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Zoom, Sangha and other tales

By Beatriz Yepes

On march I celebrated a year living in Miami. I decided to mark the milestone with a Mysore Ashtanga Retreat with my Teacher Kino Macgregor. It was an amazing experience. I felt connected to the practice, to my teachers and my new found friends. It made me feel that finally I was adapting to my new surroundings and my life in a new country. I felt a sense of belonging that I haven’t felt for a long time.

Corona Time

A few days later the lock down was announced and even when I am no stranger to virtual teaching and learning, having been a professor for 3 years of an on online class at a local University back in Colombia, I could not make sense of the situation. Like most of us, I was wondering, how long would it take for everything to get back to normal and how I was going to manage to stay motivated and present in my Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practice, while staying at home.

Even though having a Teacher was fairly new to me, for a moment, I could not bear the idea of not being able to have the guidance  and adjustments in my practice. I also wondered what would happen with the connection with my fellow practitioners, people who have become a force in my life, an additional motivation to get in mi mat, whose smiles, hugs and conversations kept me coming back to it every day.

The uncertainty crept there in the back of my mind and I continued practicing at home by myself, sure that at any moment the situation would turn around. As days, and months passed by and it was apparent that we would be staying in for a long time, the offering of online classes became my lifeline.

Zoom, the new Shala

After months of Mysore and Led classes through zoom, I no longer worry about my practice and my contact with community, and a part of my uncertainty is gone because, now I know, that you can feel the energy and the magic of Miami Life Centers’ Yoga Shala, even from home.

Their experienced and knowledgeable Teachers, with their online presence and loving guidance, continue to ignite in me and in the rest of students, the fire of Yoga and show us that the expertise in hands on adjustments can be perfectly translated into words, if it is needed. Furthermore, India, as the source of traditional teachings is now closer to our hearts and reality with Saturday’s led classes with our Teacher Sharath Jois.

What about the Sangha?

The community, the Sangha, or in the words of my Teacher Tim Feldmann, founder of MLC, “the supportive environment, and healing space” has not in any way disappeared. If anything it has become bigger than before, since we can practice with people from all over the world, with a sense of togetherness that knows no countries, frontiers or differences of any kind.

And, Now?

From my perspective, this reality that felt so odd, impersonal and even “wrong”, actually has become something to be grateful for. It has given us the opportunity to continue to practice with our Teachers. We have shared our living rooms now turned into yoga shalas, with friends and fellow Asthangis who live in different cities and even continents. We have heard words and cues that have felt close to a deep hands on adjustment and motivating words that felt personal and close. We have learned how to really listen and how to hold space for others. We have marveled with the deep spiritual teachings of Led Practices and Talks and seen first-hand, how diverse, powerful and dedicated are Ashtangis, from every corner of this world.

But beyond all, we have found out that even when the material conditions change, the possibility to learn and to find a community that supports your journey is ever present.  Even when our teacher is not physically there, we are still accountable for our own work, for our practice, and even when the learning experience is individual and we need to put on our own effort, commitment and devotion; our Community, our Sangha, now through a screen, written messages and virtual hugs, supports our journey, and keeps us connected and motivated.

Who knows what the future may bring, how we will continue expanding our knowledge and how we will relate to one another … What remains true is that our Shala, whether physical or virtual, will continue to be a place of timeless teachings, of community and of lasting transformation for the practitioners that have an open heart.

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