Yoga Adjusts to a Virtual Reality

Students try to find some balance as the Global Center for Academic and Spiritual Life programs, including yoga and meditation classes, shift to Zoom.

Amidst the chaos of remote learning, GCASL’s free yoga sessions have also shifted onto Zoom. Students reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of yoga at home. (Staff Photo by Alexandra Chan)

As I’m lying on my living room floor with my laptop perched on the mantel on a Saturday morning. I try to empty my mind, keeping my eyes closed, a yoga instructor’s disembodied voice emits from my laptop, telling me to breathe. My mom joins me. My pet rabbits in the pen behind me take no notice, nor do my roommates in the kitchen.

I used to attend the Global Center Academic and Spiritual Lifes’s free yoga lessons as a way to stay in shape and enjoy the view of Washington Square Park. I always seemed to have brunch plans on Saturdays, but now I have nothing better to do. NYU students have been vocal about adjusting to their new remote classes via Zoom, and yoga fans have added to the conversation, too.

CAS sophomore Helen Dong tried yoga for the very first time this year. She originally chose GCASL’s Friday classes because they fit into her schedule, but she has stayed loyal to them for the safe space that the instructors provide through the quality of their teaching. 

“I think the instructors that NYU hires are really good at what they do and they make you want to come back,” Dong told WSN over the phone. “They’re all really friendly. You can talk to them about anything.”

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CAS senior Laura Rubio became enamored with yoga during the summer before her first year, and it helped her work through feelings of anxiety in her adjustment to college. GCASL’s offerings helped her continue her new hobby with no extra charge a distinct advantage of NYU’s classes over others in the city.

“I remember Tina Paul’s class got me through a lot of feelings of loneliness and homesickness during freshman year,” Rubio said over the phone.

Of course, I must admit that online learning significantly impacts the yoga experience. Both Rubio and Dong agreed that some of their favorite components of normal yoga classes just aren’t the same over Zoom.

Dong explained that part of the warm atmosphere of in-person yoga classes disappears when learning online. “And because I’m doing it at home, it’s sometimes hard for me to find a place where I can just be by myself and have peace and quiet while I’m doing these exercises, which I think was really important to me while I was doing them in person.”

Rubio emphasized that these changes are not unique to GCASL yoga they impact all NYU programs across the board. Upon hearing that all classes would be continuing remotely this semester, she feared the changes to her learning without the physical presence of other students. 

“I just remember thinking we were about to lose the human touch that comes with being in a room together, and that absence is still felt,” she lamented.

While online yoga classes are clearly not ideal, there are some hidden advantages.

“[GCASL] can reach a wider range of people, and because I don’t have to commute in the mornings to get to class, it’s much easier for me to stick to a schedule,” Dong said. “People like me are benefitting because it helps me stay in the routine I was in before, but I think it also just benefits people in general who… used to do exercises at the gym or like in classes like in the city.”

Additionally, Rubio pointed out that the online format has strengthened some communal aspects of yoga classes. By using the gallery view through the video settings, Rubio can now pay attention to her peers and instructor in a way that she couldn’t before.

“It feels more like a group thing than in person when I’m just focusing on myself and listening to what [the instructor] is saying,” she said. 

Rubio also said that Zoom’s features help shy students speak up. 

With the chat rooms, people are more comfortable asking questions and communicating with the instructor, which is less common in a room full of strangers in person.

Though the circumstances are unusual, Rubio and Dong still recommend GCASL’s yoga classes, especially during this stressful, unprecedented time.

It’s an easy way to get started if you’ve been meaning to make it a habit of working out; you can still be active without leaving your home.

“The fact that we’re in a remote setting right now is a great time to kind of shop around, you know, join classes that your schedule otherwise wouldn’t have space for, just so you can get different styles and different approaches from the instructors,” Rubio said. “I think it’s a great way to stay in shape and to kind of listen to your body and even find a class that you could attend when hopefully we’re all back in person.”

Though it can be tough these days to find some peace, and you may lack a yoga mat and blocks, what better way to pass the time than by learning some balance?

Email Sabrina Choudhary at [email protected]

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