For many years students had been asking me to start offering videos of classes and whilst I mused on the idea it hadn't come into fruition. I had started dipping my toes in with audio recordings of the meditation group but that was as far as the recordings had bloomed. Then came Covid! Since the very first yoga class I taught for my dear friends Gail & Alan, after the pre class jitters subsided I knew from deep in my core that I loved sharing yoga. When covid arrived I had already had the joy of sharing yoga in person with others for 15 years, when lockdown was first announced I could not conceive of sharing yoga through a different platform. My initial feeling was 'oh s__t, what am I going to do now!' Thankfully I have a great group of friends who are also yoga teachers and soon the discussions on teaching live via Zoom started happening... We were able to chat about sharing yoga live on zoom, some teachers had already shared a few classes so could talk about their direct experience and together we looked at setting up our living spaces ready for teaching - good lighting, where to put your mat, height of laptop, camera, microphone etc. After recovering from Covid I was ready to try out this new way of teaching.
I did not know how the classes were going to feel after being so used to being in the same room for sharing yoga or how I could safely hold space for the groups via the online platform but I knew that my Dear yoga family needed the classes more than ever. Our Zoomiverse (name giving to our zoom 'we space' by Sharanne Finney) was birthed! My concerns over whether the yoga community would feel their inter-connectedness and whether the palpable sense of group presence would not be as strong soon melted away when the Zoomiverse came alive. Our yoga family was very happy to be seeing each other, solace was taken in the familiar continuity of our 'we space' and new yoga family members were and still are welcomed into the fold. A safe, re assuring structure was and is accessible during a time of much distressing upheaval, a calm centre in the eye of the storm.
We enjoy a little social time before the group settles for the session, this has been much needed time to feel the connection with the group, there is a beautiful warmth of sharing that is like a soothing balm for ruffled emotions. When I was out & about teaching in the community there was a limit to what yoga props I was able to carry around with me. As everyone is now in the comfort of their own home we have been able to use bolsters, cushions, partially deflated muscle release balls, walls and pets as additional support to the practice! Throughout the sessions I take time to interact with the class, giving individual guidance where appropriate so the group still has the sense of being supported and seen. My concern for the classes feeling impersonal due to not being in the room with the group has been completely dispelled.
What has blossomed in the Zoomiverse is a very intimate yet spacious sense of presence and inter-connectivity within the yoga family. For the majority of students practicing in the safety and comfort of their own home has allowed them to feel very at ease and as a result are expanding into the field of beingness very smoothly. Once settled into the practice they are inwardly focused, there is an ease in pratayahara and the attention is concentrated on the subtleties of the inner dance. A lot of students have expressed a deepening of their practice as a result of this shift in their awareness, they are very aware of the intimate yet vast, connected field that they meet their fellow practitioners in. This unfathomable web that weaves us all together holds the space for our yoga family to feel united and for the illusion of separation to be seen through. The Zoomiverse has given us the space to become more aware of how we are all so interconnected, it has shown us that we do not need to be in the same room to experience the state of yoga together, it is refining our web of communion.
Sally Kempton, in her book 'Awakening Shakti', describes this connection very beautifully - "Teleconference classes are all about energy; when participants are spread around the world, they are held by whatever energy is generated between the group and the teacher. Though I speak and people ask questions, the most striking aspect of the classes is the soft, spacious Presence that arises between us all. It is like being inside a vast meditative vortex. Over time, I've realised that the spoken words are simply the vehicle for something else: the growing presence of the energy field. Open and spacious, the field holds students as they find their own connection."
That which is yoga, the wisdom of the field has been weaving it's incredible magic. Students are expressing that they would love to continue on with meeting in the Zoomiverse, as a result I am re-thinking how the classes will be offered as covid restrictions are lifted. The evolution of what I have been blessed to be able to share within our yoga community has always been led by the students, it is always a collaboration and the wisdom of yoga delivers what is needed. This last year has been a challenge in so many ways for us all, none of us could've possibly anticipated the amount of change and loss we were going to experience. We did not know the loop the loop that the covid coaster was going to take us on, yet, through it all, through the vast arrange of emotions and experiences we have all travelled through, we all found solace in this incredible, loving, space of presence that we have all come to affectionately know as the Zoomiverse. If the pandemic had arisen in years gone by we would not have had the Zoom platform to connect in, I am very grateful for this platform and even more grateful to our yoga family who have shown great resilience and true flexibility in embracing these changes, Thank you. Let's see how this unfolds...
