With the whole world upside down yoga (and fitness) teachers everywhere are taking their classes online. The internet is suddenly flooded with more and more classes every day and, frankly, the whole thing is overwhelming. Two weeks into lockdown I want to share my experience of internet yoga with you. It is my own experience and purely a personal perspective. So far, I've only dipped my toes into the online yoga world but, for what it's worth, this is my take on it.
Are online classes safe?
The answer is: not always. One of the advantages of a live teacher is for them to personalise the class. A good teacher, whatever their subject, should know their student and mould their teaching around them. Having said that it doesn't always work that way. Many gym classes involve the teacher leading from the front with very little interaction, personalised instructions or adjustments so, in some way, an online class is much the same.
If you're a beginner or have health issues or injuries that might affect your practice always check with your doctor before starting an exercise programme (this is the disclaimer you'll find on most online platforms and the old video boxes). The common sense rules apply of listening to your own body and only doing what you feel comfortable and capable of doing. If you feel any kind of pain stop immediately and take a resting pose like Child.
Be aware of basic contra-indications ie:
My advice to beginners is to choose your class carefully - don't assume because it's labelled beginners it really is! Opt for a recorded rather than a live class and watch it through first so you have a good idea what it's about before joining in. This is one of the advantages of online yoga that you don't get in a class and remember to take rests whenever you need it or adapt the posture. Most teachers offer easier options so always take them at first to refine your technique and only move on when you're fully confident. Another positive about online classes is that usually (although it's not always the case - more on this later) no-one can see you so there's less peer pressure to keep up with everyone else!
If you're sensible and realistic about what you can do there's no reason for online classes to be any less safe than live classes. You just have to take responsibility for your own well being and work within your limits.
To pay or not to pay?
This is the big question. If you want free classes there are plenty out there and more available every day (every second at the moment!). Obviously there is no guarantee of quality and you might think that a paid for class is likely to be better than a free one but, that's not necessarily true.
My opinion is this: if your regular yoga teacher is offering online classes you should support her (or him) financially if you can. Most yoga teachers are self-employed and likely to be struggling to survive during the lockdown. Charging for online classes may be a lifeline for them and your support may make the difference between them continuing to teach after this time or not. Studio owners still have overheads to pay and without an income may go out of business.
Payment methods vary enormously as do the online platform teachers are using. There is usually some way of restricting access without paying first. Prices vary from donations (pay what you can) to the usual studio price, which is likely to be £7 or £10 drop in with reductions for a package (weekly or monthly) price. Some teachers offer hardship rates (£5 seems popular).
An advantage of paid for classes is that numbers may (although not always) be limited, you may have been asked to complete a Health Form so the teacher knows who you are and your individual requirements, the teacher may be able to see you (Zoom has this function I believe) and offer more guidance than in an open class. Most importantly of all for me is that it's nice to see your own teacher and have a familiar face and voice guiding you at home. In these extraordinary times that can be very reassuring and worth paying for.
So does that mean you should avoid free classes? Of course not!
The good thing about free classes is that you can do them as often as you want - no worry about mounting costs so mix and match with paying classes or stick with the free classes and find the ones you like and trust the most.
Take advantage of the amazing choice of classes out there - this is an opportunity to try different teachers and yoga styles. Just be aware that with free classes you are completely on your own and responsible for your own safety.
LIVE OR RECORDED?
Until now, I could never understand the point of "live webinars" that expected you to be there at a set date and time. But over the last couple of weeks I've loved joining live streamed classes. Every week day I "have" to get up for my daily yoga (I don't have to get dressed but I do have to get up!) and there's a sense of community as familiar names scroll by at the the bottom of my screen. I know the teacher is there in real time and she can react to the names with a friendly hi - it's all new and quite amazing but, at least while real classes are not possible, it's nice to be part of.
If you can't do the class live (I've seen some brilliant excuses "sorry I can't do your class today, I've got a singing lesson at that time"!) you can usually access the class later as a recording anyway (this isn't always possible with paid for classes so ask about access before you pay).
I always comment when I arrive at the session so the teacher knows I'm there and close with a thank you and sometimes add my thoughts or a special request.
Recorded classes are great when you need to fit in with your own routine. I know we are all supposed to have endless free time now but I've actually been busier than usual! And with recorded classes you can do them again and again.
Practice really does make perfect!
Are there any Body and Soul videos?
Yes there are! I'm a newbie to the recording world and I don't promise anything fantastic. My offerings are free to view although I will be restricting access to some classes when and if I live stream. In the meantime, my You Tube channel is there for all to "enjoy". Please view and leave comments.
What crazy times we're living in! Just a couple of weeks ago my classes were going well and my diary was full of upcoming yoga festivals, workshops and events. Everything was good and then the unthinkable happened - movement severely restricted and our health and livelihoods under threat.
