Yoga Therapy. In-person learning has ceased and zoom classes are adopted. It was such a weary time because so little was known about COVID-19 and things weren’t entirely running smoothly in the United States.
Even though there were many people contracting the virus at a rapid pace, I did not comprehend that it could directly affect my life in any way. Yet, it did in a big way. Not only did I get the virus, but my 14-year-old son and two other family members contracted it as well—all at the same time.
To put things in perspective, my son was living with the family members who contracted it. I was in the other household living with my husband, our six-year-old, and my 81-year-old parents. One of them with major COVID-19 comorbidities.
Upon Getting Sick
When we started to feel ill, the first thing we did was quarantine ourselves from the other family members. My son and the other two had a whole house to quarantine in together. Me, I was in a 13×13 sized room since I was the only one in my household who was sick.
The next thing we did was confirmed that we actually had the virus by getting a test. This helped us to know what we were dealing with and how long we would be isolated from our other loved ones.
The COVID Experience
First of all, dear readers, let me emphasize that COVID-19 is not the flu. I have never experienced anything like this before. Between the four of us in my family who were sick, our ages ranged from 14-57. The symptoms we experienced were not familiar to any of us. Although our symptoms were very similar, they were also different and varied. My son and I never had a fever. Instead, I felt like I was having hot flashes, and it is not that time for me yet. When I took my temperature, it did not indicate that I had a fever.
My son, however, had a weird headache on the top of his head. The rest of us didn’t. I had the worst muscle cramps in the back of my thighs. I also did not have the chronic coughing, yet we all had difficulty breathing, body aches, digestive issues, complete loss of smell and taste, and felt utterly miserable.
There were additional symptoms that were not popularly noted in medical resources. We experienced a constant smell of trash or burning, which is known as olfactory hallucinations. I experienced both smells. This happened a few days just before we completely lost our sense of smell and taste.
There was a burning sensation in tiny areas of my skin. The level of sensation was akin to hot sparks hitting the surface. I also felt a prickly sensation just below the skin around my ribs. My first thought was wondering if I was feeling the assault that COVID-19 was having on my lungs. Similar sensations were taking place around my heart and liver. Also, there were small flutters within my heart area.
Mental Emotional Challenges
On top of all that, possibly due to that, there was an onset of anxiety. This would often come up, along with certain levels of depression. That much isolation can easily play on the emotions. I was quarantined for a total of 24 days. Before I realized I could get a test, I’d been isolated for 7 days. It took 7 more days to get the test. I was then advised to quarantine for an additional 14 days after the results came back positive. I was emotionally fried. None the less, I was willing to do it to keep my other loved ones safe—no one needed to go through that just for my selfishness.
Knowing that so many people in this country are dying in large numbers from this pandemic can also affect the emotions. Not knowing whether you can actually get through this awful experience is scary, heartbreaking, and exhausting. This is why I knew yoga was essential.
How we cared for ourselves
Keep in mind that at this time, I am in graduate school for yoga therapy. Many of my studies center around reading peer-reviewed research studies to understand how yoga affects the physical body, medical conditions, and psycho-emotional health. A great deal of my education involves the study of anatomy, physiology, and preventative health maintenance.
Before going for my masters in yoga therapy, I have been a licensed massage therapist for over 10 years, a yoga instructor for over 20 years, and majored in psychology for an M.S. degree, over 30 years ago at this point. The routes I took for these degrees, certifications, and licenses have required me to learn as much as anyone else in the medical field. The M.S. in yoga therapy will be the integrative icing on a delicious cake. With that in mind, here are some of the things we did with my guidance.
We did a yoga flow that supported the parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces anxiety and potential panic attacks. We did postures that encouraged lymphatic circulation, removing waste products and cellular debris.
These postures also improves immune function to support health and wellbeing. We incorporated postures that were beneficial for improving cardiovascular circulation through moderate movement. We included Pranayamas to calm the nerves and exercise the lungs to support better functioning. Yoga nidra helps activate the vagus nerve for beneficial rest and relaxation. Click here for the detailed Yoga for COVID support guide [coming soon].
One of my graduate classes was on yoga and mental health. I personally had a lot of mental emotional material to test these practices with. I found yoga nidra to be extremely helpful. When anxiety levels increased, or I couldn’t get to sleep, I would do this practice. There was also mindfulness meditation and sound therapy that were equally helpful.
My personal care routine involved taking a warm shower. Here, I would use Dr. Bronners Peppermint Castile liquid soap, because it rinses away thoroughly. The peppermint scent helped open my airway and settled the sickly feeling in my stomach. I gently washed just on the inside of my nostrils. Careful not to inhale the soap, I would breathe through my mouth. Next, I took a few hands full of water to rinse well.
In addition, I carefully use the soap to wash around my eyes (do not get this soap in your eyes. It will burn). Focusing on following around the bony structure just outside of the eye sockets. Rinse well. COVID has been known to enter through the eyes or cause eye issues such as conjunctivitis. This routine can be useful in this regard.
Third, I used the soap to help me massage major lymph areas. I massaged around that space where the doctor checks your lymph nodes under the jaw and chin, the under-ridge of the collar bones, under the arms, around the breast edges, and the groin area with prominent lymph nodes. If I felt up to it, I would reach around and massage downward on my low back.
Another thing I found helpful was to, very gently, thump on my sternum with a very loose fist. Of course, if you try this and it makes you start having a coughing fit; then stop, control your breathing, and work at regaining yourself. I then moved the thumps from side to side across my chest just below the clavicle. For a step by step guide on the techniques I used, click here for the Massage for Illness guide [coming soon]. This will give you a quick how to with visuals.
