The COVID-19 pandemic has literally turned our lives upside down and how fast we have adopted to the changes! We have learned to cherish family time, work from home, work out from home, clean and cook, share and care, and some have even learned to give themselves and others new hair cuts! Clearly, the lockdown has helped us plan our day to day activities and understand the importance of living a well-balanced lifestyle.
Talking about balance, the focus is not just on work-life balance, but also on mind-body balance. Work from home hasn’t been easy for many. With news of pay-cuts, job loss, and extended lockdown, people are stressed and anxious about the uncertain future. Stay-at-home fitness activities have become popular and staying fit and eating right does help, but when it comes to fitness, it’s not just the physical health that is important, but mental and emotional health is also very important.
The practice of Yoga has yet again proved itself as one of the most effective tools to lead a holistic and healthy lifestyle. Yoga is a complete workout for the body, mind, and soul. With all the fitness and yoga centers closed, studios, trainers, and teachers have now taken their classes online. However, teaching and learning Yoga online is very different from in-person training and hands-on experience.
“Yoga is bringing fitness in body, calmness in mind, kindness in heart and awareness in life.”Amit Ray
Though online yoga sessions are a lifesaver for many yoga teachers and students, the number of resources available online can be really confusing and at times intimidating, especially for beginners. At JURU Yoga, we have made an attempt to understand the nuances of online yoga sessions from both teachers as well as a student’s perspective. Below are a few points you can keep in mind if you plan to take your yoga sessions online or if you plan to learn yoga online.
Learning Yoga Online
You could be an absolute beginner, or you may be familiar with Yoga and are looking for some inspiration online to get into a routine by following a particular teacher or style of yoga, or you may have specific health goals such as weight loss, back pain, anxiety, etc and are looking at specific yoga classes, or you may be a regular practitioner and are looking at deepening your practice; whatever it may be, online Yoga classes have it all.
Where to look
Youtube is a good platform to learn online, there are many Indian and International yoga teachers with free DIY classes. You can choose the videos and intensity that appeals to you. You can easily stream videos on your big screen and follow the classes comfortably.
You can also participate in online zoom sessions which are very useful if you have never done yoga before. These classes offer personalized attention and being a live session, you can get real-time alignment correction and learn the right techniques without the risk of any injury.
Facebook and Instagram are also great platforms to get some yoga tips from yogis you follow. Many teachers and studios have started conducting live sessions on Facebook.
And then, of course, you have a whole world of Yoga apps. However, unless you familiarise with the teacher or style of yoga you want to follow, which is easier with the above-mentioned platforms, you may find the choices of apps rather overwhelming.
What to look for
When choosing an online class, be it pre-recorded sessions on Youtube and other apps or live classes, make sure you first decide what you want to learn. Yoga has many forms like Hatha Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Vinyasa, Power Yoga, Restorative Yoga, etc and though most of the forms cover all aspects of Yoga, such as breathing and meditation, there are teachers who plan their classes with equal (if not more) emphasis on these aspects.
You may thus come across sessions that fully focus on therapeutic yoga or relaxation techniques or themes as chakra balancing or deep meditation. Thus, before you start it is important to know what is it that you expect from the yoga practice and how yoga can help you achieve these goals and accordingly choose your session or teacher or yoga school.
One important thing is to identify the right teacher for you.
How do you know if the teacher is right for you?
Make sure you familiarise yourself with the teacher and know more about their teaching experience, the style or styles of yoga they teach and practice, and if possible, try to connect with the teacher before enrolling for their session, even if it is online. If they have free sessions on their channel, website, or page, it is advisable that you attend one or two sessions to gauge their effectiveness for the following:
- Communication Skills: This is of utmost importance as the teacher is not physically present to guide you or correct you, thus the teacher’s knowledge of both practice as well as philosophy is crucial to eliminate the risk of injury, to help you develop a strong foundation and to keep you motivated. Know-how about Sanskrit mantras and asana names is certainly an added bonus.
- Voice: If the voice is weak or very systematic, you may lose interest in the class or may not be able to follow the instructor. Yoga is all about being present and the teacher’s instructions should be able to achieve this.
- Speed or pace: The pace of the class varies depending on the student’s ability and requirement. A good teacher will always keep every individual student’s practice in mind, even if he/she is teaching a group. Someone who is too fast or too slow can deter your growth and keep you developing the correct awareness.
- Qualification and Experience: Even if you join classes conducted by Yoga shala or school, make an effort to find out about your teacher or teachers’ qualification and experience. If they have not shared their details on the course details or their website, reach out to them and ask. If you plan to register for a zoom live class, make sure you talk to the teacher once before you sign up, if not most of them have social media accounts, youtube channels or a website.
