Technology has made yoga asana (movement practice) available to us in the privacy our homes and on-demand. When we feel that our lives are so full that finding 30-minutes of time to do a practice can add to our sense of being overwhelmed, having online access can certainly feel like a blessing! But, is that always a good thing?
In his book Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life, the author and researcher, Dacher Keltner shares the concept of collective effervescence. Collective effervescence is described as a shared experience of closeness that moves the participants towards an experience of exaltation. The participants feel awe through a shared experience of moving in unison. This can be sharing a ritual, dancing, religion, sport. Yogis have known for thousands of years that the surest way to experience collective effervescence is through practicing yoga together.
Anyone who has ever been in a transformative yoga class understands collective effervescence. After you sit up from relaxation pose (shavasana), you can feel it. You feel connected to those around you in a real and deep way. You cannot experience this from an online class.
Yoga practitioners know that collective effervescence comes from breathing together and combining that breath with movement in unison. For example, when we move through a sequence of poses, a breathing practice, or a Kundalini kriya, we feel elevated, connected, and restored. We smile at the others in our class. We are kinder to the other drivers on the road, to the cashier at the supermarket, to the barista at the coffee shop. We offer a smile, hold a door, or only take one of the two remaining items at the market so that someone else may benefit from it too. The collective effervescence contributes to sending waves of good will towards other beings.
There are other benefits to in person participation:
1) Your intention to do something meaningful for your self-care starts with traveling to the class. Those quiet moments on your way to class give you a chance to place your mind in a different place. Work, kids, logistics, etc - all of that stuff that occupies your mind starts to take a backseat to taking care of yourself. And, those quiet moments as you return to home help to seal in the benefits of the practice
2) Change of environment has a positive effect on your wellbeing. Let's face it, we all need to a change of environment to keep our lives interesting. Just think of how it was in the early days of the pandemic when our environment was the four walls of our dwellings. When we change a location, we change our perspective. The things that make us sad, fearful, angry, frustrated, etc have a tendency to diminish and, sometimes, even transform. And all because we changed our location.
3) You make a commitment to connecting to other human beings. Virtual connection, while useful, can never take the place of real human interaction and connection. We need to see the micro-expressions of other human faces, we need to sense their physical presence near us, we might even need a good hug or a touch on the shoulder. None of this can be accomplished through a computer screen. We build relationships with the teacher, the studio personnel, the other class participants. Those ordinary, but mighty, conversations where we become witness to another human's story. These help us to find meaning in our own lives.
And there are many other benefits - which you can discover on your own!
Humankind continues to struggle with the very real challenges of the 21st century: the effects of climate change (physical, psychological and spiritual), polarization, fear, isolation, sadness, division, social injustice - and many other disturbing challenges. We need more collective effervescence if we are going to have any hope of addressing any of the challenges before humankind.
It is time to return (if you have not already) to practicing yoga together. We need to reconnect to the synchronization of our breathing and movement. And just as important, and perhaps even more important - we need to feel that deep sense of connection between beings - all beings - not just other humans but all the other beings with whom we share this earth. It is harder to be unkind, cruel, unjust, angry, vengeful, etc - when we feel the being-ness of the other.
So - next time you reach to your device to take an online yoga class, perhaps consider going to class in person. You will be rewarded for your effort!
Peace and blessings,