I’ve been a bad yogi. Well, at least that’s how I have been feeling since I returned from Vancouver after my wonderful yoga teacher training, to move temporarily to rural England. I can’t drive and the closest public transport is two miles away. No yoga classes, and I’ve had to rely on my own practice and determination. The latter has failed me repeatedly, leaving me with latent guilt, underlying reproach and silent nagging. Not good. So on top of not having as much yoga as I needed in my life, I felt quite bad about myself. Rather unskillful.
You build that image of the super-yogis, the ones who wake up at dawn, do their practice, meditate for 30 minutes and get on with their day. Instead, you end up being just a normal person with normal daily obligations and an infinity of tiny burdens to carry around. You do well but not outstandingly because you don’t find the space, time and energy to dedicate to what according to your ideal vision should matter more than anything else: your practice. In the last six weeks, I’ve managed to squeeze in one full self-practice and I’ve taught one class a week to friends and family. This, I’m ashamed to confess… but should I be?
Leaving the Vancouver yoga community was painful because it is the most astounding I’ve ever experienced. I took in as much as I could while there, somehow greedily, like Ali Baba does on his first discovery of the cave, but not knowing when I could ever return to yoga wonderland. I paid extra attention in class, I followed the instructions as best I could, I tried to be present, in order to make an everlasting imprint in my mind and body of all I was learning there.
How do we store knowledge? Mostly through repetition. It takes more than one instance for information to stick with you. In yoga, the cues can be infinite and every good teacher brings their precious pinch of salt to their classes. When you were a beginner, how many times did you hear that cue in downward dog or that instruction in triangle before it actually became part of your own asana check-list? Your brain can’t retain it all at once, it favours one thing over the other in a given posture, and it all seems rather subjective. You also go through little obsessions and trends, sometimes the only cues you’ll hear are the ones about shoulders because you’ve had an injury there and you’re more attentive to that area.
So when you attend a good class, you might pick up on a couple of new things, that will stay in your list for a while or forever. Then also, you will forget it and it will take you another class to reawaken to that detail. Some classes are so good that you wish you had taped them somehow, knowing that technology beats the brain in its accuracy and impartiality.
Because of the fragility of our memory, it made me quite nervous to bode my farewell to the priceless knowledge imparted daily to the lucky Vancouverites. One of my first yoga teachers told us once to not get attached to teachers. I’ve always struggled with this concept. How can you not get attached to a good teacher? You like their style, their voice, their sequencing, their instructions, their jokes, their music, their personality, and their classes make you feel good. The most knowledgeable teachers bring so many different aspects of yoga to light for you, and getting to the bottom of their wisdom might take some time. Repetition and dedication are key, and so is a healthy share of attachment. I do see my teacher’s point however, which is aiming at not getting locked into only one yoga narrative, one voice, one wisdom, and to make room for fresh ideas and perspectives.
I felt orphaned of my dearest yoga teachers in Vancouver, and suddenly finding myself in an absolute no-yoga-land made matters worse. Thankfully last week, I stumbled upon a name that sounded vaguely familiar, My Yoga Online, and I remembered that one of our fellow writers at Vancouver Yoga Review had written a post about this online yoga service a couple of months ago. I’ve had a go at streaming yoga before, on youtube or else and I’ve always found the experience disappointing and erratic. So I was a bit sceptical at first when I explored My Yoga Online’s pages. Excitement grew quickly however when I found classes by some of my favourite Vancouver teachers, like Bernie Clark the ‘yin master’ who also teaches his famous Dragon Dance, Gloria Latham who shows various Kundalini moves, and ever so inspiring Cameron Gilley. All my dilemmas seemed to be solved in a few clicks. I could suddenly have yoga on tap again, continue learning with teachers I liked, but also discover new ones without having to find a schedule, and schlep around town and I was at liberty of practising the classes I liked over and over.
I suddenly became aware of the true potential of online yoga. If yoga is not available where you live, if you have an injury and you want to recover at your own pace, if you’re unemployed, or working from home, yoga can come to you. There is no transportation involved, no schedule to work around but above all there is no excuse to not practice. This also includes the luxury of turning a class off if you don’t like it, without having to go through the ‘should I stay or should I go’ dilemna. You can even put dinner in the oven in a break or just before Savasana.
After the first class on My Yoga Online, I felt like I had worked enough. One thing I find is that if you’re not an ashtangi, self-practice is not often as vigourous as a proper class would be.
On top of a wide range of teachers -including Eoin Finn, Shiva Rea and Maya Fiennes– and styles -from Anusara to Yin and also Kundalini-, you can find a lot of different resources in My Yoga Online: anatomy classes for teachers who need a refresher session or for nerdy yogis, a variety of meditations, but also conferences and workshops. The design is fresh, unpretentious and easy to navigate through and full of tools to personalise your practice.
I actually wrote to their customer service in order to ask if they would consider adding classes by another of my teachers, and they wrote back that they will do their research and see into it. They are adding classes constantly to keep it nice, current and varied.
I’m still very excited by the novelty of it all and will try a Prenatal class today!
Bernie Clark: Semperviva.com
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