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Teaching Yoga Online Part 1: Hopes for Permanent Shifts

Updated: May 29, 2020

In this series of posts, I'll share what I’ve learned about teaching online. I'll keep updating these posts with new thoughts and resources:

  • Part 1: Hopes for Permanent Shifts (below) - opportunities to address inequities for teachers and students

  • Part 2: Tech Set-up - don't repeat my mistakes

  • Part 3: Audio Deep Dive - how to choose the right audio for you and tips for the Rode Wireless Go

  • Part 4: Forget the Tech & Teach (coming soon)

If you’re just starting out teaching online or feel like you’re still fumbling along, take a deep breath and repeat to yourself that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Know that I and others are right there with you taking those deep breaths and repeating this mantra!

Students in my and other teachers’ classes have been overwhelmingly patient with any technical issues and extremely grateful for our offerings during these challenging times.

I do think livestream yoga is here for a while longer and even has a future once we are able to head back into the studio. And I’m always looking for ways to improve my teaching experience for students. (By the way, recording yourself, even just audio, is one of the best ways to evaluate your own teaching and keep practicing!)

I’ve been constantly tweaking my offerings, operations, and technical set-up over the last two months. I’d love to learn from you! Please leave a comment to share your experiences, tips, or intel as a student and/or teacher.


Part 1: Hopes for Permanent Shifts

In the rest of this four-part series, I'll focus on how to pivot your teaching from in-person to online. First, I think it's important for us to consider how this divergence from our old "normal" has given the yoga community a chance to address issues of equity and accessibility that are part of the modern studio-based practice.

Our world has been upturned by COVID-19, and I have many moments of anger, frustration, anxiety, fear, and depression. But I also have hope.

I think we have a unique opportunity to use technology to connect us and to create permanent and much needed change in the yoga world, especially related to equity and accessibility.

I am very privileged, and I am by no means an expert on equity and accessibility. I've listed a few resources below, and I'd appreciate any that you're willing to share.

These are some of my observations and things that make me hopeful.

Susanna Barkataki has wonderful resources about Teaching Online Equitably, in addition to her work on honoring yoga's roots.

Reclamation Ventures is doing amazing work to provide micro-grants to under-represented wellness entrepreneurs through COVID-19. They are also working with Setu to report on how the wellness industry needs to shift in order to increase equity and opportunity. Teachers, please go take their survey.

Students who may not want to practice in person (for any reason) can now do so online with many more options. Students can choose to have their video on or not (for any reason). I have definitely noticed many students of all ages, who have always been meaning to or wanting to practice, start now.

Students with hearing difficulties or loss can modify the volume to suit their needs or use closed captioning tools.

Sliding-scale payments, scholarships, and free classes provide financial flexibility for students who cannot afford typical yoga studio prices on a regular basis or particularly nowadays. (It is important for those who are able to pay to do so in order to support yoga teachers and studios.)

Students whose schedules or responsibilities don't allow them to practice regularly at a yoga studio can now practice anytime their schedules allow with zero commute. Teachers also no longer have to hustle around town from studio to studio, wasting limited time, money, and energy.

There is a definitely a component of tech involved on the studio side to offer online yoga effectively, but online teaching can level the playing field. Smaller studios can expand and reach more students, even globally. With relative ease, teachers can offer classes independent of a studio to teach what they want, to whom they want, when they want, and for how much.

I also don't want to ignore some of the possible inequities.

Students who lack adequate internet bandwidth to stream live or recorded classes are now underserved. Some may only have enough bandwidth to watch class but not share their own video, missing out on personal instruction. But with this challenge comes the opportunity for audio-only classes or for dialing in. These teachers will need the skills to provide extremely clear and precise instruction.

Some students and teachers are less tech savvy and need extra support for online yoga yoga. To help students, post a how-to on your website (here's my FAQ) and be available for basic questions. Teachers, reach out to your colleagues for support and make use of all the many wonderful resources available.

Some teachers have circumstances that make it more difficult for them to teach online. This might be lack of physical space. Their living situation might be particularly noisy with kids, roommates, or pets. They may not have the financial resources to teach online or to invest in improvements. Teachers may not have their own marketing channels to reach students independently. And so many more.

I don't think these extra obstacles mean teachers can't teach online, but they only pile onto all of the stresses of our current situation. If you know a teacher who needs support on any front, please reach out to them and let them know you care. Provide them with whatever resources you have (time, money, guidance, connections, etc).

Above all, let's keep practicing abundance together.

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