Lockdown took me by surprise, in all ways, but especially as a yoga teacher. One minute everything was normal, going to work, teaching my classes at the studio, and the next, none of us could leave the house.
Worried about my yoga business, I switched all of my classes online and was ready to go the day after lockdown began. Still, I worried. Would my students even want to practice with me online? I know for many of them that coming to the studio is a respite, a break from normal life. Would it be the same to attend an online class? Would they still get so much from it?
I lost some students, of course. Some didn’t want to do online classes, and perhaps for some, it was simply too much change to manage during what was a difficult period for us all. But to my pleasant surprise, many did make the switch, and most of them have done online classes with me for six months.
Parts of it even appealed to me and perhaps, to them it did too. It was nice not having to run out to the studio after a long day of work; more restful to just move a little furniture and roll out my mat. I was pleased to see my students faces week in and week out; still have a chat before class, albeit via webcam than face to face.
I knew some of them couldn’t wait to get back to the studio; the demands of family, the interruptions of pets and babies meaning they didn’t quite get the timeout that their yoga class usually provides. Others were happy to stay online.
Despite owning no pets myself I even had the interruption of a neighbourhood cat coming in one night. It was a warm evening and so I had left open the patio door to let in a little air while I taught. A black cat, young and slim and with white socks, walked straight in and onto my mat. I was in half moon pose, only one foot and one set of fingertips on the floor, the other leg and hand in the air, trying to stay balanced as he wrapped himself, purring, around my standing leg. After he took a nose down the back of the sofa, I decided it was time to say goodbye, and so lifted him at the camera for my students to wish him adios.
Teaching online was hard in other ways too. More tiring. No longer could I read the energy of the room and adapt the practice accordingly. Having to mute everyone so that the sound of my teaching wouldn’t be interrupted I couldn’t make my usual jokes, get the feedback or even backchat that I usually do.
I had to stand and lead, more like delivering a presentation than the gentle to-and-fro of the teacher-student relationship that I so enjoy when teaching face to face. Physically it was more demanding. I couldn’t stop demonstrating to view my students, offer a more detailed verbal cue or to adjust a student in a pose. After three classes on a Tuesday, I often felt broken on Wednesday.
I opened my Tuesday classes at the studio again this week. Keeping Thursday online for now as the studio is too small to fit everyone in and maintain social distancing, it seemed the right decision; to offer both alternatives. Online still for those self-shielding, but back to the class for those that couldn’t wait to get back.
There were changes to be made, of course, Online Booking so that I can control numbers and not take any more cash or physically handle class passes, reducing points of contact. Hand sanitising in and out, cleaning (for me) and keeping more distance between our yoga mats.
None of it mattered, not for me, nor them apparently. To be in the room with my students again, to interact with them fully, to know when to step in and help and when to back off and let them practice. Freedom to make my daft jokes and hear their giggles in response, to correct their posture, to answer questions, to praise and point out their progress.
For six months, I had managed to teach online. My students had managed to keep up their practice too. For both things, I am grateful. But more so, to get back in the room with my students and remember all the reasons why I love being a yoga teacher. It was something, it was everything.