Digital Yoga: Creating an Online Sanctuary

For most people, the opportunity to move to Bali would be met with squeals of excitement, followed by a myriad of frantic dance-like moves around the house. Your mind would wander to long days spent beachside with a cold coconut, hours spent cycling through lush green rice fields and drifting off to sleep come nightfall, cocooned by the aroma of frangipanis and distant incense. The proposal however came back-to-back at the end of a six-month stint in Thailand, and my thirst for steamy days, palm fringed beaches and cruising remote islands on the back of a scooter, had been thoroughly satisfied. The vision of winter stretched before me; warm cups of aromatic chai, mismatched layers of clothing and frosty exhales on morning jogs. Alas, the opportunity was simply too good to pass up, so without so much as unpacking my bags, I found myself on another Air Asia flight, bound for Indonesia.

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Being my third trip to Bali I had a good idea of what to expect, and like any experience living as an expat in a foreign land, it comes with many gifts and many challenges. Indeed, the beach was at my doorstep, the lush green fields stretched out beyond my bedroom window and the aroma of frangipani and incense was indeed a daily constant that I welcomed with gratitude. Yet Bali has a certain way of getting under your skin. The land and culture is deeply spiritual and the essence of this spirit is near tangible. Upon arrival I was told that Bali will awaken dark or dormant areas within that need working upon- perhaps it the volcanic energy, perhaps it’s the ceremonial undertones, perhaps its just a combination of heat, mosquitos and power shortages, but indeed, Bali stirs me in ways no other country I have ever visited manages to.

Being the self-proclaimed health lover that I am, two things very dear to my heart is access to good quality vegan food  and exercise, preferably outdoors. With the proliferation of health, yoga and wellness retreats springing up around Bali, access to healthy cuisine is now surprisingly easy. Good quality organic raw and vegan food is only one phone call away and then delivered promptly to your doorstep. Exercise on the other hand left me in a conundrum of sorts. It was simply too hot for me to contemplate running during the day, and although dawn or dusk was possible temperature-wise, these were the hours that the stray dogs also enjoyed to roam and after a few rather comical (and terrifying) attempts to run with dogs chasing me through the streets, I threw my running shoes back into my backpack. I rented myself a bicycle which was indeed handy to get from here to there, alas, the potholed roads, speeding tourists, unpredictable trucks and lack of any road rules whatsoever, made cycling a necessity rather than an enjoyable exercise regime (Julia Roberts made it look ever so romantic!)

I sat in my room one steamy afternoon contemplating my next move. The combination of me working online, appeasing various time zones and being a natural early riser meant that my work day was over by around 3pm each day. In a moment of hopeful inspiration, I opened my computer and typed, ‘The best online yoga classes.’

Young woman silhouette practicing yoga on the sea beach at sunset

I have been practicing yoga for over a decade and roll my mat out every morning. Yet over the years, it has become a way to stretch and awaken, rather than anything too serious, and while I go through bouts of classes and a higher degrees of commitment, it had been a while since I had practiced with serious dedication. You’re probably wondering why in the yoga-mecca of Bali I wouldn’t simply join a local studio. Indeed, there were at least four in my local vicinity. Alas again, both the extreme heat and the time frame I preferred to practice within meant that the idea of rolling out my mat in my air-conditioned room on my own time was certainly an exciting alternative.

My search guided me to YoagGlo, a relatively new online yoga studio with a host of teachers and classes varying in duration and skill level. I could sign up for a free trial and afterwards I would be required to pay $18 a month, roughly the price of a single yoga class back home. I entered my email, created a password, rolled out my yoga mat and started browsing. I discovered a teacher who I had practiced with in San Francisco many years ago and loved, so I clicked on Stephanie Snyder’s profile picture, chose a 60 minute, moderate class and began.

Fast track sixty minutes and I was a new person; at peace, energised and so remarkably inspired that tears escaped my closed eyes in svasana. I have practiced every single day from that class two months ago now and I look forward to 3pm like a child counts down to Christmas. Each afternoon when I step onto my mat, the challenges of my day disappear, and for the duration of the class I am challenged in a new way, in an encouraging way, in a way that puts my world and the greater world into perspective. My practice had come in leaps and bounds on a physical level, while my inner state, my ability to deal with small nuisances, my ability to relate to others and my own degree of self-worth and self-love have increased fourfold. In so many ways this period of time each day shapes and tweaks the person that I am and although every day is new and different, the resulting wave of pure joy, contentment and gratitude, remains the same.

920a1a0b1fbddaa85609ee3aa6c9a73bI haven’t run, I haven’t walked, I haven’t really swam nor cycled more than possibly 15 minutes each day and yet my body has changed in ways that only yoga ever offers. I feel strong and light, sturdy yet graceful, toned yet subtle. I find the more deeply I move into the practice, the more deeply I take the practice into my life; yoga becomes who I am and how I relate to the world in the most magical and endearing of ways.

Occasionally, there have been days when I thought to myself, ‘No, I’ll take a break today’ or ‘I’ll just do a longer class tomorrow instead,’ yet my mat remains unrolled on the floor and once my soles meet the rubber, I am immediately transported to a world I so deeply treasure. These classes have been no less than my saving grace in what has been a challenging and somewhat tumultuous time for me. At the risk of sounding a little odd, Stephanie who graces my living room each day feels like a friend, a mentor and a much needed companion in what has been a rather lonely world. From the first time I stepped into a yoga class ten years ago, I knew that yoga was going to be a huge part of life journey and to have been reacquainted with my practice on such a deep and profound level leads me to think that the offer to come to Bali was indeed a gift, yet the purpose of the trip was to find something other than what I had thought would be awaiting me.

98a9c1926eab42a5b0e470fb15a6b132In three days I leave Bali, deciding to return home to catch those winter dawns, cozy socks and endless cups of tea. And I am excited to take my practice there, to dedicate a room to yoga as I had once done long ago, to have a refuge, a sanctuary, a best friend of sorts. Who knew that technology could have such a positive effect on yoga? I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that to be true. And yet, online yoga classes are accessible to anyone, anywhere; they are affordable, adaptable and you don’t need the latest lululemon attire. I may not get personal adjustments or have the atmosphere of a class, but I can use a mirror to check alignment and light incense or candles to create mood. Either way, yoga is about finding the path that works for you. And for now, my laptop and my yoga mat are my ticket to joy, peace and sanity.

 

 

Find YogaGlo here

Find Stephanie Snyder here

(All images found on Pinterest from various unnamed sources.)