Health inspectors from the Public Health Department have conducted regular testing at the Isha Yoga Center and have certified that its current occupancy of over 2500, has zero COVID-positive cases. The Center is home to more than 4000 residents, many of whom are currently stranded in different parts of the world owing to the worldwide travel embargo. The center, which issued travel advisories well before the COVID virus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), thus reported that it continues to be a COVID-free zone.
Visitors who were in the Isha Foundation Center when the nationwide lockdown was announced are now preparing to leave – most with a heavy heart. They say they could not have picked a safer, cleaner, and more serene place on the planet to be locked in. “I have to leave, I have obligations and family back home,” says a visitor who is preparing to leave for Hyderabad. “I’ll never forget the time I spent here. I can’t imagine feeling so safe and protected anywhere else in the world.”
Most say they will sorely miss the feeling of safety and security in the Yoga Center. An overseas visitor, heading back to UK shares, “This is the sadhana of a lifetime! Living together for weeks, health checks are done every few days, with social distancing in place. Isha acts as a beacon to us, to be there for others, to serve. The shifts in my physical body, the changes in my health, my energy. My ability to be stable mentally in a time like this is extraordinary.”
In March, Sadhguru, Founder, Isha Foundation, offered the Center’s premises to the state government should the pandemic accelerate in Thondamuthur block, the administrative division in which the Yoga Center is located. However, to date not a single COVID-positive case has been reported in the division.
The Center designed a meticulous protocol for medical screening, preventive measures, sanitization, and social distancing with volunteers and security personnel empowered to enforce them. In addition, Nilavembu Kashayam and Sukku coffee, immunity-booster drinks, are served twice and thrice a day respectively. Residents have also been taught Simha Kriya, a simple yogic practice designed by Sadhguru to strengthen the lungs and the immune system. The 3-minute practice was widely disseminated online and many people including some doctors have testified to the effectiveness of the practice. For 40 days, residents also received special vibhuti, the sacred ash, prepared under the guidance of Sadhguru as protective support. They are grateful for the consecrated vibhuti, a source of great comfort, making them feel protected and cared for.
Vulnerable populations tagged with special wristbands and segregated from the general population were assigned separate dining facilities and put under the care of a team of volunteers and doctors for vigilant monitoring including daily medical screening. Everyone at the Center has been mandatorily screened every 3 days since the beginning of the lockdown. Those entering and leaving the Center for essential deliveries are screened on every arrival, their vehicles sanitized and cargo disinfected before offload.
The Center’s preventive care measures include prominent signage boards and sanitizers at regular intervals, orientation for all on respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene that mandates hand sanitization after specific activities such as before and after eating, serving or preparing food; after touching common surfaces and so on.
Security personnel and volunteers with visual alerts remind people to maintain physical distance. Tape marking in highly frequented areas indicates the spacing between individuals. The Yoga Center is being disinfected thrice a day as per government guidelines. Frequently touched surfaces are frequently sanitized.
Isha’s on-ground #BeatTheVirus pandemic relief initiative including daily distribution of cooked meals and Nilavembu Kashayam in villages of rural Tamil Nadu has been underway since early April. Sadhguru donated his painting titled ‘To Live Totally!’ for auction to raise funds for the outreach.
Isha Yoga Center is not open to visitors yet as they await the government’s order on reopening. The Center, however, is making elaborate arrangements to receive visitors in the best and safest possible manner with extensive visitor management protocols that will strictly enforce physical distancing, hygiene etiquette, and other social protocols to ensure that the gains of the past three months are not lost when the Center eventually opens to the public.