The joys and challenges of teaching and practicing yoga online. By Sandra Palmer
Since the arrival of Covid-19 in our world, the way we teach yoga has changed. Studies and teachers quickly adapted to the closure of their brick and mortar studies and many immediately began teaching online. Some teachers and students love this online environment, and many people hate it.
In this article I refer to online yoga teaching as a valid choice and method for teaching yoga. I’m talking about those teachers who choose to create and maintain online yoga platforms even when their studios are open.
And to be transparent and honest, I am one of those teachers. I love it.
I have been teaching yoga online for a number of years, teaching Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TSY) at BodyMindPsychology (www.bodymindpsychology.co.nz) funded by sensitive ACC claims. My colleague Bridget McNamara and I had been teaching in person (or In Real Life IRL) for a number of years when we began receiving applications to teach TSY online so that students other than those at Auckland Center could participate. . We completed a national pilot to teach yoga and meditation online for ACC, and later received permission to do so. Since then, I have developed my own private yoga and wellness studio online for very self-centered reasons, so that I can stay in Waipū, Northland, and continue to reach out to those who enjoy my teaching. At the time of writing, the number of online classes continues to increase, in part because Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland was in another extended block. But many teachers, like me, can continue to teach online once they reopen their studies.
In February, the rise of online yoga teaching was expected to be one of the most important yoga trends for 2021. The other two planned trends were a focus on mental health and continuing education for teachers ( due to the accessibility of online training).
There are three main ways to teach yoga online:
- Live online classes through platforms like Zoom, where teachers and students can see, chat and connect and people practice together (most like an IRL class, but online)
- Live online classes where only the teacher can be seen but students can send messages or chat with the teacher, for example, IG live, FB live
- Pre-recorded on-demand classes that students watch on time (including IGTV / IG videos, live IG replays, FB replays, YogaGlo, etc.) and no chat features (at least as an IRL class)
Those yoga teachers who are determined never to teach online (and there are many) suggest a lack of community in online classes. And yes, there is not the same level of immediate, direct community that there is in practice in an IRL room. However, even IG live provides a sense of connection when you see other students coming into the virtual space. I can still feel that connection, both as a teacher and as a student.
What are the joys of teaching yoga online as a teacher?
The obvious benefits include a lack of travel and time for yoga classes. We don’t need to travel around the city and settle in and let the students in. We can only enter another room (in my case, I walk through a paddock in my office / studio).
Another advantage is that I can teach anywhere, anytime. I’m living the rural life I want while doing what I love: teaching yoga, meditation, and wellness practices. This joy permeates everything I offer.
If we offer on-demand classes instead of live classes, we can pre-record them when we feel really inspired and energized, so that our students get the most out of our creativity and energy.
And my experience as a teacher is that I can stay really focused on what I’m teaching instead of being distracted by what’s going on in the room around me (i.e. the bodies).
This is also one of the main challenges: I am not able to respond to what I have in front of me, that is, the bodies, and to adapt my signals and teaching accordingly.
I may feel isolated as a teacher when I only teach online and I have the advantage of teaching weekly TSY and monthly real-life study classes in Auckland to combat those feelings of isolation. Many teachers enter a studio to record or teach online. The best of both worlds again.
Some teachers talk about losing that “resonance” of teaching one class in real life: the vibration of your cells with another. And yes, it’s not quite the same as being in a room with other bodies. However, as a somatic psychologist, I now only work online. And I know from my experience that it is possible to resonate with other bodies through online platforms. We can still use our own mental bodies and nervous systems to help regulate the bodies of others no matter where they are.
One challenge I didn’t anticipate was that you might see more than you negotiate when you teach online. He was teaching a Zoom-based Yoga Nidra class during confinement. A student had her video on, the sound was coming through her earplugs and she was lying on the floor in her bedroom. Her husband came in and I could see him clearly as he walked around the bedroom. She had this growing fear that she would start undressing in her own bedroom, not knowing she was in Zoom (it didn’t happen, thankfully) !!!!!
You may have considered teaching online, but you wondered if it was for you. Maybe you’re teaching online and you love it or hate it. Either way, online yoga seems to be here to stay long term.
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Farb, N, Daubenmier, J., Price, CJ, Gard, T., Kerr, C., Dunn, BD, Klein, AC, Paulus, PM and Mehling, WE (2105) Interoception, contemplative practice and health. Frontiers in Psychology, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00763/full
The three most important yoga trends in 2021: https://www.yogiapproved.com/yoga/yoga-trends-2021/
I am a Registered Psychologist, iRest ® certified teacher and 500 hours + trained yoga teacher. I teach trauma-sensitive yoga and meditation iRest Yoga Nidra funded by ACC ISSC in Auckland, restorative yoga + nidra yoga in Auckland and Waipū. I have an online yoga and wellness studio with scope in Aotearoa https://www.integrativetherapy.co.nz/
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