I last set foot in a yoga studio on March 14, 2020. The class was limited to 10 people and we took care to spread our mats at least 6 feet apart. My heart was filled with anxiety, but also with gratitude for the practice. The studio overlooked the Connecticut River, which flowed fast and deep from the spring thaw. Our teacher kept redirecting our attention back to the sound of rushing water, continuous and ever-changing.
While my practice has changed through the pandemic, it has not only continued, but deepened in ways I never anticipated — thanks to the unexpected advantages of virtual yoga.
1. Take classes anywhere, without leaving the house
In a time when travel may be limited to our local grocery store, how delightfully ironic that we can zoom into yoga classes anywhere in the world. For those of us who live in rural areas, where yoga studios are few and far between, virtual yoga allows us to choose from a wide range of styles and experience levels. There are also online classes especially for Black, Brown and Indigenous yogis, who may not see themselves reflected in the typical brick-and-mortar studio. For me, it’s been a great opportunity to reconnect with my yoga community back in Boston, where I lived for nine years before moving to western Massachusetts.
2. Save money
In the United States, in-person yoga classes start at around 15 dollars for a drop-in, with monthly memberships running upwards of 150 dollars per month. By contrast, the price of a single livestream class ranges from 5 to 12 dollars. Some studios offer deeper discounts or free classes for frontline and essential workers. This means more people can benefit from the practice, more often, not to mention savings on parking tickets!
3. Save time
Livestream classes don’t only save money, they save time. Even now that I’ve returned to in-person work, I’m spared the hassle of driving in circles looking for a parking space or empty bike rack near the studio. Gone are the days of furtively changing into yoga pants at the office or fighting to get my boots off before the first namaste. If I do join late, I won’t disturb anyone because my microphone is muted automatically.
4. Come as you are
Online you can wear what you want, or nothing at all, if that’s your thing (just don’t turn on your camera). Did you know pajama bottoms make great yoga pants? And your dog won’t care if you forget to put on deodorant.
5. No comparison
Even with cameras on, we’re each just one small square on the larger screen. This makes it harder to compare your body, yoga pants or handstand to that of the person next to you. If you experience a strong emotional release during pigeon or a deep backbend, you can cry or laugh without self-consciousness. For this reason, the virtual space may actually feel safer than any physical location. That said, less experienced yogis should not attempt advanced poses like headstand without a teacher present.
While I miss the sound of synchronized breathing and the quiet camaraderie of rolling out our mats together, the online space creates its own special intimacy. Each square on the screen is a window into someone’s life. It brings even the most famous teachers down to earth to see them in their living rooms or cramped spare bedrooms, kids and pets wandering in and out of the frame.
Thanks to virtual yoga, I’ve fallen in love with the practice all over again, at a time when I need it more than ever. No, it’s not the same as in-person classes. There’s no one there to gently nudge my shoulders into alignment, no river outside my window. It’s just me and my practice and a sense of community that transcends social distance.
Photo by Alexy Almond from Pexels.