Using Essential Oils
Also in the shower, I would have tea tree, lavender, and eucalyptus essential oils on hand. Tea tree is great for being anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal. 1Lavender can be very calming. It is beneficial for reducing anxiety, insomnia, and is antifungal. 2Eucalyptus improves breathing. Studies show it is beneficial for COPD, bronchitis, and asthma It is an antimicrobial that can also stimulate immune function. It is anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and has spasmolytic effects. Please remember not to ingest essential oils. They are made for external use only. Edible versions of these herbs are available.
With the oils, I would put a few drops in my hand, and rub my hands together, cup my hands around my nose then slowly and mindfully inhale. On the exhale, I remove my hands from my face.
The combination of oils will be up to you. Most essential oil bottles have recommended drops for various uses. Sometimes I did all three. Other times I might do lavender and tea tree. Having the steam of the shower is helpful. It can open up the lungs and airways.
Additional Supportive Methods
To cleanse my mouth, tongue, and throat, I used original Listerine to gargle and rinse. I even used it to brush my teeth sometimes, but I’m sure that is not necessary.
Lastly, we all constantly had on hand
- lemon water
- plain clean water
- fresh raw ginger
- fresh raw garlic
The ginger and garlic were great to have during meals or by themselves in between meals. To fortify my body, I found it helpful to eat dark leafy greens and organic foods. Although, if you decide to follow a similar routine, I am aware that during these times this may not be easy to keep up with. Being able to just do spinach or kale often is worth something, indeed.
Making Sure Loved Ones are Safe
As I mentioned before, we were living amongst other family members who had not gotten the virus. My husband was the only one still working in my household, so he had to stay safe. My parents were 81 years old, with one of them having diabetes and cognitive dysfunction. Plus, we can’t forget about the youngest. My six-year-old. The reports about young children and COVID were not stable enough for me to risk her life.
How I spent time with my daughter. She learned a lot about video chat during that time.
We both missed our time together. I could not hug her, kiss her, or spend time face to face with her. That was the hardest part of all. Yet, that is how much I love her.
Check list for Keeping family and friends safe
I sought out reliable sources to refer to and kept up with the latest reports about the virus. So, here are some checklist type things I did to keep them safe:
Sharing a Bathroom with those not Sick
My living space only included that small room (where I went to school, slept, ate, and did my yoga) and the bathroom. Whenever, and I mean “whenever”, I used the bathroom I made sure:
- I put on my mask when going from one room to the other
- Use disinfectant wipes to wipe off the doorknobs and light switch
- I kept my toothbrush separated from my family who had to share the bathroom with me
- Made sure I did not touch my toothbrush on the toothpaste
- Rinsed my toothbrush with original Listerine after every brush
- Before leaving the bathroom, I washed my hands, disinfected the sink, faucets, the toilet bowl handle, the shower knob
Leaving the House
- I put my mask on
- I washed my hands when I returned home. Sometimes, I took a shower and changed my clothes (if I had been waiting in the doctor’s office)
Well, of course, I needed to eat. To keep the rest of the family safe, we designated one person to help with that task. That was my husband. When he brought me food:
- He would leave my plate and drink outside the door and walk away. I waited until he was gone before I opened the door to get it.
- He washed his hands after handling my dishes.
- He made sure my dishes were washed well and sanitized
- We kept in communication through instant messaging and video chat
- I was always honest about how I felt. He and I had a game plan for if he did not hear from me over a period of time or what to do if I got worse (i.e. couldn’t breathe).
When You Don’t Have a helper
However, if you are following these suggestions for yourself and do not have a designated person because others in your household may be at greater risk, then just follow the steps for going from one room to another:
- Wear your mask the whole time you are out of your quarantined area
- Sanitize doors, light switches, sink, refrigerator door or anything you have to touch
- Wash hands often
Find a Good Balance
The thing about COVID is it’s important to find your balance of rest and being energized. My family, who was sick with the virus, and I constantly exchanged experiences. This was particularly useful because we had the virus at the same time. We all agreed that this virus seemed like it had a mind of its own. It wants you to lie on your back and do nothing. We learned that it was important to stay ahead of this thing. Once it gets you down, it wins.
Times when we felt at our worst we would get up and move about. We did yoga, some cross crawls, and pranayama. Yet, we avoided anything overly stimulating. Believe it or not, I would feel better when I was studying. I am not sure if it had anything to do with cognitive functioning directly or that it just gave me something else to focus on. Either way, it helped.
When we could rest without feeling like we were going to pass away in our sleep, we rested or slept. Times when I could not sleep or had a hard time breathing while going to bed, I would prop my feet up to a 45 degree angle (this position really helped me to breathe easier) and do a yoga nidra practice.
Thank you for reading my story. I hope you found it helpful in any way. To customize these benefits for you, make sure you consult with your doctor to ensure these guides will be safe for you. Research and information are being updated every day about covid. Your doctor and the CDC.org website would be better resources to keep up with that information.
1Koulivand, P. H., Khaleghi Ghadiri, M., & Gorji, A. (2013). Lavender and the nervous system. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2013, 681304. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/681304
2Sadlon AE, Lamson DW. Immune-modifying and antimicrobial effects of Eucalyptus oil and simple inhalation devices. Altern Med Rev. 2010 Apr;15(1):33-47. PMID: 20359267.