Teaching Yoga During a Pandemic

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

Three weeks ago, I thought the studios that I have taught in for years were closing for two weeks. We all did. As sad as it was, I felt a sense of relief because the company I worked for made the courageous and preemptive decision to close their doors. Although many yogis understood and supported the decision, it was quite unpopular for a significant amount of them as well. I saw some of the negative responses on Twitter accusing them of "buying into the paranoia". Now, just a short time later, we know it was the right choice. As difficult as this has all been, our company really did go above and beyond in the aftermath.

Not only did they pay us for two weeks of work, unheard of in our industry, they lead the most powerful online faceless meeting I have ever attended, no sarcasm intended. That is the power of yoga. I know they will be working hard to get their doors back open when we are out of this pandemic and I will be happy to continue teaching for them.

Suddenly, many yoga instructors are among the millions of unemployed Americans. A calling to teach and nowhere to make it happen. We understood but we missed each other and our yogi friends. Our company began offering free live-stream classes with fantastic teachers. That made me feel better. I know I am not alone when I tell you that my first thought was "At least my yogi friends and students will have a way to practice." I felt a sense of relief. Things would be okay eventually.

But as the situation has progressed, it became obvious that we are in this for the long haul. It didn't take long for the yogis we know and love after years of teaching and practicing together began to reach out through emails, texts, and social media. They came forward to tell us "We know that we have access to thousands of other teachers online, but we want OUR teachers. We want you."

It made sense. They were seeking a familiar voice and a friend to guide them through their practice during this time of complete disconnect and uncertainty. The truth is, we missed them terribly too. Many of us are deeply connected with many of them. Often, what people on the outside don't see is the incredible gift of connection that yoga offers.

Not only do we hear each other's stories, we cry together, laugh together, celebrate together, and we mourn together. We are friends and confidants. Together, we have created a community that is so full of love, vibrancy, and resilience that collectively we were not willing to let it go. In fact, we did not even let it pause. And so, a movement was born.

Yoga teaches us that we are strong and capable. It teaches us to be vulnerable and brave and to flow with change rather than fight it. Many of us teachers have begun to teach on Zoom, Facebook Live, and Instagram, and our students are grateful. The feeling is reciprocal. Together we have embraced this change. Online and live-stream teaching has been around a while but it is new to me and most of the teachers I know as well. Most of us hadn't seen a reason to do so.

We teachers have been trading ideas and mishaps, going to each other's online classes, and supporting each other through emails, texts, and social media as we navigate this new way of teaching. Our yogis have stepped up to the plate by enthusiastically joining our classes and also by their willingness to offer feedback. On a personal note, I am surprised to discover the beauty and ease of practicing in my living room, with my favorite teachers.

After 7 years of guiding more than 2,500 classes in person, live-stream teaching has pushed me back out my comfort zone. In a sense, it has made me a beginner again. In the yoga world, we know that to be beautiful thing. A beginner's mind will keep learning and growing. If we think we know everything, we have no reason or motivation to adapt to change with grace.

I see it as a new beginning and also as a way to expand and grow as a teacher. I have learned more than I thought I could about technology by finding my way through glitches and learning from my mistakes. I have been more willing to reach out to people, ask questions, and get feedback than I ever have been. I, like many of my cohorts, was simply not willing to stop doing the work I love. In spite of the treacherous circumstances of how we got here, this forced transition has provided me with gifts I did not expect.

I have found a new sense of resolve and passion that I didn't know existed in me. I have delighted in creating my own schedule and adding new dimensions to classes as well as adding my own specialty classes as I please. Today I found out I will have the opportunity to teach online classes to the runners of the incredible Transrockies Run as they are preparing for August. It is a fantastic race that I have done twice myself. To be honest, teaching yoga to a group of bad-ass runners is a dream come true for me.

Last but not least, I have launched this blog. While the vision to do so has been lingering for months, perhaps even years, in the back of my mind, the fall-out of the coronavirus gave me the drive and energy to get it done. Life is short, it goes by quick, and I want to get to the end knowing that I was not afraid to follow my passions with all of my heart.

Sometimes the most difficult situations create the largest potential for growth, if we are willing to take a risk and grow out of our comfort zone.



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