Connection and Relaxation Can Happen Online
This time we are living through is unfamiliar, uncertain, and could trigger anxiety or even trauma. For those of us who practice meditation, conscious breathing, or yoga, we have the tools to self-regulate. We need to use them. Practice for yourself, but also for those you come in contact with. Smile at people. Be present in your communities, even if remotely. We really need each other right now.
If your practice has shifted or evaporated, you're not alone. This is a great time to rekindle your yoga practice, by starting where you're at.
Your Routine Was Turned on Its Head
Do you miss going to your local yoga class at a studio or gym? A designated place away from home to connect with a community and care for your body and mind was important. We will eventually be gathering in person again, and many of us already are.
We have had to adapt to so much. Why would you want to change how you practice yoga, too? You may have rejected the whole idea of online classes. The months drag on. You do miss it. Still… you can’t imagine doing a yoga class in your living room.
Have Any of These Thoughts Run Through Your Mind?
“What if my kid/partner/pet interrupts?”
“Not MORE screen time!?!”
“What about my messy house?”
“I don’t want people seeing me.”
There are plenty of good reasons for not starting… and for trailing off. Either way, you figure everything will open up eventually, so you’ll wait until that happens. Meanwhile, you notice your neck is aching more, you feel stiffer, your mind is more distracted, your emotions are on a roller coaster. Did your hip just pop, or was that the chair? Yoga won’t make the stressors go away, of course, but can it help you feel better about them, in some small way?
You Were an Early Adopter, but It’s Hard to Stay Motivated
Are you part of the wave who flocked to the vast array of free and low-cost online yoga and meditation offerings, as we all tried to deal with our collective trauma and grief? Eventually, those offerings changed, or trailed off, or something came up.
Maybe your own yoga teacher got on Zoom like The Flash. You needed the familiarity, it was comforting to see some of the same faces in class, and hear the same voice guiding you. It was also… different. Your teacher seemed as confused by Zoom as you were, and there were so many distractions. Eventually, your schedule changed, something happened, life got busier. Before you knew it, you had not logged on for a month. Then, six months. It is hard to restart a habit in the best of times. These are not the best of times.
“This whole year has been unknown territory, challenging for sure, but also full of potential for growth… Students are so used to stepping outside of their life and into a dedicated space for yoga practice. I would argue that learning to practice in your own space in the middle of your real life allows for true integration of this practice as a sustainable and supportive inner resource.”
It has been hard for me to stay consistent. In the spring, my husband and I were taking my teacher’s Zoom class every Sunday morning in our living room. I was distracted by my son’s demands, my anxious thoughts, and easy access to the coffee pot. Still, I was so happy about it. It was very rare for us to be able to do something together and not have to figure out childcare. It brought us closer, and we looked forward to it.
We missed one week. There was some obligation I don’t even remember. The next week I just forgot to sign up! Now, months later, I can’t imagine wanting to wake that early on Sunday morning. One week, we did a video together. Since then, the routine fizzled. So, yeah, I understand how hard it is to stick to a routine or practice self-care right now. I’ve had my own challenges. Maybe I’m writing this to convince myself?
There Are Some Silver Linings to Practicing Online
You don’t want to do yoga online. You can’t wait to get back to in-person classes. But with third and fourth waves hitting, do we know when that will be? Below are several benefits my students and I have found to transitioning their yoga practice online during Covid-19, and remaining online after.
Online Yoga Is Still the Safest
With online classes, you can remain safely in your home. You won’t need to wear a mask, and you can adapt your practice to suit your unique needs. The community aspect of group sessions, even online, can ease anxiety. Knowing that you aren’t alone in your struggles, moving and breathing together, and having a scheduled time that you log on can all be beneficial.
“The online group class has had so many benefits for me. To be able to practice in my own home brings me such comfort. To share this class with others who are in the same position as far as staying safe has been therapeutic.”
Online Yoga Is a Guilt-free Zone
I asked a few fellow yoga teachers for their thoughts about encouraging students to attend online yoga classes. First of all, you should know that yoga teachers get it, and they’ve got your back. Many were very clear that I must not guilt-trip anyone. These are very hard times, and there’s absolutely no plus side to feeling bad about any aspect of your yoga practice right now. There’s a viral tweet going around:
“I signed up for a Zoom workout class that was too advanced so when the instructor said ‘Do a plank and bring your knee to the opposite elbow’, I did a modified version where I turned off my computer and made pancakes.”
Do what you can and start where you’re at. A single deep breath can have a profound influence on your well-being. You can be less inhibited at home. If a live online class isn’t possible or desirable, try a video, a book, or simply roll out your mat and do what you remember. That’s what I do most days now. I roll out my mat and lie down.
