A letter to all our interstate friends…
We know how challenging it is to be facing weeks of lockdown and we are sending you a big virtual hug from across the border. Over the past 18 months, we’ve learned a thing or two about how to teach yoga online and we wanted to share our experience. There’s some practical advice and tips to follow, but the main thing we learned is that our students are incredibly loyal to their own yoga practice and to us as their teachers and guides. As we pivoted from face-to-face classes to the brave new world of online, our students told us that it was yoga that got them through. (You’ll find out!)
We’ve had technology fails, awkward zoom silences and actual dogs in downward dogs as we teach from home. This has allowed us to be vulnerable and to find new ways to share this practice of yoga. While Patanjali didn’t mention zoom in the yoga sutras, we think he’d be delighted at how we’ve learned to show up, hold space and find the grace and beauty in the stark online world.
Wherever in Australia you are based, you’ve got this and we are cheering for you!
Teaching Yoga Online
- Simple Sequences: Online classes are not the place for fancy transitions and complex sequences. There are so many distractions when people practice from home: the dog interrupts, students notice the fluff under the couch and they sometimes wander off to answer the door when the postie brings the latest online shopping haul. Students appreciate simple classes with shapes and practices that they are familiar with. Think comfort food, but yoga.
- Intensity: Take it down a notch. Most students have told me that lockdown brings a quality of ‘stuckness’ and mental exhaustion. Even the strongest yogis are looking for a gentler practice from home. The most popular class styles through lockdown (s) at our studio were slow flow and yin yoga.
- Experience: A lockdown silver lining is that many students find that they really love practicing online. Some feel empowered to try classes that are outside their usual comfort zone. Some love the 10 second commute to their mat for early morning sessions. And for yin and restorative classes in the evening, they can wear their pjs or quelle horreur, mismatched yoga pants and top. Pretty damn perfect!
- Demonstration: You’re going to have to demonstrate the whole class so your students can keep up. You’ll be fitter than ever!
- Finding Connection: Make time for a little chat at the start and finish of each class. This is a powerful way to hold space for your students through the huge challenge of this lockdown experience. For some people who live alone, you may be the only contact your student has with another human for the day. Ensure that each person feels seen: mention their name, create moments of interaction by asking questions and having students either unmute themselves or type into a chat box. It’s powerful and healing when students recognise that others are having similar experiences and helps to connect us even though we are physically separate. You can even be like a wedding singer from the 80’s and ask for requests.
Yoga at Home
- Yoga Vibe: Help your students create that studio ambiance at home by inviting them to light a candle, brew a herbal tea and remove the distraction of phones and any devices not being used to livestream the class. (I wish I had a tip on how to mute the kids!)
- Props: Encourage students to get creative and make their own props. Tupperware containers or books bound with elastic bands make great yoga blocks. Rolled towels secured with string make fabulous bolsters for yin and restorative yoga. A hand towel with a couple of drops of essential oil is a gorgeous eye pillow. Raid the bed for pillows and the coach for cushions and voila, your student can practice in a cosy cocoon.
- Camera on or off? That is the question: Some students love the privacy of practicing with their camera off and don’t like to be watched while they practice, for others it’s the opposite. Empower your students to choose for themselves. And on that topic, it’s hard to teach a group class and offer specific verbal cuing for individuals, so let yourself off the hook.
- Audio: Invest in great quality sound. At the less expensive end of the spectrum, Rode make an excellent wireless microphone to amplify sound when you move away from your computer to your mat. For studios looking to invest, have a look at Audiobox with a headset microphone. (Advice can come from the strangest places; the best help I received when setting up the sound for an online studio came from a store that specialises in equipment for DJs!)
- Picture: You can certainly invest in webcams and camera add-ons but you might find, like I did, that your computer camera does a pretty good job.
- Lighting: Hardware stores have inexpensive angled lamps for around $30. A couple of these make the world of difference in the quality of your picture.
- Background: Keep the backdrop simple and uncluttered so that you stand out. Ensure you do not have light behind you, or you’ll be in shadow.
- Streaming Platforms: Most teachers choose Zoom, Facebook Live or Instagram Live to broadcast their classes. Each have their pros and cons. A quick google search will help you decide what’s best for you.
- Music: I’ve found that playing music sounds pretty terrible at the student’s end. Instead, create a spotify playlist to share. I copy and paste a spotify link at the start of each class. I also have a couple of generic spotify playlists on my website that students can access to create that yogic vibe.
Value yourself: Many teachers have said to me “Why would anyone want to do my classes when there’s so much yoga with famous yoga teachers online?” In the question is the answer: because it is YOU and your students want your friendly face, and the classes that they know and love.
Payment: Find a way to have students pay for your classes. It’s an exchange of energy and you’ll be surprised and humbled that your students will want to support you. At the end of this lockdown, students want to know that the things they love (your yoga classes!) will be there for them.
Hybrid Classes: Consider running hybrid classes (studio and online) when lockdown is lifted. You’ll find that there’s a cohort of students who are very happy practicing from home and they want to continue livestream sessions. I never planned to have an online studio, and I now have members practicing from interstate, rural Victoria and even hotel quarantine. And because it seems that our life will be intermittent lockdowns for the next few months, hybrid classes educate your students about the ease of practicing online, so when the next inevitable lockdown happens, you simply flick the switch.
Good luck Australia! You’ve got this!