The Body Positivi+y Blog
Digital divas. Jane Lambert prepares to step out of the comfort zone of her online yoga at home and into the real world of yoga classes
Way back when yoga first entered my consciousness, I was a teenager, and I bought a DVD. All I knew about it was that various celebrities had declared that yoga was one of the ways that they maintained a slim figure. Like most teenagers, I wanted to look like the people that stared out at me from the glossy magazines.
I tried the DVD a couple of times but gave up fairly quickly, deciding that yoga wasn’t for me. It was too quiet, and too still, and I didn’t understand how laying around on a mat for an hour would result in a supermodel body. Of course, it didn’t, and doesn’t – years later I realise these famous women had played down their fitness regime by a fair amount. Now I know that yoga isn’t a fitness regime, it’s a lifestyle. Its benefits far exceed being able to fit into a size 8 dress.
But looking back at my first brush with yoga, it’s telling that it was through a DVD, and not via a church hall or studio class. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and you’re still more likely to find me practicing alone at home, in front of a screen, than with a group of people learning from a real-life teacher. The difference is that now, rather than a single DVD with one or maybe two distinct classes available to me, I have access to almost any type of yoga, type of class, type of teacher I could ever want. Online classes have opened up the world of yoga to just about everyone: if you have a smartphone and an internet connection, you can do a yoga class.
So why do I gravitate towards online yoga, rather than seek out a class that is local to me? I know the benefits of learning from a teacher who can watch me, see my poses, and recommend changes that would help. I’m aware of the feeling of community that springs from sharing a pastime with people, how strangers can become friends, even if just for the duration of the hour that we spend on our mats.
The reason that I hesitate before heading out to a class is because I’m anxious; worried about where to go when I get there, where to put my mat, and mostly, if I’ll be the biggest person in the room. The sensible part of my brain knows that this doesn’t matter. Firstly, I know that despite my fears, hardly anyone in the room will look like they have just stepped out of a yoga photoshoot, complete with Instagram filter.
Most people will be like me: probably dressed in their favourite leggings but coming into a class straight from their normal lives; possibly a little frazzled after a long day at work, looking forward to leaving all that behind them as they sink into a blissful savasana.
The more I write this column, the more I realise that yoga has absolutely nothing to do with what we look like, and everything to do with the way it makes us feel. Whether that’s a delicious stretch in the back as we get into upward facing dog, or the feeling of utter bliss as the practice takes away all of our worries, even if it’s just for the duration of our time in class. Our worries about our bodies are our own, and maybe it’s a little arrogant of me to assume that when I turn up to a class, even if I am bigger than most people there, the other class members aren't judging me, or even noticing what I look like.
Part of my body confidence journey, therefore, has to be stepping outside of my comfort zone, and heading along to a real-life class. Admittedly, I might have to wear something other than my pyjamas (my regular yoga-wear when I’m following an online class), and I might have to take a deep breath before I open the doors to the gym.
Access to online classes is a wonderful privilege – in so many ways I know I am lucky to be experiencing a time when almost anything is available online. I’ll never give up online classes; there’s something entirely freeing about being able to press a few buttons and have a fabulous yoga teacher talking to me and guiding me through whatever moves I need in that particular moment. But I think it’s time to practice what I preach, and take my newly burgeoning confidence through those doors and park it where it belongs, on a yoga mat.