We have all leaned into our online communities over the last 18 months and there’s no doubt that virtual wellness is here to stay. Working out in the comfort of your own home, the decreased worry of being amongst others and the ability to fit classes in as and when, have us all questioning why we would go back to in-person movement. However, evidence suggests getting our mats out and stepping back into the studio could be just what we need to boost both our mental and physical health.
Here Meadowlark Yoga owner and teacher, Karen Kirkness, offers five reasons why as a community we need to consider reconnecting over a Downward Dog:
Satisfaction Vs Somatic Closeness
Jumping into zoom yoga classes is one way we have all stayed fit and sane, and for many of us, the online format continues to deliver a feeling of satisfaction. However, the online space is bereft of the sensory stimulation that you get walking into your community yoga studio. In person, our senses are presented with aromas and friendly vibes as we approach that front door.
This sensory experience reinforces our choices by creating and strengthening deeply rooted memories that help us navigate future behaviour and strengthen our health and wellness choices. This richly physical phenomenon promotes the euphoric feeling of closeness to other humans that can only happen through proximity to like-minded others who are similarly dissolved in the same sensory circumstances forming connected memories. A connection we have sorely missed.
Convenience vs Connectedness
There is no easier way to smash through a yoga practice than to roll out of bed and onto your mat in your PJs. When you have to actually get dressed and present yourself to a room of humans, you’re coming together with those people in a shared social contract. There is an unspoken acknowledgement: ‘Hey, well done class, we all got here despite the many obstacles facing each and every one of us.’ In the moment we all decide to be here, now, even though it was hard and required some sacrifice, there is a kind of next-level connectedness.
Accountability Vs Actual Joy
Showing up to a studio class is about the authentic feeling of wanting to be there, doing the yoga that you love, surrounded by people who feel the same way.
Accountability is an underlying motivator, but you’re going to that class in-studio not because you care about your name being seen on the participants list. You’re there because the sheer joy of being physically present and experiencing it in real life adds to your overall workout; the joy lives in tandem with a sense of accountability that is magnified by the in-person experience.
Pandemic notwithstanding, as mammals we need eye contact, shared bio-rhythms, hugs, vocal subtlety, pheromonal interaction, and many other aspects of nonverbal communication that the online format can never accommodate.
Our fascial instruments need to vibrate in proximity with other humans as a matter of physical and spiritual health. Our neuroendocrine system is very sensitive to loneliness and in biological terms, our zoom-based lives have left us biochemically and vibrationally isolated. Being in-studio offers our bodies a higher vibration.
Being in-studio amongst people is a pro-mammalian experience, offering unquantifiable benefits that play on every level of our biologic instrument as individuals and as a community. With most of us double-vaccinated, ventilation and hygiene measures permanently levelled up, and capacities down by 25%, we are now at a point where the benefits of communal interaction now outweigh the individual and collective risk of getting together in enclosed spaces.
A final major reason for getting back in the studio is to get gently but firmly pushed, to feel the burn of training in that zone of opportunity where our bodies learn how to be stronger. Under the guidance of a teacher with others working on the same project is where most of us would rather practice and train. In-studio, the teacher can focus on seeing and feeling the students in the room, respond to the nuances of physical proximity, not having to spend valuable time and attention on the tech aspects.
Getting the best out of ourselves is never an easy project! By definition, we have to nudge ourselves and become uncomfortable to transform and progress, a process that is much more achievable in person. Is it your need to connect, feel the vibrations or get in touch with your mammalian instincts that will get you back in the studio, or will you stay online for good? Leave me a comment below as I’d love to hear your thoughts…
About The Author
Karen Kirkness, MFA & MSc Human Anatomy from the University of Edinburgh, is a yoga practitioner with broad and branching roots. Originally an Ashtangi, Karen has been practising yoga since the late 90s. She is the author of Spiral Bound: Integrated Anatomy for Yoga, a multidisciplinary approach to understanding how biologic spirality is expressed in human movement.
Karen is an E-RYT 500, YACEP & Senior Yoga Teacher with the Yoga Alliance Professionals. She is a PhD candidate with research in Medical Sciences and Anatomy Education at Hull York Medical School. In 2008, Karen founded her current studio, Meadowlark Yoga, and since then has embraced an inter-lineage approach to yoga. She seeks to foster community and facilitate a constraints-led journey toward self-care and personal growth for all levels. Karen presents creatively in both art and science festivals and is a member of the Anatomical Society and the International Symposium of Clinical and Applied Anatomists (ISCAA). She lives with her husband Simon and their two young kids in the Scottish Borders.