Should you explore/switch options often?
It is best if you stick to one teacher whether you follow online youtube sessions or attend live classes. Every teacher has his / her strengths in different forms, some are good at breathing techniques, some at asanas, some with yoga flows and some have in-depth knowledge about therapeutic yoga and philosophy.
Some yoga schools have different teachers taking different sessions and there is definitely no harm in giving them a try; however, it is advisable that you switch from teacher to another or from one style of yoga to another, only after you complete the course or workshop.
Teaching Yoga Online
The times are tough and challenging for teachers and studio owners as the lockdown has led to a near halt in the revenue flow. But the good news is that people are now looking at tools that can help them sail through this lockdown period effectively and comfortably and mental and physical health is certainly on the agenda. Many people are now looking at online fitness and wellness platforms and are willing to learn and explore options.
They are looking at holistic practices that will help them battle stress, anxiety, boredom, depression, etc. Search for Yoga asana, pranayama, and meditation practices is on the rise and you could turn this loss into an opportunity by providing them with good quality content and resources.
“It’s a really simple formula: Your experience + Yoga = New Students.”Gudjon Bergmann,
Though the lockdown has eased in various locations around the globe, know-how on how to teach yoga online effectively will certainly help any yoga teacher in their career. Also, distance learning helps your existing students to continue their practice with you even if they move to a different city/country.
Knowing which platform is right for you
Today, there are many online teaching platforms and many organizations are also offering their online platforms for yoga teachers to reach out to students. Such organizations have already identified the most effective platforms to teach yoga.
If you plan to take direct classes, there options like Zoom, Air Meet, Google Meet, Webex, and more.
Depending on whether it’s free or paid you can choose your platform. FB Live is a good platform for free classes.
Zoom is best for paid sessions as the video and voice quality is very dependable. As a teacher, if you have explored other platforms, please share your valuable feedback as comments.
Clarity in communication
When teaching online, it is important to communicate very clearly. Review some sessions on YouTube, a platform where the teacher instructs multiple participants through his/her videos. Try and follow a few online sessions yourself to be able to better understand what works and what doesn’t.
The experience is very different from teaching offline. For example, just repeating your instructions in an online class may not work as effectively as it does offline, especially if you are expecting your students to hold the posture for a few counts. Moreover, if it is not a live session, you have to be very clear in your message if the class is for beginner, intermediate, or advanced level,l and you should be aware of this through your class.
We get it, while some of you may be extremely comfortable with technology and are well equipped, some of you may feel absolutely overwhelmed on hearing the term, ‘technical know-how’! It is absolutely fine. Take a deep breath and relax. It is a lot simpler than you think.
You certainly need a good internet connection. Apart from this, you need a computer with a webcam or you can use your phone along with a tripod.
Audio quality is very important and the inbuilt microphone is not enough. So be prepared to invest in a headset with mic (wireless) so you can comfortably move around without worrying about the audio quality.
If you are teaching live, find a small space for yourself and set your mat and props and test if the screen can capture you completely as you flow in and out of various asanas. Check the lighting and background. It helps if it looks more or less like a yoga studio as your students will appreciate this.
While natural lighting is best, if you feel the need to improve your lighting, you can invest in some softbox lights which are usually not very expensive. If you plan to play music in the background, do a test run to see if it is not overpowering your voice and if you can play around with the volume controls comfortably.
Today with teaching-yoga-online becoming a competitive space, teachers need to know how to market themselves. Reach out to potential members through your Instagram, FB and Whatsapp Groups and as mentioned earlier, approach organizations who already have an online presence and are willing to offer their platform to you.
Do not hesitate to put out a few free videos on your website, Youtube channel or FB and keep a track of the likes and comments. Interact with your followers. Share your knowledge and experience with them. Word of mouth and personal references are still one of the best ways to reach out to your target audience. Ask for feedback and reviews and share them.
Providing quality free content
They say free is not of any value; but in these times when ‘’health is wealth’’ even, free content needs to be curated with planning to ensure the viewers get the best out of what you have to offer as a teacher, as these viewers can become your students.
Providing certificates online
It’s a good practice to give completion certificates to your students. This helps them be aware of the time they are investing and appreciate the effort they put in those days of learning. It also keeps them motivated to practice every day.
If you or your Yoga school offer certified courses like teacher training certifications, you can curate an online syllabus and start offering distance-learning courses and certifications even to yoga teachers who are looking at enhancing their learning skills and learning new forms of yoga.
In the end, the yoga teachers should make sure students continue their practice and you can make sure they do so with follow up classes.
“Yoga is a light which once lit will never dim, the better your practice the brighter your flame.”B.K.S. Iyengar