Reality versus Digital
The contrast between yoga in person and online - By Wendy Buttery
Reading time: 5 minutes
We live in a digital age, that’s true. We are on our phones, tablets and laptops far more than is healthy, we cannot deny. Should we just accept this as the new normal or do we push back to engage in more physical, face to face interactions with other beings?
During covid the world went inwards – literally. We were faced with more time alone or with those we live with and less time relating to other humans. What we did have, though was our digital worlds. We became very good as a society in seeking out company through the hundreds of online offerings that were coming through to us whilst we were stuck in our cages unable to see other people in the flesh. The choices available were mind-blowing with everything from online fitness classes, cookery lessons, art, therapy, challenges, sewing, knitting – you name it there was a live course or a recording to take part in or to watch. Not to mention everything else that went online from the food we could order in to medical advice, schools and of course working from home. It was both overwhelming and yet also comforting in how much we were able to communicate through a screen when we were unable to interact personally. Although this was a necessary part of our existence for what felt like a long period on time, the onward effects have been lasting. So many people have continued to work from home, rather than go into a physical place of work which has brought about a certain amount of freedom of our own schedules and even environments to work from. Many people still prefer to shop online, get food deliveries online and take their exercise classes online. It’s clear that to a certain extent the non-personal age is here to stay.
There has much been written about this separation during covid and what it did to our mental health. The reality of there not being a reality – if you see what I mean – played so much with our heads for far too long. Many people became nervous about seeing others in the flesh and the people who were already introverted became even more so and indeed isolated. There was a huge loss of confidence in our abilities to make decisions and in knowing what the best thing to do is, as so much of our lives was left in the hands of faceless individuals in power that we forgot how to live with our ability to know intuitively what is right and what is not right for us on a personal level. We left control up to others and many have found it difficult to get that back struggling to believe in what we used to call “common sense”.
During this time many businesses suffered massive losses, including my own yoga retreat business. Tourism and the retreat business was decimated and many of us tried to turn our attention to presenting ourselves and stay in contact with our clients through the computer screen. I played my part in this digital dance and offered up some courses and classes to people stuck in their realities at home, from my reality of living in a house in the countryside of Ibiza. I understand how appealing that must have looked like to so many people and I am of course grateful for the place I was and still am as we still could feel a sense of freedom and just quietly get on with country life. But making little or no money for easily a couple of years was heart-breaking and business breaking, I eked out a living as best I could online but I so missed the actual in-person interaction with others in an actual sweaty, breathy, beautiful yoga class environment.
My internet connection was rubbish, my tech was very low. Although people were telling me to just get a better phone, microphone, connection etc, I had absolutely no means to get any of this and be able to compete with the myriad of highly polished yoga classes and teachers that were able to offer a much better experience than I was. I craved seeing people in our retreat space, on the mat, lapping up the sunshine, listening to the sound of birds and avoiding the cats sitting on the mats as they attempted this pose or that .There is really nothing like seeing people’s faces emerging out of savasana, centred, relaxed, energised and blissed out.
I was frustrated because yoga is in effect unity and non-duality and not separation and isolation which we were forced into. Luckily in between periods of whatever traffic light colour we were supposed to be on, we were able to receive some wonderful guests, some of whom got literally stuck here for a while as airports and countries closed their doors. Gradually the madness subsided and people tried to re-find their confidence in travel again and since that time we have been operating not as we were pre-covid, but at least a steady flow of seekers of a peaceful place to practice yoga and to work inwardly but in the way it was intended, and not stuck in an apartment watching a screen.
The world has changed immeasurably. We are, for sure, not what we used to be and we know change is inevitable. So my initial resistance to online platforms has since softened into more acceptance. Now I am not forced into creating my business online, I actually want to offer classes and courses to those that either still can’t get to us, or want to continue in some way practicing with us whilst at home. I have succumbed to creating an App with a collection of courses I think are useful to genuine seekers of a yoga retreat experience. Not just quick-fix yoga asana classes for “weight loss” or a “toned bum” but a selection of courses to help to reach the parts of yoga that aren’t just physical.
So to answer the original question, as yoga helps us to come more into balance I hope to also balance out my yoga business accepting that there is a place for both a physical yoga practice on a retreat and an online presence there for convenience when we can’t get on a plane and travel. We can do both. But please, I urge you, just because the yoga class is available online, don’t neglect visiting the local class where the teacher has put in so much effort to create a meaningful experience for you often bringing in their own equipment and paying for the room. Don’t just order food online, go to a restaurant. Don’t just shop online, walk down the high street. Do both. But let’s remain connected while we can. Look at people. Smile. Touch someone’s hand. Remember we are human. We are beings.