This is a scary time for everybody, including yoga teachers. Many of us rely on group yoga classes for our income. What happens if (when) the studios you work for close? What happens if (when) your students just stop coming as they self-isolate?
Then there’s the overwhelming desire to support your students. It’s not just the money. You want to help people manage their health, deal with the stress, feel connected and loved, especially during uncertain times. So what should yoga teachers be doing about COVID-19?
Here are some simple actions you can take right now to help you and your students get through this.
- Stick to the facts
My social media feeds have been awash with yoga teachers (and others) peddling conspiracy theories and sharing clips from news outlets with dodgy agendas.
Then there are the well-meaning posts about using essential oils and homeopathy to ward off COVID-19. Whatever your belief system, hand-washing and social distancing are the only things that will make a significant difference to the spread of COVID-19. Promote 'natural therapies' by all means, but understand that there is no evidence for their impact on COVID-19 and you need to back up any advice you give with the hand-washing and social distancing messages.
The situation is changing daily and it’s important that you find reliable sources of information. Fox news and Facebook are not going to give you an informed perspective. For a global view, go with WHO. For a local view, see the next action point below.
BTW, if you think the WHO conspired to create COVID-19 to cull the population, or that the whole thing is a sinister lie made up so that the elite can take over (yup, I've seen those exact claims made by yoga teachers in social media posts this week), you should probably stop reading this post now. You’re not going to agree with anything I say.
- Take advice from your local government health agency
For me, that’s NSW Health. This webpage gives up to date advice and information, including details of the spread of COVID-19 in NSW and expert advice on preventative action and what to do if you develop symptoms.
- Teach online.
If you’ve been putting off teaching online, now’s the time to do it. Smart studios are already streaming classes. You don’t need fancy equipment or special technology. Just you, your smartphone and a private Facebook group.
Of course, you can get as sophisticated as you like. There are platforms that allow you to take payments, advertise your classes, give advice on the best webcams etc. If you’re ready to make the time and financial investment that will really make your online yoga business grow, jump in! It’s a seriously good investment in your future. If you’re not ready to do al that, just keep it simple with a phone and YouTube or FB.
I’ve been putting more and more yoga programs online over the past 2 years and they work really well. Our regular yoga therapy and meditation teacher training programs will be available as online only courses from April. It’s exciting and, let me tell you, there’s a BIG demand for it.
I’ve been on a big learning journey when it comes to delivering yoga online, so if you’ve got questions (or are just plain terrified and don’t know where to start), get in touch.
- Have a plan
Because things are moving so fast with COVID-19, this advice might be out of date by the time I’ve finished writing it. However, right now, I’d recommend you have a plan for what you’re going to do to keep yourself and your students safe.
At Adore Yoga, we’ve developed a decision making framework that draws on the following elements:
- NSW Health guidelines
- Community contagion levels
- Community sentiment
- Mitigation measures
Here’s how that works. Firstly, I check in with NSW Health advice every day. This helps me to understand how to keep students safe.
Then I check in each day to see how contagion levels are in my area. Right now, the level is pretty low. But that can change quickly.
Next, I consider community sentiment. If the risk of contagion is low and my students are keen to keep coming, I may continue to run face to face sessions. If my community of students and teachers feel that we shouldn’t run classes, we’ll follow their lead and stop.
Finally, I consider what I can do to keep my students and teachers safe. I’ve sent personal messages to everyone coming to the studio offering health advice. That includes a strong message to STAY HOME if there is any possibility you have come into contact with the virus or if you are feeling even a little off-colour.
We also provide, and enforce, advice around health behaviours for everyone who comes to the studio: hand-washing, using hand sanitizer, sharing food during lunch breaks, washing up cups and cutlery and touching each-other (as a rule, we follow trauma-informed protocols in our yoga, so there wasn’t too much touching in the first place!)
The yoga room and mats are sanitized after every individual or group leaves, including door handles, bench tops and other surfaces. No eye-bags, blocks or straps are being used right now.
- Offer support and respite
While it might be interesting to think about which yoga practices support the immune or respiratory system, your students are more likely to benefit from practices that help them manage stress, fear and exhaustion.
Yoga certainly can support both the immune system and the respiratory system, but, as a yoga therapist, I can tell you that there are no magic pranayamas that can keep students safe in the face of a rapidly spreading virus.
The most useful support you can offer is practices that down-regulate the autonomic nervous system. Focus on extending the exhale, giving students permission to rest, help them focus their minds so that they are not constantly worried, teach them to regulate the breath so it is even and smooth. These practices will move students from sympathetic nervous system functioning (fight or flight) and into the parasympathetic system (rest and digest). That gives them the best fighting chance to manage whatever pathogens come their way.
- Look after yourself
Yoga teachers have big hearts and often put themselves last. Looking after yourself means managing your mental, emotional, physical and financial wellbeing. The best way to do that is get off social media, connect with those you love and double down on your personal practice.
Take action now to manage your wellbeing in the weeks and months ahead – this is not going away any time soon. Planning for self care is vital – that doesn’t mean stock-piling toilet roll. It means carving out time each day to do your practice. Figure out how you’re going to use technology to keep your classes going. Have a plan for what you will do if you need to self isolate. Develop a support network that’s got your back if you do fall ill.
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.