At first (and second) glance, COVID-19 looks like a disaster for yoga teachers and students. With studios closing, social distancing rules making yoga-as-usual impossible and a million new barriers to sharing yoga, it’s been challenging. And the situation isn’t going to change any time soon in many places.
But COVID-19 restrictions have also brought new opportunities for yoga teachers and students, especially the most vulnerable. At Adore Yoga, we offer yoga therapy classes in cancer centres, hospitals and other clinical environments for students with health issues. When COVID-19 arrived, all our group classes shut down overnight - these are vulnerable, immunocompromised students. Teachers and students were devastated. But then something marvellous happened.
Online classes increases student numbers
People who had once rejected the idea of online yoga (teachers and students) were suddenly willing to give it a go. Even the most techno-phobic people stepped up. And when the online classes started up, students found that they really, REALLY enjoyed them. Not only did they experience the benefits of yoga, but they relished continued connection with fellow students - a vital part of most group yoga therapy classes.
Sure, there were some glitches along the way, but as the teachers learned how to work with the new online format, classes became smoother and student numbers grew. That’s right, more students came to the online classes than were showing up to the live sessions. There were a number of reasons for this.
Online yoga is actually BETTER for some students
Firstly, students who had felt uncomfortable walking into a yoga class with no experience (especially those with a significant health problem) felt more comfortable dipping their toe into the yoga waters online. It just seemed less risky to them. Secondly, many chronically ill and immunocompromised students loved that they didn't’ have to leave home to do yoga. They felt safer practicing in their own homes - especially those who had been taking public transport to classes. Online classes also meant that students in regional and remote areas were able to join in for the first time.
Do NOT teach your usual classes when you go online
One of the things we’ve learned from offering yoga online for several years is that teaching online is NOT the same as teaching in person. The way you teach, the cues you give, the way the class is structured are all different.
Classes need to be much more simple when you work online, language needs to be more precise and the pace of the class needs to constantly adapt to the needs of the students. Unless you’re working with able-bodied students who already know how to practice yoga, fast vinyasa flow is not a great idea. Breaking things down, providing plenty of demonstrations, giving students permission to interrupt and ask questions during the class and making the practices more repetitive are some of the adaptations that make classes more enjoyable, beneficial and, importantly, safe for students.
These basic guidelines are relevant to all class types, but are especially important when you’re working with vulnerable students.
Want to know more about how to teach vulnerable students online?
Watch the video of Nikola’s presentation from the Global Yoga Therapy Day - Online Yoga Therapy for Vulnerable Clients. You’ll learn:
- How to structure online classes
- How to grow student numbers for online classes
- How to work with health services to offer online yoga to their patients
- Best practice for teaching yoga therapy online
The presentation is absolutely free - click here for access the video now.
Got a question about yoga therapy or teaching online? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!
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.