Yoga in the digital age

We would have preferred to do without it, but if the pandemic has had a positive influence, it is in the increase in the number of those who practice yoga and gentle gymnastics.

©PierrickAubert ©JulieDesnoulez

With the closing of classes, this practice has migrated to the home. It sounds pretty nice, written like that, but the reality isn’t always so amazing. We all need to change air and come to a point where we are saturated and we have a hard time taking full advantage of the benefits that soft practices usually brings us.

We wanted to share with you the return of Élodie Lantelme (yoga teacher, founder and co-organizer of the Yoga Festival and the Good Vibes at La Clusaz) on its current practice and on the possible alternatives so as not to run out of energy and breath and make the most of it.

Cannelle: Hello Elodie, thank you for giving us time to talk with you. With Covid, but not only, the practice of yoga has evolved a lot lately. In a pre covid world, classes were done a lot in face-to-face. Today everyone uses online methods. So how do you accompany your yogis from a distance?

Elodie: Well I must admit that my accompaniment has evolved over the past year. When the lockdown was announced just a year ago, I felt really strongly the loss of marks that this could cause in our lives. All of a sudden, for most of us, they sort of emptied themselves of their appointments: at the office, with friends, cultural outings, meals with grandparents and also regular activities, such as yoga. So to find my students, to re-instate the time and its course, to make it even more important, the idea of organizing Facebook live classes 3 times a week quickly became a reality. It was my way of saying, you see, there is also some good in what we’re going through! We continue to meet, and perhaps more broadly, since distances no longer count! Don’t give up, we’ll get there, cultivate as much good humor as we can in this difficult context!” And I was really as surprised as I was touched by the audience I met… which far exceeded the number of my students in “physical” classes. So, I set up my online classes site to make things happen, perhaps to give them a more “official” form, qualitative, and also ensure a share of material income for those who could while offering courses at low prices. Then we were no longer in lockdown, I met my students in person, and the frustration of the digital jumped out at me as much as at heart.

Legging Imala et sweat Loula

Cannelle: What do you think you lose when you’re online, and are there things you’ve discovered that enrich the practice?

Elodie: I can only speak about my feelings as a teacher, it remains personal and has no universal value at all. In fact, some teachers may find themselves fully involved in this mode of transmission, and that’s fine, because it’s also an excellent tool to adapt one’s practice to one’s schedule, to abolish distances when one has found a teaching that one likes. But for my part, if I have to put a word on it, I would say that I found online teaching “drying”. It replaces the transmission with a demonstration. And it gave me the impression of reinforcing the egotistical part that our modern practice of yoga already favors widely through its staging on social networks – there too, moreover, I find it neither good nor bad, it is a fact and if it has allowed more people to find yoga attractive, so the better! You often enter yoga through the door of its aesthetics and then you find much more… or not, and that’s fine! I love this generosity of yoga to tolerate all its forms, and I am very wary of those who need a supposedly authentic legitimacy approved what we think of as “traditional yoga”. If we mean the oldest forms of asanas, we all risk sitting for hours (laughs)! But to go back to online teaching, whether you like it or not, even in small groups and having your eye on student videos, you can’t correct them, you can’t touch them. Now the yoga that I teach is a yoga built in the tradition of tantra, which therefore makes the body a means of going towards awakening or liberation. It is not a yoga of renunciation, of asceticism, which constrains the body to make it forget itself! It has all its place in my teaching, and the great entrance door of the body, these are our 5 senses. However, online education only feeds two, hearing and sight, with a predominance of the latter. I need to see my students, hear them sigh, laugh at my sometimes clownish outings or cry to wash away deep tensions. I need to touch them to untie the often unconsciously accumulated tension in certain parts of the body. A shoulder that accepts to put down its arms, to abandon itself and to open itself when one puts a benevolent hand on it, is so much emotion and confidence freed! I would even go so far as to say that I need to feel them literally, when they sweat during the so-called “athletic” yoga sessions, but it might seem weird when reading (laughs), because what I love is to draw a heart on the foggy windows of the room filled with Prana after an intense class before going to drink an ayurvedic herbal tea or a chai prepared with love! In short, it is in this richness of meaning and exchange that I find the flavor of the teaching of yoga, you know, this “link” in the sense of “relationship” that can be found in some parts of its Sanskrit etymology. That is what feeds me deeply. For me, mankind is a social animal. And through the Yamas but not only, yoga is what accompanies it in the correctness of this relationship to the other, therefore in the relationship to itself, therefore in the Nyamas.

Cannelle: How do you best accompany your students from a distance? What do you do that you don’t necessarily do in the gym, and vice versa?

Elodie: It’s a bit complicated to answer this question, since I am clearly moving away from distance learning… even though the messages from some of my students who live far away are a strong motivation to offer online practices from time to time, on special occasions. The best gift I could give to my students is a kind of “teacher and professional suicide” if there is one, because it is to remind them of Jiddu Krishnamurti’s phrase: “When one really learns, one learns throughout one’s life, without being the pupil of any particular teacher. Everything is a pretext to learn: a dead leaf, a bird in flight, a smell, a tear, the poor and the rich, those who cry, the smile of a woman, the arrogance of a man. Everything serves as a lesson; it is therefore not a question of guide, philosophy, guru or master. The master is life itself, and you are in a state of lifelong learning.” And since I place myself in a current of thought that makes life and yoga synonymous, I would say that yoga is lived more than it is transmitted. Hence the position a little complicated for a teacher to be there and guide his student towards himself, thus towards the disappearance of the need of a teacher. Fortunately, in its incomparable unifying power, yoga links contradictions very well (laughs)!