We are all having to adapt to a completely different way of living and thinking. Some of it has been amazingly positive. The theme for this month's classes is "gratitude" - easy to say but coronavirus has really brought it's meaning into focus. Health, family, home, sunshine - the things that really matter but so easy to take for granted.
As classes, studios and gyms closed their doors the rush to get online started. To be honest, I've found the sheer quantity of classes available overwhelming and maybe you feel the same. However, I'm trying to establish a routine which includes a live yoga class from the teacher who inspired me to train. Before coronavirus I struggled to see the point in a live class but now I'm enjoying reconnecting with my teacher.
Pose of the Month – Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
DRU VIDEO OF THE FULL POSE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9t_YBfH3Z4
July’s new moon (2nd July) is a time of decisiveness. With six months of moon meditations behind us a pattern should be emerging enabling us to review the past and make minor adjustments to our direction.
This month’s theme (taken from Every Day Matters Diary) is PURPOSE.
Eagle Pose will help us discover our own clear purpose, a common good by which to direct our energy, driving us to make better decisions, form stronger bonds, cultivate more self-awareness and generally make the world a better place. Wow – all that from a standing pretzel balance! Who knew???
We’ll be breaking the pose into stages week by week starting with Body Preps preparing the your muscles and joints, continuing to the physical pose, layering it with breath and then exploring the deeper aspects, mental/emotional and energetic benefits using the affirmations and visualisations that set Dru Yoga apart from other yoga traditions.
Handouts available in class and from the website will enable you to integrate this new posture into a home practice. Don’t worry if your time is limited – a few minutes each day is all that’s needed. The descriptions below are there to help you remember what we did in class. Remember to listen to your own body and always stop if you feel pain but, at the same time, you should be able to feel the stretch in a way that challenges you.
Physical Benefits: to strengthen muscles in the hips, thighs, calves and ankles; to increase flexibility in the shoulders, hips and ankles; increase circulation to the sexual organs and the kidneys; ease cramp in the lower legs; improve sense of balance and co-ordination.
Mental/Emotional Benefits: Align with truth, bring clarity and insight – change of perspective and ability to see the bigger picture. Step out in courage and soar like an eagle, overcoming the everyday irritations and obstacles of everyday life.
Energetic Benefits: Ability to see the heart of any situation with the eagle’s quality of incisiveness.
Care: There are many stages to the full posture so you can assess your own ability as you work through each one. Be aware that the full pose works strongly on the knees, hips and ankles.
The Background Story
Garuda, is Sanskrit for Eagle, the king of the birds, known in Indian mythology as the carrier of Vishnu, the power that upholds the universe.
According to the ancient story, when Garuda was born from a huge egg he appeared as radiant as a million suns. He had the head, wings, talons and beak of an eagle and the limbs of a man which made him so imposing the gods were scared of him and asked him to reduce his size. Think of this reduction in size as you pull the arms inward and the body downwards in Eagle pose.
Garuda’s mother was held captive by snakes after losing a bet with them. The serpents demanded a cup of amrita (nectar that gives eternal life) to let her go. Garuda had to pass through three deadly obstacles to get the amrita from the top of a celestial mountain.
First was a ring of fire which he passed through the gulping the water from several rivers to put out the fire. The second obstacle was a circular door with spiked metal ring that spun in its frame. Garuda made himself small to pass through the door. Finally he faced two venomous serpents which he overcame by flapping his wings and blinding the snake. He then killed them with his beak.
Garuda gave the serpents the amrita but they were only able to drink a few drops before the gods reclaimed it. Instead of eternal life, the serpents’ tongues were split in two, explaining the snakes’ forked tongue. Garuda’s mother was released.
Just as Garuda appeared smaller than his actual size, our spiritual bodies our much larger than our physical bodies suggest. Tapping into our true nature enables us to overcome obstacles and achieve our full potential.
Source: Myths of the asanas : the stories at the heart of the Yoga tradition – Alanna Kaivalya and Arjuna van der Kooi / https://yoginiguru.wordpress.com/2015/04/17/the-story-behind-garudasana-eagle-pose/
Soleus Stretch: Standing take leg back and bend the front knee slightly to stretch the Gastrocneius muscle. Move back foot closer to front foot, bend both knees so you can feel the stretch lower down in the calf, nearer or in the Achilles tendon. Repeat both stretches on the other side.
Piriformis Stretch: Lying down, pull right thigh over the left, hold the back of the left leg and pull the thighs close to the body. Repeat on the other side. This stretch is recommended to relieve sciatica.
