Spring is in the air, and after an unprecedented year, our communities are beginning to open back up. While we may be ready for new beginnings, we also acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic has left us reeling from the loss of health and connection. We know that attending an in-person yoga class can alleviate many of our stuck-in-a-rut maladies. But many of us have questions on how to do so safely.
Most yoga studios are taking enhanced cleaning precautions and ensuring that all mats stay 6 feet apart. Some allow practitioners to remove their masks once they are on their mats. But is that enough to keep ourselves and others safe during this ongoing pandemic?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published an analysis on the increased relative risk of transmission at group exercise facilities. They point out that high-intensity activities increase risk, but also specify that yoga might be a lower risk, because of its reduced intensity. Nevertheless, they recommend that everyone, even people who are fully vaccinated, should wear masks at all times while in the facility—no matter if you’re on or off the mat.
While it may feel awkward wearing a mask while practicing Ujjayi breathing, the right mask can make all the difference. Here, we offer tips for how to make mask-wearing more comfortable, plus our six favorites to don during your practice.
Tips for mask wearing
The best face mask is one that allows you to follow the CDC’s recommended “consistent and correct” mask usage. So, if we are consistent in wearing our masks, what does correct mean? Correct mask usage means:
- It completely covering the nose and mouth
- It offers a snug fit without gaps around the face
- The wearer handles it only by the ear loops or straps, not by the surface of the mask.
A good fit is important both so your droplets don’t escape around a poorly fitted mask, but also so you are not constantly fidgeting with it, and thus inadvertently touching your face.
The CDC also recommends trying your mask at home before wearing it out to ensure you can tolerate it for the intended activity, so don’t be shy about using the mask during your next online yoga class!
Selecting the right mask
When selecting the best face mask to wear during yoga, there are two important factors to consider: the mask structure and care.
Per the CDC, the key is many layers (two or more) with high thread counts. Specifically, the CDC states that “multiple layers of cloth with higher thread counts have demonstratedsuperior performance.” Additionally, nose wires can be particularly helpful to hold the mask in place and reduce the risk of contamination from adjusting the mask.
Choose a mask that is easily machine washable. This is important after prolonged wear and sweating because bacteria can become caught in the cloth of your mask. Over time, the mask can become a cesspool for bacterial growth—so make sure to wash it after each use.
Our picks for the best face masks for yoga
The all-around favorite: The Under Armour SportsMask
This mask is made with movement in mind, so it’ll stay in place while you practice your inversions and backbends. It’s made with polyurethane open-cell foam, which Under Armour states lets air through, allowing for safe ventilation while keeping your droplets to yourself. And if your yoga session happens to be outside, you have an added benefit—this mask is infused with UPF 50+ sun protection. $30, two for $50
For simplicity and function: Outdoor Research Mask Kit
If you want to check all the CDC’s boxes for cloth masks without making a fuss, this may be your answer. Outdoor Research’s mask has a double layer, which is important for catching droplets emitted from your own nose and mouth. An easily adjustable nose-bridge wire allows for a snug fit, thus minimizing air leakage that often clouds up glasses. It also has a filter pocket (and comes with a three-pack of removable filters) adding extra protection. And bonus: it’s easily machine washable and maintains its structure out of the dryer. $10
For hot yoga: The Nathan Run Safe Mask
Wearing a mask to protect others (and yourself) while practicing yoga is cool. But hot yogais, well, hot, which makes the idea of wearing a mask during class quite stifling. The Nathan Run Safe mask is made to sweat in and features a “Quick-Flip” function to allow for easy and efficient hydration, with minimal time to uncover your mouth for a sip of water. The mask also wraps around your head instead of your ears for secure placement and is made with quick-dry, machine-washable material. $14.99, on sale
For comfort and style: The Proper Cloth EveryDay Mask
Proper Cloth, a custom menswear brand in NYC, has poured its tailoring expertise into an elegantly designed mask for everyone. This mask is made from premium shirting fabrics sourced from Europe and Japan to create its inner and outer layers. This five-layered mask includes a three-layer polypropylene filter for the inner layers, which the CDC suggests may enhance droplet-filtering efficacy. $20, on sale
For paying it forward: Beyond Yoga In This Together Mask
Beyond Yoga, known for its comfy yoga apparel and clean designs, has made the natural transition to creating face masks to wear while practicing yoga. This mask is made with the same fabric as their clothes (read: soft, comfortable, and flexible) and comes in a variety of lovely designs. The straps can be fastened into ear loops or tied behind the head, allowing for easy convertibility and fit. But the best feature? When you purchase the two-pack, Beyond Yoga donates a mask to essential workers who need them. All you have to do is email [email protected] to request masks for your organization. That’s some Karma Yoga for you. $25 for two
The ideas offered in this article are for informational purposes only. They are not intended as medical advice, professional diagnoses, opinions, treatments, or medical services to you, or any other individual. It should not substitute for the advice of your physician or healthcare provider. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult your physician directly.
