Overriding the Algorithm

Everything that we consume becomes integrated, it all becomes a part of us. Whether its the food we eat, the things we drink, the substances we use, the physical atmosphere of the space around us, or even just the things we watch and listen to, all of these things effect us. Often in ways we don’t intend for them to. I’ve been contemplating this idea a lot lately. I’ve always been hyper aware of the things I put into my body. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean I make the right choices in that area often enough. My primary concern was always with the effects these things have on my weight and physical appearance. The subtler aspects of how what I consume effects my mental and emotional wellbeing always seem to remain largely overlooked.

Without looking at the scientific data showing correlation, it can be very difficult to even connect the way we feel with what we are consuming day to day. It is probably effecting us more than we realize, especially when it comes to anxiety disorders. In addition to cutting back on processed foods, artificial sweeteners, sugar, caffeine, and nicotine, I also want to start changing the content that I consume online. It would be interesting to make these changes just to see if I notice a difference. To log my mood and anxiety level throughout this process to try to gauge just how different I might feel without all of these harmful influences being so enmeshed in my life.

Knowing what I do now about the way our internet experience is basically tailor made for us by algorithms, I would like to try my hand at making that algorithm serve me instead of steer me. I’ve always been someone who enjoys the grittier side of movies and series. So the videos that are offered to me for easy access are primarily about murder mysteries, drug addiction, mental illness, homelessness, social injustice, civil unrest, etc. And while these topics are very interesting, they can also be very upsetting and depressing. When this is the only content that is readily available to you, it can start to feel like all that there is. I wonder how much of what I think and feel every day is directly impacted by this endless background noise of destruction, violence, and despair. Would I be a different person, would I think differently if I actively sought out different content?

One of the reasons the idea of the algorithm guiding our hand has been on my mind so much lately, is because of what’s currently happening on my Netflix account. Somehow I fell down a rabbit whole of watching English dubbed, foreign TV series. Don’t get me wrong, quite well-produced and intriguing stuff, but after awhile I get tired of the voiceover and the dialogue not lining up with the actors’ lip movements. Much to my dismay I seem unable to extricate myself from this issue. Netflix continues to suggest only these shows, and due to my general laziness I put up with watching another one rather than put any effort into finding a good American made show instead. Thus furthering Netflix’s propensity toward offering me foreign series and films. The algorithms that were created to assist us, eventually start to direct and limit our ability to make our own decisions. Only with great, intentional effort can we overcome this endless loop.

Another reason I am interested in the idea of changing the content I consume is to discover just how difficult it would actually be to do. How quickly would the algorithm adjust to a drastic change in interest? The only reason I haven’t done this sooner is because I enjoy the content I consume as I’m sure we all do. I don’t feel confident that I will be able to find more positive content that will interest me as much. I worry that I won’t be satisfied if I limit myself to only watching lighthearted, fluffy shows. I suppose if that ends up being the case, I can always transition away from it again. Perhaps I’d even be able to establish a nice balance between these opposing genres.

I’m going to do some investigating and see if there are any useful resources already out there online for ways to go about shifting your internet experience so that you are exposed to more uplifting content. It seems that someone must have already had the idea to consciously manipulate the algorithm for the benefit of their mental health already. It will be interesting to expose myself to a whole new side of the internet that has remained hidden from me until now. Who knows what I may uncover? I’ll be sure to make an update to this post once I implement this new plan and discover how this seemingly innocuous change effects me.

Photo by Anthony Shkraba on Pexels.com

The Value of Virtual Yoga

If you’ve ever done a yoga video on YouTube then you probably know about Yoga with Adriene. She is one of the most famous yoga YouTubers with over 9 million subscribers! I have been doing yoga with this amazing woman since the very beginning of my yoga journey. Even though we have never met or even spoken to one another, I genuinely feel as though she is my guru, my teacher, my yoga guide. It is a strange and beautiful, one-sided bond.

