It’s hard to imagine yogis and yoginis being wired to social media…or to anything that runs on electricity, for that matter.
But alas, it’s true. And it leads to some interesting results.
THE YOGA COMMUNITY
As much as yoga is about “the self” and the “inner being,” it is also about building a community and fostering relationships with your peers and your gurus. The basic philosophy is that you learn from your experience “on the mat” and then share it with those around you “off the mat.” In the olden days, people would hitchhike around the world and teach in different ashrams. In today’s techno-savvy world, sharing “off the mat” means go-online-and-blog.
And it’s great because there are fewer barriers to connecting with people with similar interests. In online yoga communities, teachers share sequences they found to be successful in class or cues that really resonated with students. Yogis and yoginis share playlists, cool workout clothes, pictures, and all sorts of little anecdotes.
I have never met the people whose blogs I read or comment on. And most probably, I never will. But that does not make my interactions with them any less valuable or any less “social.” These online connections have great potential to be just as strong as those “in real life.” And for most people, these virtual communities are a major way to connect with other yoga enthusiasts.
YOGATTA SEE IT TO BELIEVE IT
When “yogis” and “yoginis” rattle on about the benefits of yoga, it’s a little unbelievable. And the incredulity is completely understandable. I mean – how is doing sun salutations in the morning going to stretch the organs, calm the mind, improve digestion and circulation, sharpen memory, cleanse the skin along with a million other great benefits? That’s a tall order.
But the beauty of technology is that you don’t HAVE to take their word for it. You can, on your time and pace, see-it-for-yourself. You could look for scientific studies that research the benefits of yoga. Or if you want to explore and figure out if it works, you can just go to YouTube. There’s absolutely no need to spend money on a class or feel unsure about your practice – everything you need to start is a Google search away. Personally, I think that YouTube videos and blogs are a great way to experience yoga. And once you become more comfortable and more aware of its effects, maybe you’ll want to venture into a studio and get into a regular practice routine. Maybe not. But there’s no reason to keep wondering when you can experience it for yourself in your own home, on your own time – without spending a dime. (And the best part is that you can learn from renowned yogis like Rodney Yee, Shiva Rae, and Baron Baptiste!)
SEE IT, PRACTICE IT, AND MAKE IT YOUR OWN
Since the 1930’s, distinct styles of yoga have emerged from India – Iyengar, Ashtanga, and Bikram. Some started a couple of decades before others, but all have become immensely popular in the West. Each one of them upholds a distinctive focus or tenet. Iyengar is all about alignment; he encouraged students to use whatever props they need to get the right alignment. Ashtanga’s focus is vigorous exercise and multiple levels of difficulty. Finally, Bikram – as you all might know – turns up the heat with a focus on detoxification and a 26-pose sequence.
Up until a decade ago, yoga enthusiasts would learn from a particular school and then go on to teach their respective styles. However, as the yoga community grew larger and technology facilitated further exploration, teachers started blending styles together. Hot vinyasa flow, for example, has the heat component of Bikram (though not the same temperature), but with an emphasis on alignment and breath like Iyengar. Power yoga was born out of Ashtanga – with the same physical rigor – but with the freedom of a creative sequence like Iyengar.
Hot Vinyasa Flow
It is interesting to notice these newer emerging styles borne from combinations of the older ones. What is even more remarkable, however, is the intersection of two spiritualties. Many people, especially in the West, are wary of yoga because they believe it is tied to religious doctrine. And of course, there are Sanskrit mantras and chants that may give this impression. But lo’ and behold – the creation of Christoga: Christian Yoga!
People changed the names of poses and included Christian scripture to encourage hesitant Christians to embrace this far eastern practice and philosophy. It’s fascinating how Christianity has reintroduced “yoga” to a different population with phrases like “Moses Staph Pose” and “Sun of GOD Salutation” instead of “Sun Salutations.” Furthermore, social media sites have only helped this new spiritual convergence gain momentum.
A WORD OF CAUTION
Online dialogue via social media sites has really helped the yoga community. At the same time, however, it is important to recognize the constant barrage of information coming at us through these channels. Over the past decade, the “networked” public sphere has allowed people to transition from being observers to participants within the information environment. More and more people have started to contribute because the transaction costs are lower and the speed is exponentially faster.
And when many people start talking at once, it creates a lot of noise. TOO MUCH. Of course, some voices are more audible than others and get most of the attention – but each contributes to the cacophony.
One can avoid this information overload by using filtering systems, actively participating in the conversation, or just being more selective about the material that reaches you.
Or perhaps…you can balance the external flow of information with a focus on internal awareness. In essence, LISTEN TO YOUR BODIES, PEOPLE! Too often people are wired and distracted and impatient because there is too much to keep up with. So take some time to sit down, breathe, and meditate. And I don’t mean the “go on a mountaintop to seek enlightenment” kind of meditation. I mean – take a moment or two to identify what your mind and body need. (Not want, but need).
If there’s information coming at us from all sides, why not also try to seek it from inside?