Here’s a confession: I hate yoga videos. I’ve practiced yoga for 18 years and have rarely accessed a video. To me, it’s the worst way to experience what yoga has to offer. How many times have you tried to do a yoga video and found yourself just watching the instructor practice? Or been in a pose and couldn’t understand the instructions – trying to watch and do the pose at the same time? This ends up looking and feeling more like a bad game of Twister: The Yoga Version! However, despite this strong aversion to yoga videos, I recently moved my classes - and whole yoga studio - online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I own The Yoga Community, a local studio in Kennewick, WA. Our physical doors were shut on March 16, based on our governor’s closing of recreational and exercise facilities. We aren’t sure when we’ll be able to reopen our physical doors. In the first two days, we moved a few classes to Facebook Live and Zoom. Less than 10 days later, we were offering 14 classes a week, including Tai Chi Chih, Qi Gong, Meditation, and Chair Yoga in addition to other yoga classes.
We Need Yoga Now More than Ever
Have I mentioned I dislike yoga videos? I’m trained in alignment-based yoga – which means I LOOK at my students and adjust the practice to suit their needs. I routinely work with students with injuries and modify the practice accordingly. This just isn’t possible to the same extent, even in live online classes. Most of the time, it’s nearly impossible for me to see students (even if they do have their cameras on), let alone give them the individual attention and advice I’m used to providing. In my skeptical moments, I call this a one-size-fits-none practice.
So why am I even bothering? Especially considering the extra behind-the-scenes work it’s creating for me and my studio manager? Because in times of high stress and anxiety, yoga can be a lifeline. The practices we teach help shift our bodies out of “flight, fight or freeze” mode and into the calmer zone of the parasympathetic nervous system. This shift can reduce stress responses, improve digestion, slow our heart rate, lower our blood pressure, and help us think more clearly. And that is priceless.
We need to connect with our bodies. Quiet our minds. Displace our fears. Reduce our anxiety. Move our bodies. Release tension – both physical and mental.
These are things yoga can provide. Even one-size-fits-most yoga. That’s why I’m teaching online and encouraging others to do the same! I recently taught my first online live class - Yoga for Anxiety – and during the class, I had no idea if it was even broadcasting, let alone reducing anyone’s anxiety. I usually read the body language of the students and adjust my teaching to help them relax. I had to trust my past experiences with in-person classes and teach what I know works for many people. Even if it isn’t perfect. Even if we have technology glitches and huge learning curves. Even if I hate yoga videos. Even if I dislike the sound of my recorded voice and fall into all sorts of self-judgment about how I look on camera. That’s my personal work right now. And I’m willing to do that work because I believe in the benefits yoga can provide.
I hope I can share those benefits with you.
Making Yoga Accessible During COVID-19
We are offering both free and paid content online. If your job is affected by the shutdowns, please access our free content – or reach out for a scholarship. If you are an essential worker, let us know - we’d like to offer you a discount or scholarship. If you have the means to pay for classes, we appreciate your support of a small business. Your payments allow us to pay our instructors and retain our physical studio space so we can reopen whenever it is safe to do so.
Visit www.theyogacommunity.com/schedule to see our live, online offerings. We're also making a full length, 1-hour practice, Yoga for Anxiety class, that Heather taught live on Zoom on 3/27/2020, available for you to access anytime you need it.