As the United Kingdom settles into the second week of government-imposed self-isolation, a means to reduce the spread of COVID-19, I, like many others, struggle to come to terms with and adapt to life existing on a digital platform.
For what is essentially a personal practice, yoga has long-generated a sense of community—a community found in the sharing of class energy, the comforting adjustment of a knowledgeable teacher, the discussions held pre and post-class.
Now, however, that physical community has been temporarily lost, leaving yoga teachers to turn to the virtual world to recreate their classes. For some, this is an effortless switch-over, for others, myself included, grappling with the likes of Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Facebook Live (the list goes on) is more challenging than carrying out Taraksvasana on a swiss ball. Overnight, it seems, yoga teachers have been tasked with taking on the roles of digital technicians, web developers, virtual studio owners, and accountants.
Fortunately, there are free courses on how to set up virtual classes that can help. Why bother? I could spend the time developing my personal practice, reading that anatomy book, or learning to bake. The truth is, yoga is needed now more than ever. With movement outside the household heavily restricted, if not banned, the need for activities that protect physical and mental well-being is a top priority.
Yoga, a low impact exercise that encourages a heightened awareness of the patterns, fluctuations, and tension of both the body and of pervading thought processes, is the ideal antidote. In the last week, charities such as Mind and OCD UK have reported an increase in calls from individuals experiencing increased anxiety due to the coronavirus pandemic. Where practising yoga teaches us to turn our attention inward and focus on the present, the fear of the uncontrollable can be somewhat lessened.
So, in a time of undeniably great uncertainty, once tech-phobic yoga teachers have taken on the challenge to keep up Thursday evening’s Yin yoga class on-screen. In doing so, practitioners and teachers alike continue some form of routine, alleviating the loneliness caused by self-isolation through virtual reconnection and a shared commitment to the practice.
Yoga teachers have long been admired for their flexibility and physical prowess, and yet it is now, as we learn to adapt to deliver classes in times of crisis, that we can best serve the yoga community.