What the yoga family has to say...
‘ My yoga journey continues, fortunately, via zoom ! a new and surprisingly positive adjustment for me, getting the camera angle right can be a challenge ! My personal experience of our shared and supportive space continues to be enjoyable, uplifting and beneficial. Sue x’
“I have been thoroughly enjoying my zoom classes. Michele was incredibly quick in getting us up and running on Zoom in the first Lockdown, so that we could all continue with our practice uninterrupted, which was great! Even though we are all ‘socially distanced’ as it were by certainly more than 2 metres!, the class still seems very intimate, and the fact that we can all see each other’s faces is lovely! Even in the Zoomiverse, I still feel very connected to the group. Thank you Michele for making it work for all of us in these times that find ourselves in, and here’s looking forward to many more classes in the future. Xxx - Wendy Smith”
"Your classes are always an inspiration and a deep exploration, direct clear instructions. Holding the classes on zoom has enabled me to join the Yoga community in Wales which is enriching, as we explore the beautiful teachings with openness. Thank you for holding the space in the zoomiverse and long may it continue" - Lisa Carr
"My musing on the Zoomiverse: The last year has been great for me with yoga Zoomiverse. Being older with arthritic joints yoga at home has meant I can be far more adventurous using a variety of yoga kit and household props that would not be available in class. Thank you Michele for the last year of yoga Zoomiverse, you are a great teacher of yoga whether it is real or virtual." - Rhoda Luzio
"I'd just like to say that through your provision of the online classes, via the Zoomiverse, it's been great to have a little corner of calm to escape to in the year that was Covid 2020!
When you feel like you have to make a conscious effort (sometimes daily, hourly or by the minute) to remain grounded amongst the madness that has been imposed on us, being able to step away from the madding crowd for 90 minutes per week of supported bliss, has been a gift accepted with gratitude.
The ability to retreat to a safe and welcoming space, away from hysterical hype, the added demands of working from home and the increase in spending much more time with the people we love (who can also drive us to distraction in equal measures after months of being cooped up in a small space with only each other for company!), has been a very necessary practice in maintaining a balanced state of mental wellbeing (even during the 'uncomfortable' asanas!).
Thank you so much for your offering of adapting your well-established 'in-person' guidance, to suit the needs of the time, by taking things 'online'. I remain hopeful that you continue to do so far into the future." - Llawer o gariad, Kelly Davies
Zoomiverse 1 to 1 musings...
"What a teacher! Since starting 1:1 yoga sessions with Michele I have seen a new side to yoga not experienced before. The yoga I experience is at a totally different level to others before it.
I look forward to my online sessions as I feel a far deeper connection with my body and the earth when in class with Michele with the added bonus that I don't need to step into my car to drive anywhere or back, so that at the end of my session I can fully steep in the deep awakening and sense of relaxed connection I feel.
What I genuinely love about the yoga I have found with Michele is it really feels like I am supporting my body and inner me with a practice that honours the sacred in me and the journey I am going through right now in my 'Venus Return' year, which in itself is uncovering profound changes and my yoga is allowing me to gently embrace this change, and release the energy in a wholesome way.
Even though my class is online, you can really feel and sense Michele holding the space you are working your yoga in with grace and service to you and yoga practice.
