When I first started teaching yoga, I never imagined that I would ever do it online. There are already so many teachers and tutorials available- who was I to post myself up there with them? Everything I believed about being a good teacher I felt needed to be done in person. And what I wanted from my work, living here in the countryside of Catalunya, was community. Real life people to build real life relationships with.
But when face-to-face classes were postponed during lockdown, I received messages from students asking “have you thought about using Zoom to teach?”
What??? I’d never heard of Zoom. Never thought doing a class online was a thing that could be achieved from the finca with our dodgy wifi and only a laptop. A techno wizard I am not. My monkey thoughts burst into action, all holding neon signs pointing to ‘NO you can’t’.
But I am lucky to live with a sound engineer with video conference know-how (and unbelievable patience with me and the aforementioned dodgy wifi). And lucky to have supportive and encouraging students up for joining me in the experiment.
For the first few weeks of Zoom teaching I suffered vivid and reoccurring dreams about over sleeping and missing a class, my computer breaking and , yes, even the classic new job dream, turning up naked to teach.
I found writing and preparing classes to teach online difficult. I had loved the process before, researching and thinking about each student, how I could link or find new ways to explore the poses. Now I questioned E V E R Y T H I N G. Could I safely cue a pose? What if someone didn’t understand and couldn’t follow? What if someone hurt themselves? All valid concerns but they were really holding me back from enjoying something I love doing: sharing yoga.
Earlier in the year I had been researching cueing for alignment (and how much I should be) after reading an article called ‘When a Strict Alignment Focus Limits Your Practice’ on Yoga International. These fears I was encountering whilst planning my lessons tied in with thoughts I was formulating about this subject, and online teaching gave me an opportunity to try thinking less about alignment and focus more on students exploring the shape for themselves. That might sound obvious but it is hard to get the soundtrack of yoga cues out of your head. And hard not to influence how a student practices a pose when they are right in front of you.
It has been important to remind myself that I am just a guide for the practice and that the best person to know whether something feels right is the person practicing- that they have autonomy on the mat! There is a strong argument that physical stress (discomfort) is our catalyst to adapt, grow and become stronger. By trying to avoid people feeling discomfort, perhaps I am denying a student that opportunity to grow. Teaching online has taken away the ability to physically assist or watch what each student does, so I have had to take that step back from always needing to check if everyone is comfortable and to trust that after our classes together I have enabled my students to guide their own practice.
My other worry about teaching online was whether I would still feel that sense of community. But I really do. It is so wonderful to see everyone join each week from their homes, with their furry friends. And special that students from different classes and different countries are sharing this time together. While I don’t believe this feeling would be as strong without all the previous face-to-face teaching or out of the context of lockdown, I am nonetheless thrilled that I still feel connected. Yoga has been an anchor me for many years, giving me a sense of peace and purpose. Starting to online teaching has given me reason to look back and think about why yoga is important to me and why I wanted to teach in the first place in order to deliver zoom class from a genuine place that feels real. I hope that those of you joining me feel the same sense of community and connection.
The online classes are continuing to evolve, as is my experience as a yoga teacher and practitioner. I feel more confident again in my ability to share yoga (no more work dreams!) and is it encouraging to receive feedback that people are enjoying being able to take multiple classes each week. It is starting to feel that once real life teaching resumes, I will continue to offer online teaching. That the two will compliment each other. Living in a rural community where everyone is far from each other, it makes sense to have a virtual studio to share a space together without the impacts of driving.
So from reluctant virtual yoga teacher, to converted ‘Zoomer’, it seems there is a lot of truth that out of our discomfort we can adapt, grow and become stronger. But it has also has shown me that it’s easier do that with a loving community to support us. And this personal experience gives me hope.
A huge thank you to you all and here’s to many more hours on the mat growing stronger together. Omm shanti xxx