“My students report feeling less self-conscious… less wondering what the person next to them is doing, and instead getting deeper into their own experience.”
Your Yoga Isn’t Bound by Geography
Yoga teachers worldwide, who would have never considered Zoom, are now available to you. There are workshops, events, and regular classes you can take part in — all online. Social media may not be as interactive as Zoom, but it is accessible and can be fun. Study with South Asian teachers or Black yoga teachers. (When you do, be sure to pay them.) Ask your yoga teacher who has influenced them, and go to the source! I’ve enjoyed a deeper connection with my yoga mentors during Covid-19.
“I have connected with dozens of past students, colleagues and family members in other states and even countries! It’s a beautiful thing!”
-Robyn Stein Saling
You Can Schedule Online Yoga to Fit Your Life
Put a class in your calendar, like a meeting or appointment. Keep to a routine, if possible. You can find a group class that fits into your regular schedule. I suggest that you join live. Although there’s often an option to get a recording, you may miss the community feeling or lose motivation. I don’t know about you, but I am much more likely to skip through a recording, try to multitask, or respond to a text, than if I’m on live. Seeing the same people every week in an online class can give you a sense of accountability. My students feel motivated to show up for others in their online community. There are other options if your schedule doesn’t allow for that. Invest in private lessons. You can even create an online event for your friends and family!
You Can Take Refuge in What’s Familiar
Your practice doesn’t have to be fancy. In fact, right now, the simpler the better. If you want to move and wake up, do a few sun salutes (surya namaskar). This could take 3 minutes. Notice how you feel after your practice.
Restorative yoga can be really beneficial to care for anxiety. You lie in one comfortable position for 5–10 minutes, then another, then another (but without checking your phone). If you want to relax, set a timer for 5 minutes, put your legs up on something, and turn your phone off. It is like mindful nap time for grownups and can be soothing. Notice how you feel after 5 minutes of viparita karani.
Noticing how you feel after practicing gives you a moment of mindfulness and lets your brain register the benefit which can help you integrate the new habit. You can replace unhelpful habits with the familiar practices you already have in your back pocket. Conscious breathing and body scans are simple tools you can repeat over and over. There’s no need for excitement right now. Do the practices that have comforted you in the past. Bask in the small, positive moments you discover day-to-day.
You Can Do Something Short
It doesn’t need to be a lot. If your schedule demands more flexibility, there are a ton of video and audio recordings online. If you get tired of YouTube, you can explore a streaming service. Audio-only recordings may not be best for beginners but can be great if you’re already familiar with yoga and want to reduce your screen exposure.
You Don’t Need to Be Seen to Feel Connected
When practicing in this new way, there are bumps in the road. There may be some awkwardness, mirroring the awkward time we’re living through. It is a time of innovation, resilience, empathy, grief and flexibility. We need each other now more than ever, and conscious community can be found through online yoga classes. Here are a few quotes from my students…
“Unlike a video, Zoom class makes me feel a sense of belonging. I’m grateful for the opportunity to chat briefly after the practice. It provides comfort and makes me hopeful that these newly found connections will carry over when the emergency will be behind us.”
“The Zoom classes… have been the silver lining during the pandemic.”
Don’t Wait to Care for Yourself Until This Pandemic Is Over
Your favorite yoga teacher is probably still there, showing up online. They will be so happy to see you! (Or to not see you, if you decide to leave your camera off.) You can also explore the whole world of online yoga — just check the time zone. Keep to a routine as best you can and do what has comforted you in the past. It can be short. Above all, drop the guilt! Remember that you aren’t alone in your challenges.
“Take a look at how far you have come this year. How different you are now. Through the breakdowns, the fears, worries, anxieties you showed up and proved to yourself how resilient you really are.”
- Alison Goodstadt Ranney
Don’t wait for the pandemic to be completely over before returning to a yoga practice. While there are definitely some challenges, there are a lot of positives to online yoga. It is the safest option, so I encourage you to try, or try again.
Thank you so much to my colleagues, fellow yoga teachers across the globe. You have held me close these past few years, and I could not have served and grown as I did without you.
An earlier version of this article was published in ILLUMINATION-Curated.
Kate Lynch is a mindful parenting mentor and inclusive yoga teacher. She began teaching yoga and cultivating community in 2002, hoping to relieve some of the suffering in the world after 9/11. Since then she has shared the tools that help her find joy, healing and calm in the face of self-doubt, pain and anxiety.
Her classes are welcoming, friendly and intuitive, and reflect her core values: empathy, integrity, equity and respect.
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