How're you doing? I mean it. Gently check in with yourself and see how you're feeling. In this COVID-19 world, many of us are overwhelmed and stuck in survival mode. I get it. It’s happening to me too. But staying in survival mode will stop us from serving our students and building stronger communities. As we deal with the new challenges we are all facing, here are 5 things yoga teachers can do right now to support themselves, their students and each other.
1. Take your own medicine
You know that yoga really, REALLY works. You gift your students the healing power of yoga every time you teach a class. But how is your self practice? I know, you don't need a lecture from me. But please, for your own sake (and those you love), make time to move, breathe, meditate and rest. If your personal practice isn’t giving you what you need (or if you don’t have one) reach out to another teacher you admire and ask for guidance. We all need to support each other to get through this.
2. Make friends with technology
Yoga teachers who have avoided using technology, either because they are unsure how to use it or don’t think it’s a good way to teach yoga, are facing some real challenges right now. If you’re one of the many teachers who can’t afford to wait it out until the yoga studios and gyms reopen, it’s time to embrace technology and start teaching online. Your students will thank you for it (find free tutorials for getting your classes online here).
3. Ask your students what they need
What do your students actually need right now? I’ve found that students who usually love an active practice are suddenly asking for meditation and relaxation techniques. Others who usually love a restorative practice are asking for more movement because they’re isolated at home all day. Don’t just teach what you’ve always taught - ask your students what they need. Remember, you’re teaching people, not poses. And those people have had their lives turned upside down.
4. Innovate - you have more to offer than asana classes
We can’t teach face to face classes right now, and online classes might not be the right choice for every yoga teacher. But you have MUCH more to offer than you might think! Your students need your expertise and there are many ways to deliver that, such as:
Audio: If you’re feeling ambitious, start a podcast. If you want to keep it simple, you can record instructions for meditation, pranayama and other yoga techniques on your phone then upload to a platform like Insight Timer (they’ll pay you for your contribution, too).
E-books: Thanks to Canva, you don’t need to have a creative bone in your body to create yoga e-books, practice sheets and more. You can also use platforms like YogaMate to design and deliver digital practices - if you’ve got students who still love paper based content, they can even print them off.
Private Facebook groups: Even if you don’t want to teach online, you can establish supportive and nurturing communities on social media that will keep you and your students connected.
5. Don’t give it away
Your time and expertise are not worth less just because you’re teaching online. Charge the same for your online content as you do for face to face work. If you know a student can’t afford to pay for what you do, and you can afford to discount your prices, then by all means offer by-donation or even no-cost classes. But don’t just give it away because you feel bad about charging people in the middle of a crisis.
Sounds heartless? Like me, you probably have kids to feed and rent to pay. That's why we need to charge the people who can afford to pay. We can do that while supporting as many students who can’t afford to pay as we can. But you will destroy your capacity to support anybody at all if you give away your work when you don’t have to.
6. Manage your mindset (bonus tip!)
I spoke to a yoga teacher this week who said ‘Les Mills is offering free online classes - I can’t compete with that’. I suggested that her students want her, not Les Mills. She replied ‘But most of them are going to go with the free option, aren’t they?’ I replied that we were taking two different perspectives - both of which are true. It was up to her to decide which perspective she wanted to work with. That's what mindset is all about - deciding what to focus on.
Managing your mindset is the most important thing you can do for yourself and your students right now. Safeguard your sanity by spending less time on social media and more time looking for opportunities. This too shall pass - and where will you be when it does?
What innovative ways can you serve your students now? What can you do to prepare to have an even bigger positive impact on your community in the future? Here are some examples of inspirational yoga teachers making things work for them and their students:
- When a teacher friend of mine moved her classes online, she reconnected with students who had moved overseas. They are now paying to do her classes via Zoom.
- A teacher in Queensland contacted me to say she’s finally started writing the book she’s always wanted to write for the cancer patients she serves in her community.
- A yoga therapist in NSW emailed me about an online course she’s signed up for to refine her skills in her area of specialisation - yoga for back care.
- Another yoga therapist in Victoria DM’d me with exciting news of a private Facebook group she’s started. It’s helping her build a strong community that will serve her students, and her business, long after the COVID-19 crisis is over.
Now is the time to up-skill, innovate and inspire your community. And remember to look after YOU. Treat yourself as you would your most precious student. Be kind, be gentle and look for the good in the world. It’s right there.
Get free teaching resources - yoga, meditation and more:
Upcoming Professional Training at Adore
Nikola Ellis is the founder of Adore Yoga, yoga therapist, counsellor and teacher trainer. She conducts regular trainings that help people of all ages, shapes and abilities enjoy the benefits of yoga and meditation, including Meditation Facilitator Certificate Trainings; Level 1 200hr Teacher Training and Post Graduate Yoga Teacher Training in Mental Health, Adaptive Asana and the Foundations of Yoga Therapy and a highly regarded professional 650hr Graduate Certificate of Yoga Therapy.