Brassière Eka rose pétaleCannelle: As far as it is possible, and to improve, is it essential to alternate with private lessons?

Elodie: If today private lessons are the only solution to practice in real life and it is possible to afford them – because they are as much more expensive as online courses – I find them very interesting, since they allow to find this “physical humanity” of practice. They satisfy all our senses and are necessarily a more “global” experience. Afterwards, I don’t know if they ensure an “improvement” of the practice, because I don’t really see what this term covers: is it to achieve postures called “more advanced” in the sense of more physical, like Adho Muka Vrksasana, Pincha, Hanumanasana or others? Or to improve one’s meditation practice to sit and not move a toe for as long as possible? The notion of improvement often leads to the feeding of the ego, which does not seem to me to be one of the goals of yoga or is opposed to it. We don’t have to be “the best version of ourselves”, because it fuels a notion of competition with ourselves and that the same spirit of having to be competitive creates a lot of suffering in our societies. We have to be fully ourselves, that is to say human beings. What the Samsara, the cycle of Hindu reincarnations, considers the most difficult form of life, because the most complex. We can say that we shelter within us all the potentialities of the living or the Aristotelian categories: the mineral of our bones, the plant of the need for light, the animal of our reproduction, the spiritual of the human… Being fully human is a Herculean task! So in a sense, what can perhaps be improved in the sense of “developed” is the listening of life in us under all its manifestations. It leads us to everything. Private lessons or online!

“I prefer to have fewer items in my closet but feel fully in tune with them. And then, to wear, the sensation of second skin of the Imala leggings is incredible, of such an enveloping softness! And I love its very high waist which gives a very liberating cheerful effect of this existential question: will the elastic of the belt be perfidiously placed under the navel to form a disgraceful fold (laughs)?”

Cannelle: Do you have any practical advice to give to practitioners to fully enjoy the sessions at home?

Elodie: In a practical way, it seems important to me to induce regularity in your practice. This does not mean opting for a fixed practice! Everything moves around us, the seasons change, our body too, life is movement, so we should not be sorry to change our practice according to its needs, its desires but also its possibilities of the moment. Nevertheless, keeping her alive on a daily basis and feeling guilty about the shape she can take (a breath, a series of postures, a self-massage…) seems to me to be the key to taking full advantage of it. If you practice online classes, I will recommend what I always recommend to my students: not to confuse the intensity of a posture and pain in it, in short, to be benevolent with yourself. That is to say to respect you in your fatigue, your energy of the moment, your body history, with your possible injuries and fragilities… and all this is the result of listening carefully to oneself. But benevolence is not complacency. Caring means seeing that it’s not going well, that it’s not necessarily great, and understanding as much as accepting. Because it will pass. To be complacent is to disguise what is mediocre under the outside of good. One puts the ego at a distance, the other strengthens it. If during a practice you need to engage in a complicated posture to prove something to yourself and others even if it means sacrificing your alignment or integrity, fine, it’s possible, just know why you’re doing it… and where it may lead you, that is, to the wound, thus to the opposite of one of the great moral principles of yoga as laid down by the Yoga Sutra of Pantajali, namely Ahimsa, not to harm neither the other nor to oneself. But it’s not obvious, that’s why it’s interesting (laughs)!

Cannelle: The good news is that the “Good vibes” festival at La Clusaz is still maintained for the moment. It will take place from the 11th to the 16th of April 11. How will it be organized? Will there be outdoor classes? Can you tell us a little more about the festival?

Elodie: The Good Vibes is a bit like the “local counterpart” of the yoga festival that takes place in the summer. The opportunity to highlight for a week what can be found in terms of yoga, ayurveda, healing and beneficial practices in the Aravis. For the organization, we are still waiting for the reopening of the sports halls to be able to welcome people face-to-face, but with our small, ultra-motivated organization team, we never give up, and even if the halls do not open before, we have a lot of ideas about how to make this event full of good energies happen anyway, in one form or another!

Cannelle: There is also the yoga festival of La Clusaz, which you co-organize. We hope that the fourth edition will take place! Are the dates set?

Elodie: Yes, it will be from 16th to 18th of July 2021 and again, we managed to keep it face-to-face last year, in a form adapted to the health context, so there is no reason why we cannot achieve it this year. In fact, the programming has been completed for several months since we wanted to find the 2020 stakeholders: we don’t want to do anything new every year, meetings and human relations are very important to us. This does not mean that there will not be some surprises, but we keep them hidden and we hope that you will also enjoy them when you come!

©PierrickAubert ©JulieDesnoulez

Cannelle: We are happy to see you practicing through social networks wearing the Imala outfit with our Loula sweatshirt. Would you be willing to tell us about it and give us your feedback?

Elodie: Of course, I do it with even greater pleasure because I am not sponsored! I kind of broke the piggy bank to wear Kitiwake, because for me it’s not just a brand of yoga clothes. Behind the brand, there is a true ethical awareness of manufacturing, both on the choice of textile materials and production methods. I prefer to have fewer items in my closet but feel fully in agreement with them. And then, to feel the sensation of the second skin of the Imala leggings is incredible, of such an enveloping softness! And I love its very high waist which gives a very liberating cheerful effect of this existential question: will the elastic of the belt be perfidiously placed under the navel to form a disgraceful fold (laughs)?! I also love the powdered pink of the bra and its very feminine design. No matter which Kitiwake model I wear, I find that the look is really feminine, pretty, and original without being flashy, so I often put them even outside the rugs.

Digitalisation du yoga

Cannelle: Thank you so much Elodie, it’s always a pleasure to chat with you and we are looking forward to joining you this summer for the La Clusaz yoga festival where we will have a stand at the Yogi Market.

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