After my class today, another teacher at my studio asked me who my primary teacher was since I don’t live close enough to regularly take classes where I teach. I hesitated, embarrassed, because I don’t ever attend classes in person. I offered Adriene’s name with a nervous laugh. This obviously didn’t really count in the eyes of the person who was asking. None of the other teachers at my studio think very highly of online yoga classes.

I can understand their hesitancy to embrace the idea. They are yogi’s that are much older than myself. Not only that but free YouTube yoga could potentially wipe out the yoga industry all together. Why pay for a class when you can do one for free from the comfort of your own home? So I get their insistence that you are missing out by not attending class in person. There are certainly benefits that you get from a studio that you can’t get at home. At a yoga studio you get to be part of a community. You can speak with your teacher one on one and receive real-time feedback on your practice. Not to mention, you don’t get all those wonderful adjustments from a virtual teacher! There is also a delicious energy that is created in a room full of yogis practicing together that is impossible to experience with a home practice.

So I certainly would still encourage people to join a studio and find a local yoga community. However, I personally prefer my at home practice. I it just a better fit for me and probably a lot of other people around the world as well. Today I wanted to take the time to explain why that is.

Benefits of Yoga Online:

Affordability:

Even though I, myself, am a yoga teacher, to be honest, I don’t think yoga classes are worth what they typically cost. I’ve only paid for a few classes in my entire life, most of them special donation based outdoor ones at that. I deeply respect my fellow teachers and value what they do. However, in my opinion, yoga should never be about money. I never expected to make money from becoming a yoga teacher. I just wanted to deepen my practice and be able to share yoga with others. With YouTubers like Adriene, you don’t have to pay a dime. Yoga studios are great if you can afford it, but online classes allow daily yoga to be accessible to everyone.

Privacy:

When I began my yoga journey, I was even more socially anxious than I am today. The only reason I was even brave enough to take a yoga class in college was because I had to take some time of PE credit to graduate, plus I had a scholarship so it was free. There are many people that may never be brave enough to walk into a yoga studio. It can be very daunting for even an extroverted person to be a beginner surrounded by people with experience. Online classes allow you to experiment with yoga from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Not only is it less intimidating, but it allows you to focus on what really matters. Often in classes with other people I find myself comparing and competing. I feel envious of other people as they easily go into asanas that I struggle with. I push my body farther than I would when no one is watching. An at-home yoga practice eliminates all of that. When I’m at home it is much easier to focus on my breath and on how the pose feels rather than what it looks like. I am able to really let go, let my guard down, and be silly.

Time:

Things are just easier when you don’t have to worry about time. With yoga videos you never have to worry about fitting a 90 minute class into your schedule. You don’t even have to put clothes on! You can do yoga in bed if you want to. This removes yet another obstacle that could potentially keep someone from yoga. A coworker asked my the other day, “Do you have to do yoga for an hour every time to receive the benefits?” I had to restrain myself from bursting out into laughter. “Hell no!” I told her. I hardly ever do a full hour unless I’m teaching. Doing 5 minutes of yoga is always better than not doing any. There are yoga videos on YouTube that are 1 minute, 5 minutes, 15 minutes, any length of time you want. You can find flows to do while you are in bed, driving in your car, or sitting in your office at work. With the internet, there is always time for yoga.

These are just a few of the many reasons that Adriene’s channel means so much to me. She has brought yoga into countless homes and lives that might have never experienced it otherwise. I am so grateful that she and other YouTubers continue to make yoga affordable, accessible, and convenient for everyone. Even if you are a teacher yourself, please still consider recommending online yoga as a supplement to in-person classes. Even if you attend a studio, it is always important to have a personal, at-home practice as well. Besides, yoga is a gift and gifts shouldn’t have to cost you anything.

Support One Another

I just wanted to take a moment to share the recent work of one of my dear vegan friend, The Benevolent Wench. After years of anticipation, she has finally started filming videos for her YouTube channel. I hope that you will all go check her out. Like and share her videos and help to give another vegan voice the audience it so desperately needs.

photo