Posterior Shoulder Stretch: Arms to side, elbows close to body and bent with forearms in front, mover forearms outwards to side and back. Then standing use a rolled blanket (or belt) to lift right arm over head, left arm holding the blanket lifting and lowering the top arm. If this is not possible due to shoulder issues use an imaginary belt to avoid overstretching. Triceps stretch: Lift right arm, bend and place hand behind neck supporting with the other hand (over head and holding the elbow).
Last Friday (21st June) marked the summer solstice and the official start of summer. And for its third year, it was also the UN International Day of Yoga. Yogis over the world took to their mats in celebration.
With various events around central London, including yoga outside Parliament itself, there were plenty of opportunities to roll out my mat. I decided to have a quiet day preparing for 108 Sun Salutation challenge (Surya Namaskar) in the evening. To be honest, I didn't actually plan to complete all 108. The challenge popped up on Facebook, it was outdoors at a local schools and so I just thought, "why not?" In fact, I didn't think any of us would be able to complete it in the allotted time which was only two hours. It turned out I was wrong - it is possible to complete in two hours!
So why 108? Well, it is an auspicious number in yoga philosophy and anything "auspicious" gets the thumbs up. The organisers kindly sent out some background information including the reasons behind 108 which involve, among others, the belief that 108 energy lines converge to form the heart chakra, one of which leads to the crown chakra and self realisation. There are also several mathematical equations resulting in the number 108.
Whatever the reasons, 108 Salutations is rapidly gaining popularity as the "go to" challenge for 21st June and it's certainly an impressive number.
I arrived at the school with nine other apprehensive yogis, all them much younger than me. The mats were laid out in a circle with jelly beans and energy drinks available. I'm not a jelly bean fan but found myself strangely drawn to them at the end of each round of ten salutations. I was surprised how easy it was to do the first set. The plan was to break after each ten and I was relieved to discover that each side (left foot forward etc) was being counted as a round. I'd expected to do both sides which would have meant 216 salutations! The others were mostly doing the Ashtanga version jumping forward with both feet and lowering in chattaranga. I took the easier option stepping through either side and lowering into eight points (knees first, bottom in air).
Twelve jelly beans and 90 minutes later all twelve (students and leaders) completed the challenge and finished with stretches and savasana under the setting sun. I'm glad I took part and, now I've done it once, I'll definitely do it again. The focus was very much on the physical (manomaya kosha) and next time I'd like to savour each round more, visualising the chakras and maybe self realisation won't be so difficult to attain! Certainly I felt energised afterwards and my muscles survived the experience. My only "injury" turned out to be a very aggressive knat bite!
Fortunately I still had energy left for the rest of the weekend celebrations. I spent Saturday with the local BWY where three experienced "Wheel" teachers put us through our paces starting with gentle yoga for lower backs (Anna Semlyen who runs a full programme dedicated to people living with back pain in York), followed by Gill Pendreich, Hatha Yoga and Relaxation. Gill has taught yoga for many years, coming to it herself through chronic back pain when she was a young woman. She is now in her eighties and still teaching. Her class was masterfull and reminded me why I'm so glad to be a British Wheel member (even though teacher training is Dru). We finished by forming a Peace Circle to the strains of John Lennon's "Imagine" and "Give Peace a Chance" - timely, timeless and very moving!
After lunch and time to wander around the stalls outside, Ian Burgess, another British Wheel elder, shared his chanting expertise with mantras and OUM.
I returned home physically and spiritually uplifted clutching a new pair of bamboo leggings and a pile of books and CDs.
If you missed the day itself don't worry - many more events are planned this summer including Omfest in Shoreditch in a couple of weeks time. Check out the Events page of my website for details and links.
So how did you celebrate the summer solstice? Let us know.
Fancy doing the 108 Sun Salutation challenge? Or have you already done it? Share your thoughts and experiences. If enough people are interested I will organise a Dru version where we gradually build up to 108 over a period of weeks.
Looking forward to your comments below:
This is my first blog entry for the new website. With a full strawberry moon rising in the evening sky and the summer solstice due at the end of the week it seems like an auspicious time to start this new venture.
I'll keep it short and simple today with an action plan from the Every Day Matters Diary 2019 (one of the many I share with my class in the last stages of savasana):
"This week "plant" positivity. Identify six good things in your life - say, the people and experiences that lift you up - and schedule time each day to focus on one of them. If gardening makes you feel good, spend at least a little time one day pulling up weeds, if connecting with a friend makes you smile, the following day give that person a call, and so on."
So how have I planted positivity this week? Reading on the train, cuddling my cat, sharing yoga in the park, coffee with friends, holding hands with my husband and listening to my son's plans. I get enormous pleasure from each one and feel blessed by these simple pleasures. How are you planting positivity? Let me know ...