James de Albuquerque enjoys the highs and lows of Zoom Yoga: live streaming classes via the online platform
I went into voluntary ‘lockdown’ on March 14. I withdrew from a Saturday morning yoga class after firm (some might say ‘strict’) encouragement (or was it instructions) from my family. So that was that!
I set up a home yoga studio in the spare bedroom. I have never found lonely yoga anything like as good as a class but maybe if I practiced it more often this too would improve.
However, unbeknown to me, my local teachers in North Hampshire were already zooming into action and suddenly we had Zoom Yoga.
One of the compensations of Corona isolation has been, and still is, Zoom Yoga.
Through an easily-installed piece of software and a simple passcode, hey presto, we have our yoga class. God bless the teachers who have adapted so well to addressing a webcam in an empty room so that we enthusiasts can continue our classes almost seamlessly.
Clearly the camaraderie is forfeited. So too is the humour and the comfort of seeing the poses performed in a less than perfect way by the people all around you. There is a big mirror in our spare room, where I have assembled my makeshift studio. Occasionally, I catch a fleeting glimpse of someone who bears a more than passing resemblance to yours truly, in a pose that shows enthusiasm but is a very poor imitation of that which is shown on my screen by my esteemed teacher. Poor things: what they put up with! I am comforted by the thought that our enthusiasm and occasional triumphs sustain them when they gaze upon the limitations of others. A big thank you needs to be extended to all Zoom teachers. Learning how to use Zoom as a facilitator requires a much greater degree of preparation beforehand, a greater degree of concentration during the class and then a massive degree of exhaustion afterwards.
The home front
Of course there are drawbacks. There is sometimes talk about poor broadband connection, how to stop a screen blacking out, buffering (so annoying) and comments about odd moments when someone’s picture or name pops up unexpectedly. Participants may wish to be careful about dressing for ‘radio’ rather than ‘television’. The higher standards of a yoga class may take an unintentional knock in the privacy of one’s own home; certainly one person admitted to letting themselves down a bit one morning.
Nobody else minded. Occasionally, there is a bit of coming and going as young mums have to break off to feed an upset baby or another class member may have to suffer the indignity of an interruption from a disgruntled off-spring wondering as to the whereabouts of his/her breakfast in the middle of a class. Do use the mute button to save any embarrassment. You may prefer that your indispensability to the smooth running of your household should not become general knowledge. A grumpy teenager calling out ‘mum’ or ‘dad’ while you are in a blissful Downward Dog pose is a private matter and should remain that way.
There are also advantages. The continuity of familiar classes, rather than having to resort to a yoga website lesson is an important one as is the satisfaction of arranging one’s own space.
The other day, I manoeuvered myself against the wall, in a kneeling position, as instructed. I placed one foot forward at right angles and attempted to tuck the other one up behind me with my foot against the wall. A sharp stab of cramp brought this pose to an abrupt halt. This one was not for me, so I modified the pose with great dignity and a singular sense of purpose, to one more befitting a man of advanced years. Nobody saw, noticed or cared. It was only when the teacher said, “I hope no-one is cheating” that my face changed colour and turned to a light shade of beetroot.
It may be difficult for teachers to give pinpoint and personal observations, but regular encouragement to breathe, drop the shoulders, relax and loosen off the jaw covers most of my yogic shortcomings (apart from “What on earth are you doing, James?”).
A yoga class has provided me with a scaffold of wellbeing that may last for 24-48 hours in normal times. In these troubled times that good feeling needs a more regular top up. There is extra stress, combined with a strange feeling of grief permeating our lives, not just for what is missing but also for what is anticipated, and this requires a bit of extra attention.
The Zoom facility has enabled yogis to locate classes from early morning through to the evening and thus provides opportunities for us all to carry on with our classes and keep up our yoga practice. This helps us to maintain a focus on living in the present and lets our feelings move through us. We can then let go of the many things over which we have no control, and come to terms with the open-ended nature of a pandemic which we know will pass like everything else.
People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross). So, leave your inner light on and help those lost in the darkness. Let yoga help you.