During the COVID-19 lockdown, students in Diane Roby’s Hatha Yoga classes at Skyline College have found relief from stress and anxiety through assignments on daily relaxation, developing a home yoga practice, meditation, and deep breathing to relieve harmful physical effects of chronic stress. Many students have jobs in medical fields, including EMT, paramedics, respiratory therapy, and medical records, and are also concerned with educating their children, feeding their families, and caring for elderly family members. 

An assignment on yoga breathing for stress relief produced valuable observations, some of which are shared here:


“I never knew I would have needed breathing exercises to keep me sane during these weird times. Although I thought I would have no problems entering shelter in place, my body tells me otherwise. No matter what external causes my anxiety levels to rise, I honestly feel deep breathing has helped me reduce them.”

“In times like these, when we feel helpless, breathing will always be there to help us. I feel like deep breathing has dramatically helped my mind, body and soul.”

“I strongly believe that yoga has kept me steady and clear-minded during this shelter-in-place period. To me, yoga breathing mainly slows down my normal breathing patterns and really focuses on how my body changes with every breath.”

“When I get anxious or nervous, I breathe deeply, and I feel myself relax quite a bit. I have been using this practice since the class began, and have found joy and relaxation in breathing deeply throughout the day, not only when I feel anxious. This has had a great effect on my mental health, especially during this quarantine, when my anxiety has been at a high.”

“[In my work as an EMT], when I start to feel the pangs of stress and adrenaline going to a call, I stop the negative spiral in my mind by focusing on my breathing. … I feel the breath enter and leave and focus on each part of it. It resets me and allows me to clear my mind. A clear mind gives me space to work under pressure, it provides me with a chance to reset and get back on track.”

“When I am under stress, I am much more agitated and can’t focus as well or make the decisions as well. When I finally realize I am barely breathing, I stop and take two or three deep breaths. Doing this completely changes my mood and calms my whole body. It helps me focus my energy into what is happening around me. Once my breathing returns to normal, my entire body relaxes.”

“When I am stressed, especially during this Coronavirus situation, I notice more irregular breathing patterns, my heart pounding faster, my muscles tightening up, and my anxiety spiking. Whenever this happens, I will pause whatever I am doing and find a quiet place nearby. I will then close my eyes, take slow and deep breaths, and exhale slowly, in hopes that I can slow my heart rate and clear my mind. After all these breathing exercises, I feel happier and more relaxed. My level of stress lowers and I am pleased that I can end my day on a good note.”

I find my head clearing and my confidence building to properly respond as I take in each breath. I am able to take a moment to prioritize what is important for me. Giving myself the time to assess the situation helps me to respond versus reacting [right away]. I am able to give a mature response that either leads to a resolution or to a better outcome.”

The act of ‘calming my breath’ focuses on the inhalation and exhalation of the air in my lungs. My mind moves away from the anxiety-inducing thoughts/actions and focuses on breathing, which is something that I can control.”

“My life is in a very transitional period where I have noticed a lot of comfortable things changing. With that being said, I have been very overwhelmed, emotionally, and mentally, and constantly stressed. Thanks to the [breathing] practices in this class, I have been able to control my breath and lower my stress levels to a tolerable rate and I have noticed the benefits it brings to my life!”


The moral of this story is: Take time for yourself, and if stress is getting the better of you or your loved ones, try to take a few moments to pause, take a few deep breaths, and then return to handle the situation with a clear head and loving heart. As one student wrote:  “I know we will get through this event. I only wish more people did yoga to feel less stressed and be able to be considerate and kind to one another. “ 

Article by Diane Roby

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