Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The cyber-twilight of the cybershala (?)

Practice this morning consisted of full primary and second up to Ardha Matsyendrasana. The whole thing felt very grounded; even the second series backbends, considering that backbends are known to have a more airy, fiery quality to them. Perhaps the general idea of the practice is that over time, postures that were previously challenging/fiery will start to feel more grounding/grounded, so that at some point in the not-so-near future, second series will become the new primary. And maybe, when that happens, it will be time to add new postures. Third series? :-) Well, I don't know, I'm just allowing myself to free-associate and fantasize here. After all, that's kind of the cool thing about Ashtanga blogging: What you cannot yet do on the mat, you can talk and fantasize, provided your talking and fantasizing does not take up more space/bandwidth in your life than your actual practice on the mat (remember 99% practice, 1% theory).

Speaking of Ashtanga blogging and the Ashtanga blogosphere, Owl recently wrote a very compelling post in which she summarized the evolution of the Ashtanga blogosphere, or the "ashtang-o-sphere", as she calls it. Not having been an Ashtanga blogger for all that long, I can only relate to what she terms the 3.0 and later stages of this evolutionary process. Here's her summary of these stages:

"3.0 was blogs. Remember those? Blogspot all the way. Practice journals. Whole people. Big questions. Relationships. Much funnier flame wars. I visited fellow bloggers in Seattle, Santa Barbara, Encinitas, Portland, Boston, Scottsdale, Austin, NYC, London, Toronto… where else? Oh yeah, Ann Arbor. We called it the cyber-shala.

4.0 was when entrepreneurs figured out that posting every day could generate some newly coveted internet energy. And following the media experts’ lead, ashtanga teachers discovered the same thing. Bling. Content got more frequent, more shallow, more driven, and more naked. Not a bad thing. I just bore easily.

5.0 is coming. It is partly small groups in chat-rooms. Did you know? Yes, it’s totally happening. It’s the EZBoard with gate-keeping and way better technology. From cyber-shala, to cyber-sangha. Thank you, skype and google hangouts."

Very intriguing. Let me start by stating what is probably the obvious (as you can tell from reading this blog, I'm very good at doing this :-)): If Owl's summary here is correct, then this means that what we might think of as classic Ashtanga blogs, the aggregation of which make up what was once known as the "cybershala", are disappearing, fading into a cyber-twilight, to be replaced by what Owl terms the 4.0 and 5.0 stages of the process. 

In a sense, such a development is inevitable. In the beginning, so to speak, before the advent of all this technology, people would do their practice either at home or in a shala. If you were lucky, you might find a few people at your shala with whom you can have coffee or chai after practice, over which you can then either (1) geek out about the minutiae of the practice ("how was your Karandavasana today?", "I thought Teacher X was going to break my knee when he adjusted me so forcefully in Mari D, but I survived, and now my hips are so much more open", etc., etc.), or maybe (2) editorialize about the latest controversial extra-practice issues in your local yoga community ("did you hear that this new Teacher Y wears super-short-shorts to practice and teach all the time? Is this correct method? Or is she just showing off her powerful legs?"). 

At some point, some very clever person (or maybe some small group of clever persons) discovered that these same types of over-chai or over-coffee after-practice conversations can be replicated in an electronic format. Not only can people now "talk" about these things from the relative comfort of their homes/favorite hang-outs, but since the exchange is electronic, space is no longer a barrier, and the conversation is now no longer limited only to people who happened to have been at a particular place, at a particular time. The minutiae of the practice (as well as the latest controversial extra-practice issues) can now be hashed out in great detail by a much larger group of people spread out across the globe. Hence the cybershala was born. And since videos can be uploaded onto blogs or onto youtube, Ashtangis who are not afraid of baring their practices for the rest of the world to see can now also upload videos of themselves doing whatever postures they are currently working on. This, of course, adds a whole new dimension to asana practice. Whereas in the past, what you did or how you did a particular asana was something that could only be seen by you and your teacher (and by whoever else that was in the shala at that exact moment, and whose drishti was wandering), these uploaded videos provide the opportunity for anyone and everyone to see and critique your, ahem, performance, in said asana wherever and whenever they want to. In theory, if youtube or any of these blogs are still around a hundred years from now, somebody will be able to see Claudia or Grimmly working on their asanas a hundred years ago, even though the original bodies of the original Ashtangis had already turned to dust. 

Very sobering thought, don't you think? But there's a bright side to this: This also means that people like Grimmly and Claudia--and, more recently, Kino--have effectively memorialized themselves in digital media for all eternity. Perhaps if a nuclear apocalypse were to one day befall the world, images of Grimmly and Claudia and Kino in all their asana-ed glory might survive, and the inhabitants of a post-apocalyptic world may even worship them as gods and goddesses. Remember what happened in Cloud Atlas?...