Ingrid Yang, MD, JD, E-RYT-500, C-IAYT has been teaching yoga since 1999 and is a physician specializing in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Her expert grasp of anatomy and human physiology bring a unique, thoughtful and joyful experience to the practice of yoga. Ingrid is also a certified yoga therapist under the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) and a Reiki master of the Usui tradition.
Now, more than ever, I have called upon my meditation practice to help me through each day. Every morning, whether I’m headed to the hospital or self-isolating at home, I find my way to my meditation pillow for 30 minutes. This is a very stressful time for a physician. There is no question that I love my job, and I thrive in stressful environments. However, these times are unprecedented. No doctor has trained for this. But my mindfulness practice has guided me through the stressful hospital days and has helped me navigate the challenges with dignity, grace, and compassion.
I remember when I first started meditating; I was living in NYC, 9/11 had just occurred and I felt stressed about everything. I could hardly sit still for even 5 minutes. But regardless of how hard it was (and it was hard!), I would practice every day. Even for just 5 minutes. Eventually, I started to notice the benefits — I was no longer ruled by my concerns about the future or dwelling in the past — I felt more present in my daily life, and consequently, more free.
My meditation practice really took flight during med school. I was filled with so many feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. How could I ever have the knowledge and healing instinct that seemed to come so easily to my mentors? But when I committed to the practice, I found it inside me — that sense of knowing… the confidence and self-love that it took to believe I could be all the things I set out to be. It motivated me to study harder and work longer hours. It took years of practice, and some days are harder than others. But it’s in those moments, I know I must go back to my practice. In moments of doubt and fear, I sit– to stay grounded and centered. In times of discomfort I call upon meditation for comfort and guidance — and it has never failed me. In these times of the
COVID-19 pandemic, I practice meditation daily. And without it, I would be a very different person. Who knows, I may have let the stress get to me. But because of the support of meditation, I know myself better, and I can summon the courage needed to take on these difficulties ahead, and step up to the plate the way my patients need me. You can too.
Many of you have asked how long the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus that causes the Covid19 infection) lasts on surfaces. Here is a good guide. Reminding you about my two golden rules: 1) don’t touch your face, and 2) wash your hands well and often.
It’s March 30, 2020, and it’s national doctor’s day. But this year is unlike any other. It has been trying times recently for physicians. Even before the pandemic, burnout was 46% and the physician suicide rate is the highest of any profession. Physicians have been frustrated trying to shuffle paperwork, and serve hospital systems and insurance companies when all we really want to do is take care of patients.
Now our situation has shifted. In a pandemic, we no longer have time to worry about our failing American health system—we have to act. And physicians everywhere are acting. They are stepping up to take care of the surges of people with COVID-19 in our communities.
As a hospitalist on this Doctor’s Day, I start a string of shifts caring for patients infected with COVID-19. Every physician I know caring for COVID-19 patients is experiencing higher levels of stress ever (and we know stress). But we also feel more alone than ever as we distance ourselves from our families, friends and colleagues in order to protect them.
What can you do to support physicians for Doctor’s Day 2020?
1. Just reach out and connect. It means so much to us to hear from you, and to remember we are working for YOU.
2. Donate PPE if you have any. We can’t take care of you if we are ill ourselves.
3. Stay home. PLEASE. I am literally begging. The chant “We go to work for you. Please stay home for us” are just as much for as it is for us. There are only so many beds. Don’t make us choose who gets them.
4. Remember all of this when it’s over. Because this will end… and after the pandemic has subsided, please remember that physicians were there. Despite personal anxiety and concerns for our own safety and our families, we keep showing up to take care of you. So sometimes we have bad days too. We, like you, are human, and we’re doing our very best.
As for me, I will approach Doctor’s Day more seriously than ever. Some of my colleagues have died from COVID-19, and we will lose more before we’re through. I will continue to use Doctor’s Day as a time to reflect on my place in this calling. I hope we all remember—not just on Doctor’s Day—the sacrifices physicians make. . . . .
As of today, 51 Italian doctors have died from COVID-19…. Take that in. It’s not just the elderly and the infirm who are dying from this. It is young, intelligent, healthy people. All of whom contribute greatly to our society and to humanity, all of whom did not need to die, and died much too early. It could be you. It could be me. It could be any of us.
Please stay home. Please. Now is not the time to relax the rules. I get it, you are sick and tired of being at home. Maybe you don’t cook well. Maybe you are tired of only talking to your spouse. I, too, miss meeting with friends for dinner, and going to my favorite work out classes (shout out to @sbmetz24). But there is nothing more important you could be doing right now than staying home. Because when you stay home, you save lives. Your life. My life. All of our lives.
To those 51 Italian doctors, I remove my hat, hang my head low for you. Thank you for your sacrifices and your service. Thank you for serving your fellow humans with, literally, everything you had. Thank you for leaving your families and this body to give us a chance at life. Thank you.
For all of us, today, in honor of the 51 Italian doctors. Stay home. With purpose. With conviction. With love. With gratitude. . . . . . .