Modern yogis are neck-deep in a love/hate relationship with technology. The rise of Instagram yoga challenges, Facebook yoga madness, and even yoga podcasts has many of the more “traditional” yogis raising an eyebrow—how can this technological obsession be advancing our practice in any way? “Put down your phone and get on your mat,” we can almost hear them say.
But Sonam, the founder of the Himalayan Yoga Bliss school in Darjeeling, India, has found a different relationship with technology. Since her goal is to make the teachings of yoga accessible to everyone, she has embraced all that technology makes possible—and in a way that she feels enriches her practice.
“I'm a very ‘techie’ yogi. I have to be—I love technology. It's there to make things easier for you. If you really want to follow the Yogic path, then you might think you have to leave every support system. The great Yogis of the past chose a path where they detached from everything. They moved to the Himalayas and just meditated. In my yoga practice, I obviously cannot do that. I cannot detach from technology because my goal is to generate more and more Yoga students, and keep the spiritual flame of knowledge burning...”
The internet has been a crucial part of Sonam’s mission to get yogis to Darjeeling. Doubtlessly, it has helped to spread the word of Yoga far beyond where it might otherwise go. But how can a yogi work toward presence, consciousness, and stillness, with so much information constantly barraging our senses? Sonam believes it’s all in how you choose to use your digital gateways.
“I think that the kind of consciousness you are in will consciously or unconsciously attract the same kind of information to you. They're both connected. If you are a yogi, then you are going to Google all about the Rishis, the great sages, or the ancient sacred texts. It's great for me because I am in a level of awareness where my consciousness is seeking for the same level of information in technology. And I can find it, in just a click!”
With conscious presence, Sonam believes, you’ll be drawn to use technology in such a way that it supports your journey within. Technology makes all kinds of spiritual teachings completely accessible at our fingertips.
We can take our journey even further if we use the internet as a tool for seeking spiritual knowledge.
“I think it is great how I can do that! Previously, these teachings were totally inaccessible for most people. Now, all of the information is there, just a web search away. As the beautiful Sufi poet Rumi says, ‘What you are seeking, is seeking you.’ If you are a seeker in any tradition, you can meet and merge with the spiritual information that is seeking you!"
However, there needs to be consciousness and awareness brought to how we use the boundless information that is available at our fingertips. Losing ourselves in the pursuit of information, simply because technology has made it available, is a fruitless endeavor—and can turn into an addiction. Nevertheless, Sonam says, we cannot condemn it:
“Humans, by nature, are always looking for new things. Our curious minds have a pattern of finding and sticking to a new addiction. Social media is an example of that kind of addiction. But I always believe that you should not condemn it. It's there, and I think you should neither reject it, nor become too addicted, but use this boon selectively… Once you start to use technology selectively, I think it's great. Otherwise like the theory of natural selection, it will replace you. You have to move along with the traffic, or else you will just be a myth that existed once upon a time.”
The ancient practice of yoga must coexist with technology today. “The ancient Yogis were nothing if not great scientists! Their theories were not based on their own imagination, but were the result of deep, empirical investigation. Today’s yoga teachers must also learn how to adapt to an ever-changing landscape.” With a perspective like Sonam’s, perhaps there can even be a beautiful lesson amidst all the beeping and status updates:
“Our relationship to technology is like our relationship to knowledge. Knowledge can be diabolical, or it can be divine. Likewise, technology can be diabolical, if you don't use it in a selective and conscious manner. If you let it go wild, then it will become a different thing altogether. Awareness of our actions is very important.”
As any yogi knows, our minds are better as horses than as riders. Perhaps, just as we take the time to tame our minds themselves, we can take the time to tame our relationship to technology. Then this amazing new resource can be put into the service of awakening. So let’s find the sacred in the internet, one conscious click at a time.
Sonam Dukpa is the Founder and Director of Himalayan Yoga Bliss in Darjeeling, India. Her aim is to make Yoga teacher training reachable to everyone in order to help students from various backgrounds and cultures from all around the world to experience the mystical powers of the Himalayas and the inspiration it has bestowed upon Yogis for centuries.