Oh gosh, that was a terrible, terrible digression! I started out with the intention of editorializing, commenting, and maybe lamenting the twilight of the cyber-shala, but then somehow got myself off onto this sci-fi post-apocalyptic tangent...

But maybe this is what I really wanted to say anyway, in some obscure corner of my mind: Maybe there is really no such thing as a twilight, as far as the cybershala is concerned. No matter what kinds of newer social media (4.0, 5.0, even 6.0, whatever that might be...) emerge to try to replace or supplant the cybershala, the cybershala and its images and writings (including, if I may be so presumptuous, the writings on this blog) will be preserved and will survive as long as humankind retains the ability to access and view digital media.  Claudia and Grimmly and Kino (and a whole bunch of cyber-Ashtangis too numerous to mention here) will continue to perform their asanas into the millenia to come...

Viva La Cybershala.          


  1. Terrible, terrible digression!! Viva. I also believe that digital media without a hard sales pitch is better enjoyed here and in the Son-ji hereafter...

    1. May Sonmi bless the cybershala and all its inhabitants with continued abundance, long life, and prosperity...

  2. Jai!

    I will always love the diarists, and have faith this is not blogger twilight.

    What Claudia and Grimmly and Small Blue Pearls are doing is something special outside of my rubric, I think. There's an aggregator service that mirrors actions in previous and future digital moments. E.g., where you clicked on the History section at the EZBoard to get everyone's different threads on that topic, later Grim took responsibility for scouring the ashtangosphere for historical content, commenting on it in the head posts, and holding space for all manner of attention and commentary from all over the place. As moderator, he got executive and tonal control, but that was also happening more subtly at the EZBoard any time someone stepped in to be the moderator for a certain section.

    These roles evolve. The diarists have been doing their thing for, what, 2000 some odd years? Today, insideowl is packing up to migrate from textpattern (which was great open source software circa 2006) to a fresher platform.

    P.S. I just ordered a case of Remski and Petrie's out of print book Yoga 2.0 - the crew here are already busy reading it, deconstructing it, and articulating Yoga 3.0.

    P.P.S. This is the E.Z. board. It is golden. Anyone who likes reading blogs should get off youtube and plunge deep into these archives. All the folks listed as moderators are doing the work of keeping the threads clean enough to stay readable. Keeping the internet ants at bay! Of note, azyogini, nee' donutszenmom, now blogs at Journey To Mysore. She's also integrally involved in Yoga 5.0. And her flight for the second trip to Mysore leaves in a week. ;)

    1. I just went over and took a look at some of the threads on the EZ board. I can sense a lot of raw energy there; more people seem to be more passionately committed to their positions. Quite a bit of digging in of heels. Which is a very interesting and in some ways refreshing difference from the kind of agree-to-disagree civility that we find so often in the blogosphere these days. Nothing wrong with the latter; actually, it's probably a good thing to agree to disagree in many cases. But I just can't help feeling sometimes that many exchanges that could otherwise be illuminating and instructive are being prevented from happening by agreeing to disagree.

      But on the other hand, I'm not sure I would have been a contributor on the EZ board myself. As you can see, I'm a little too wordy for the brevity of most of the posts there...

      But anyway...

      "Today, insideowl is packing up to migrate from textpattern (which was great open source software circa 2006) to a fresher platform."

      I'd love to see what that fresher platform is :-)

      RE Remski and Petrie: I'm so sad that I won't be able to be at Yoga 3.0 :-(

  3. Us too. I just added an invitation to future practice-retreats in the quarterly newsletter. In your in-box tonight.

    So true about agree-to-disagree! I'd forgotten about how raw the discourse was at the EZBoard. The prevailing discourse now - "internet nice"? - seems to also be characterized by "I'll link to you if you link to me" agreements. That is a very good thing. It's more civil and neighborly.

    But you're right that some clarity is lost in it. It's good to be flexible and not overly personal about these discourses, right? Modern philosophy would not have been the world-changing enlightenment event it was had its players agreed to disagree. I love sharp, strong minds, and find them more exciting when the come together with points of contrast or even conflict. No big D.

    1. I look forward to the newsletter :-)

      'The prevailing discourse now - "internet nice"? - seems to also be characterized by "I'll link to you if you link to me" agreements. That is a very good thing. It's more civil and neighborly.'

      That may be so. But the flip side of this is that everybody expects everybody to be nice *all* the time, and take things a little too personally when people (like me sometimes) stray from the niceness conventions in order to disagree very strongly about something. There are blogs out there (I won't name any names) that not only won't link to me, but will actually delete any comments I leave on their posts, just because I said or wrote something harsh about them like, a million years ago... is all this really worth putting in this much negative energy? I mean, none of us are even getting paid to do this (at least not that I know of...). As you said, no big D.

      Excuse the rant. Got a bit carried away there.