Friday, June 21, 2013

When Yoga and Technology Meet

by Deanna Aliano

©Jeffrey Vock

As I sit here, checking my email on my computer, responding to a Facebook post on my phone and listening to music on my iPod, I am reminded of how much life has changed over the past decade. 

It wasn’t that long ago that most people didn’t have cell phones or iPods, and I can still remember when the Internet was the new big thing. Social networking hadn’t even occurred to anyone and we actually had to use a CD Rom of an encyclopedia for research.

Times change and the way we do things has to change, too. How does all this change and advancement affect our ancient practice of yoga? I guess it depends on your perspective.  

The internet, with all its social media sites and continuous distractions, has been touted by many as the evil downfall of society. It’s easy to get lost in the overwhelming sea of information and chatter. Marriages have ended, new ways of bullying have developed and many people have been coaxed online to do things they normally wouldn’t do in public, all while spending time on the Internet. 

But, with all its negatives, there have been many positives. Just as bad information is out there, so is good:

· You can go online at any time and find articles on yoga, both spiritual and physical.

· You can research religious ideas such as Hinduism or Buddhism, finding out why most practitioners choose not to eat meat or how they go about their meditation practices.

· You can research veganism and find a plethora of recipes and articles on the best ways to go about it.

· You can even find support on your spiritual or health-related paths, and friends to chat with and commiserate with when your journey goes through a difficult patch.

· There are movies to watch at the click of the button, showing you how others have managed on their paths.

· There are book reviews, podcasts and radio shows about every aspect of yoga imaginable.

· You can even find online online video practices with Sri Dharma Mittra himself!

For some, afraid to venture into a yoga classroom because they can’t yet touch their toes, this provides a safe way to start practicing. 

On Twitter and Facebook, there are multitudes of people spreading positive words and photos reminding you why yoga is so wonderful. Many people post photos of yoga poses, which leads to inspiration for many yogis, like me, to get to the mat.

Most yoga studios now have websites, Facebook, and Twitter accounts that you can follow to be reminded of upcoming classes, events and even just to spread the word of some wonderful things taking place in the studio. It builds a sense of community so you still feel like part of it, even when you can’t make it to class.  

It’s really not just the Internet that makes technology a positive development for yoga. Most yoga teachers use an iPod to play the background music for their classes; many often finding new music to introduce to students, furthering the artistic endeavors of their favorite performers and adding variety to their classes. Some teachers may keep class notes on their iPad so they can remember to share all the information in a lecture, or perhaps a reading they thought particularly useful to the class.

I’ve recently stumbled across a meditation app that has proved quite useful. The app has a timer that can be easily set to go off only at the end of your session or at intervals during your practice. I’ve used it on my own and in classes, instructing to practice pranayama until the first gong, followed by meditation after that.  

Of course, there are downfalls to technology. I have witnessed students bringing their phones into class, hoping to check their email in the middle of a vinyasa flow. It happens so often that I often wonder if there is a Phonecheckasana… It’s a distraction, which is something yoga is supposed to help us stay away from.

One positive thing about the technological distractions is that there is more of a need for people to find a physical place to connect... to belong. I believe this is why many yoga studios are enjoying increased class sizes and repeat business. People crave that place where they can feel comfortable in their own skin again, where they feel respected by themselves and others, free from judgment. 

All in all, yoga may benefit greatly from the changes in technology as long as the practitioners can find a way to keep it from becoming a constant distraction from their practice. With the help of all the yogis out there trying to spread the joys of yoga, I’m sure it will be a wonderful thing!

Deanna has been exposed to many different styles of yoga and has recently taken the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training with Sri Dharma Mittra in New York City. Being a certified Pilates instructor, massage therapist, and fitness trainer, Deanna never thought she would find her higher self in a "fitness" class, but she did and has never looked back. She has developed Artasana workshops, exploring creativity through the art of yoga. She spends her time off the mat writing, illustrating yogis and enjoying her children at the New Jersey Shore.

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