by Laura McCorry
It was Saturday afternoon. I was going to a 4pm yoga class with an instructor in San Diego. I walked upstairs to get changed into yoga clothes at 3:50pm. I set up my computer and clicked on a link to join a Zoom meeting.
The instructor greeted everyone warmly as they popped up in our virtual class. She explained that to preserve audio quality, everyone joined the group muted but that we should feel free to unmute ourselves at any time to speak.
I sat on my mat rolled out at the foot of my bed, noticing how sharp my image appeared because I’d stationed my computer along the wall with windows. Others had their cameras showing bright windows in the background and they were more difficult to see.
I checked the borders of my own screen, reassured that the pile of dirty sheets I’d stripped from the bed but not yet washed was off-camera. As more students came into the virtual classroom, some of them turned off their video feed and appeared as black icons with a name.
Suddenly, I was very aware of what and who could be seen and not seen. In a typical yoga class, you would expect your body to be seen and your voice to be heard. At first, taking a yoga class on Zoom felt more vulnerable because I was seen clearly by all, though not heard.
When we began to move and breathe on our mats, I was reassured that it felt so similar to taking class in person. It helped that my instructor was a master teacher, capable of providing precise physical alignment cues and verbal descriptions of the intentionality of each pose.
The instructor set up her camera so that all of her body could be seen – and checked that her sound quality was good when she was standing both far and near. I was pleasantly surprised by this level of professionalism; teaching online is entirely new to most yoga teachers.
My camera placement was not ideal. While I practiced, part of my body was frequently off-screen – but this didn’t bother me and didn’t seem to be necessary information for the instructor. Because she wasn’t always viewing each student’s alignment, there were fewer corrections than there might have been in an in-person class – which actually allowed the experience to be more like a solo practice. I was able to focus on my own mat and find my own alignment simply by listening.
Before the start of practice, our instructor acknowledged the circumstances that had pushed this class online – the silent spread of coronavirus across the country and the need for everyone to collectively practice social distancing in order to protect the most vulnerable among us. She invited everyone to take a minute to introduce themselves, their location, and to share how their heart was feeling that very moment.
One by one, the people in tiny boxes before me each shared something real about themselves: their fears, their anxieties, their concern for themselves and for the world, but also their joys, their hopes, their belief that truth and acts of loving-kindness towards all of humanity would prevail.
The experience of yoga online, which at first had felt vulnerable and separate, each person practicing in their own space, was transformed into something shared and intimate. The Yoga beyond asana (the physical postures) flowed through us, transcending boundaries and uniting hearts and individuals through collective intention.
We closed with this invocation:
May all beings be happy
May all beings be healthy
May all beings be safe
May all beings be free
Yoga and Laura had an on-again-off-again relationship from 2004 until 2009 when they decided to move in together and there’s been no looking back since. Passionate about both yoga and writing, Laura loves to introduce others to the joys and benefits of yoga and healthy living.