You never feel rushed with Michele as she always explains what we are doing and why and makes sure that you are correct in your posture, Michele always encourages and never makes you feel like you're on the naughty step if you haven't practised as much as you could do to progress, which I really love as sometimes you just need to follow your body's cue - by that I don't mean you can be lazy with your practice as Michele will call you out on that in a loving way so you're not self sabotaging, but I like that we honour the body and what it needs at the time." - Sarah Walker
'I've been having one to one yoga sessions with Michele regularly over the last year and feel I have benefitted enormously. I have been practising a little yoga on and off (more off!) for the last 30 years but was aware that I didn't have a firm grasp of some of the fundamentals of the practice in terms of breathing/pranayama, ensuring a strong core/bandhas and sequencing of postures/asanas. I was also concerned that in my mid 40s (with hypermobile joints) I was more at risk of injury if I didn't go into and hold postures correctly.
I initially approached the sessions with some trepidation however I soon came to look forward to and appreciate them hugely. Michele is a gifted teacher, she gauges what would be most beneficial for my practice session by session, sometimes an active, flowing practice, other times a more restorative session. She is incredibly encouraging and patient and fortunately has a great sense of humour which always helps!
My confidence has slowly grown over the year with her guidance despite not always practicing as much between sessions as I would ideally wish to. When I've had the opportunity to attend any of her classes or Sunday sessions I've found them really warm and welcoming. As a long time meditator I have always been interested in the philosophy and teachings underpinning yoga and Michele manages to blend this into her sessions with ease. I feel we are undertaking a journey together and I couldn't wish to have a wiser teacher leading the way'. - Dr H Sparrow - Watkins
Zoomiverse Retreat musings...
"This was my first online retreat with Michele, and I am looking forward to the next one. I felt extremely connected to other people in our group which was my initial concern for an online retreat as I have thoroughly enjoyed previous retreats in Elan Valley with my lovely yoga community, but this did not make a difference as the whole weekend felt very intimate. Always in good hands with Michele and you are fully supported throughout. There is always an opportunity to share feelings or concerns you may have at any point during the retreat and this I feel play a fundamental role in how the weekend unfolds. As disappointed as I was not to be going to Elan I was so grateful to have experienced this online retreat and felt Michele delivered exactly what was needed during these uncertain times we find ourselves in." - Kate Thomas
"Wow what a week this has been... The weekend retreat was most beautiful, a coming together with other Yogis, for an immersion in Yoga and the inner goddess. My experience was very deep and heartfelt, sensing the moving Prana and feeling the power of the divine. The schedule and contemplation time Was well balanced, and there was no distance with the group, the space was sacred and alive... Michele, you are an amazing teacher who holds a loving space for others to dive deep, offering guidance and pointers throughout. Felt very rested, grounded and alive, in awe of the magnificence of the divine in all its forms. A heart felt thank you for the light that you are Michele , feel blessed you are in my life" - Lisa Carr
“I have done a number of retreats with Michele over the years, and they are always wonderful weekends in great company, where you can switch off from your busy life and focus purely on the yoga. I always feel refreshed and recharged after these and, with the ongoing pandemic, I was so ready for one this time! I jumped at the chance of attending her first online retreat.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect the same level of connection that you get from being in a physical space with an inspirational yoga teacher and like-minded yoginis – I was wrong. Michele provided us with instructions to help us create our own ‘retreat space’ at home and how to maintain this during breaks. Space set up, I was ready to go, and I really felt no distance from my classmates at the other end of their devices! We shared a wonderful weekend of yoga that included bolster work, pranayama, meditation and of course asanas. Our collective experiences deepened our learning and strengthened our friendships a little more, and I certainly feel better equipped to deal with these challenging times after it.
This retreat has demonstrated Michele’s tenacity for adapting to change, whilst still providing the high quality, intuitive yoga teaching she would in face to face sessions. Much gratitude Michele, and thank you.” - Christine Jones
"Thankyou Michele for an amazing space created on the zoom retreat. Who would have thought such wonderful energy and sharing can still occur so seamlessly and beautifully over the internet. I loved it, and will be back to attend the next online retreat. I highly recommend anyone who is unsure of attending an online yoga retreat to do so with Michele who has the talent to offer clear instruction over a new medium for yoga practice, be present with us all and provide a safe space for whatever needs to unfold. It really is nourishment for the soul and who doesn't benefit from some good wholesome nourishment?" - Joanne Gardner