The Art of Virtual Attention

“my LA desk, April 2012”

[Posted to Chalkboard Mag, 17th April 2012]

EVERY SIX WEEKS OR SO, I fly west to my beloved Los Angeles to film classes at Glo. A now-global phenomenon, this gorgeously sun-lit white studio in Santa Monica is the practice backdrop for so many people worldwide. Going to teach there is precious time for me: I’m reaching so many discriminating yogis and I get to practice for hours on end, so I take the preparations seriously. For at least 3-4 weeks prior, I’ll practice teaching on certain topics and ideas in my classes in NYC at Virayoga, so I’m relatively clear on the sequences I’ll be filming, saving my notes and unearthing quotes to support the messages. And I always leave Glo feeling like I’ve been on a retreat – all that time on the mat leaving me with a strong body, a soft mind and a listening heart.

About a third of the classes I film are public classes, meaning there are students with me in the room, and we thoroughly enjoy the exchange of energy. The remainder of classes we film are “privates”, meaning I’m solo, mic’d up, teaching whilst practicing the sequence by myself. Glo students across the world often remark about how it seems as though I’m talking directly to THEM when I’m actually teaching to a camera, but it’s true; I feel particularly connected and purposeful when I’m filming those classes. With no live students to inspire or inform, I have to be on my mark in my speech and my movements in order to share only what is truly resonant and of broader use. At the same time, I have to stay completely in my heart.

I understand that sitting in your house and practicing yoga with a virtual teacher on your laptop or iPad might seem exactly the opposite of personal – but for the record, I’m feeling a connectedness in those moments that isn’t possible when I’m leading a live class. Closeness to my own listening is heightened when it’s just the camera and me. The wondrous intimacy of technology affords us a profoundly connected experience of a pose or a concept, unlike when I’m teaching with a room full of students. This seemingly impersonal technology actually creates the conditions for me to feel more personal.

VIRTUAL RELATIONSHIP

In my experience, texting enhances and even cements my personal relationships. For a long time I’d thought otherwise, yet with my dear friends, my boyfriend, ex-husband, sister, parents, colleagues and babysitters, the brevity of this form of communication lends both beauty and poignancy to our exchanges. The photographs and videos we now share in one instant create a richly textured emotional interaction, so intimate; so efficient. In fact, I’ve built a couple of my most nourishing friendships via photographs. Even if time together has been brief, our closeness has to do with sharing our most personal ways of seeing rather than quantity of time spent.

Then there is social media. The other night, while working alongside one of my closet friends, with a happy shout she called out that she was having a “Facebook moment.” She’d found her best friend since the seventh grade. I could feel her excitement – an entire litany of memories and hilarity descended upon us, thanks to Facebook. They began instant messaging after more than 20 years, and the feeling they both had was one of real, palpable connectedness.

Then there’s email. A colleague of mine received a letter from her own husband the other day via email. A seemingly too impersonal way for a couple to communicate, perhaps? Maybe, except that this was a gorgeous, super sexy invitation to her own bed, for a date. And while it is in no way a replacement for face-to-face contact, amongst friends, family or lovers, the impersonal distance afforded by the screen may only enrich the excitement and personal intimacy of our interactions.

VIRTUAL COLLABORATION

Years ago, I realized that my students would be best served if I studied with as many different teachers as possible. It later dawned on me that I could teach alongside other wonderful teachers and learn while working. As social media began to take a foothold in the yoga world, a few of us teachers began promoting and reaching out to each other. Eventually, that virtual closeness led to actual tandem-teaching: Glo classes, benefits at Urban Zen, weekends at Kripalu, Omega, Wanderlust and Tadasana Festival, even retreats – all co-taught with dear colleagues.

To see how other teachers reach and share is so helpful, and the education we all receive whilst collaborating is unparalleled. It’s resonating farther afield; in spring 2011, Yoga Journal featured their first multi-teacher cover. Co-teaching enriches our local teaching, and due to those initial connections we’d made via social media platforms, we’re connected to one another’s hearts, visions and students. We’re able to give each other loving shout-outs over these platforms and send our students to our friends’ pages and personal sites, to check out their offerings. This shared space is abundant and growing, and any teacher worth her salt knows that we are way more powerful together, holding each other up. Seane Corn captured this superbly when she said, “Leadership means pulling people up with you as you rise.”

Thanks to this virtual world, we’re all able to reach farther, yet listen quite specifically to each other in order to connect very deeply. As long as you’re giving and receiving support and love, time online is productive, sweet and real. I keep it short and reach out with respect, and that’s all I receive in return.

Likely one of the most apt comments came recently from dear friend Tracy Silver, wife of Noah Maze, a fellow teacher and also esteemed colleague on Glo. We were waxing poetic about how lucky we feel to be connected to Glo, as the quality of their work and vision is so clear, true and prospering. Then, hilariously, she added, “We’re so glad to be on a drop-down menu with you.”

6 thoughts on “The Art of Virtual Attention”

  1. Your classes are some of my absolute favorites on YogaGlo, and I’ve never felt like the connection is anything but genuine. In fact, I feel like I’m part of a really beautiful community, even though I’m across the country practicing in my house in Rhode Island!

    Thank you for your classes, your teaching, and your compassion. I’ve grown so much as a person because of you + YogaGlo!

  2. I truly feel like one of your students, even though I am but a virtual one. I truly thank you for putting your heart and work out there in the digital world, nothing is lost and I thank you so much for teaching me here in Australia 😎

  3. Absolutely – your ability to reach people on such a large scale is making this world a much more honest and loving place. I feel the love through every moment of your classes. Arohanui from Aotearoa, New Zealand xxx

  4. I have thoroughly enjoy and endorse Yoga Glow…since moving from San Diego to Tampa FL to help my aging mother, I miss the fellowship of my yoga community. I live in a Sr community and far from a good yoga studio. Yoga glow has replaced the yoga community!!!! I’ve learned so much from you and the most excellent teachers at YogaGlow….it has been a great blessing!!….thank you…

  5. Namaskar Elena,

    Even if I only attended to your classes virtually, your sweet presence and heart comes through!
    I got really inspired by you and started thinking of becoming a yoga teacher myself.
    Thank you so much for teaching on yogaglow and sharing your knowledge!
    Blessings & Greetings from India
    Natalie

  6. Elena,

    I have been following your career and I just love love love your teachings. It would be great if you could teach some classes in Chicago.

    Thank you

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