Are you someone who couldn’t have imagined doing a yoga class on-line? Were you disenchanted with trying to practice using YouTube videos? Prior to late March had you heard of Zoom?
If your answer to those questions is “no”, you’re not alone and let’s take a breath and acknowledge that we have all come a very long way since March. Students and teachers of all ages and experience have managed the technology. I think we can all remember that first time we saw our students or classmates on-line – when we uttered those words “oooh, I can see you”. “Can you see me?” “I can’t hear you – what do I do now”? “move your screen – I can’t see you”? We laughed at the unexpected interruptions from pets, children, partners, housemates etc. We’ve all been frozen in time when our wifi has let us down – which is a teacher’s worst nightmare. Many of us (me included) thought it was all going to be short term and we’d be back to normal by May.
As the UK and indeed the world starts to slowly emerge from lockdown we are all taking those tentative steps to establishing the new normal. In some parts of the world yoga studios have been open for a few weeks. In the UK gyms, community halls and yoga studios will soon be permitted to open and operate subject to social distancing guidelines and risk assessments to make premises and businesses “COVID secure”. So, as studio owners, teachers and students start to look at the shape of classes to come and work out that “new normal” let’s explore what that may be?
First we need to look at distancing, cleaning and costs? For those studio owners or teachers who have packed mats as tightly as possible there is an obvious change which students are likely to see as an improvement – far more space between mats. However, spacing students 2m apart (or even 1 m + apart) creates its own challenge which is significantly smaller class size/loss of revenue. Students are not going to pay significantly more than they were spending on classes pre lockdown – and in fact a great many will have suffered a downturn in income and will be looking to reduce discretionary spending. Studios and halls will also need to space out classesin order to allow for cleaning and ventilation between classes so that means fewer classes. So, will there be sufficient studio classes to satisfy demand?
Turning to demand, will it exceed supply and students become frustrated with wait lists? That’s likely to be the case if everyone wants to rush back into studio, but will they? This is a hard one as many associate yoga with in-person classes where we know our teacher, we see the others we practice with and we have the social interaction. Our teacher comes around to adjust our postures and we feel safe knowing that the teacher was there with us ready to offer gentle guidance, encouragement and ensure a safe practice. So in theory we should all be desperate to get back to our old way of practicing – right? Not necessarily – we are emerging from the safety of our homes, some are anxious or fearful, have underlying health issues or live with those who do, and many are getting used to a new way of practicing. Very often teachers have welcomed new students who are new to yoga and probably wouldn’t have tried had they not been confined to barracks for several months, working from home or on furlough.
Students have worked out that they can roll out of bed and into class before they start their working day or close the laptop and go straight to class – no need to change from yoga gear into a suit or vice versa and no time spent getting to class. Although many have suffered changes to their financial circumstances most on-line classes are offered at a rate that takes into account the reduced costs of operating from the sitting room/bedroom/study studio. Experienced yogis have been able to explore new styles of yoga and practice with teachers they weren’t able to before – and with the aid of payment technology it’s not restricted to the UK. The world has opened up for teachers too with a plethora of on-line training courses that allow additional skills to be obtained at a fraction of the cost of travelling across the country or overseas for that special course or workshop.
I am certain we will see some students who want to get back into studio as soon as possible, some who will prefer to wait until social distancing rules relax and others who are finding that practicing on line fits with their lives/offers more flexibility than before and that as is often the case supply and demand will come into balance. It may take a while though and meanwhile teachers perhaps need to “go with the flow” and look at a mixed offering with some classes in studio and some remaining on-line. The hybrid of live streaming studio classes might be an option but needs more thought – from privacy, legal and tech perspectives.
The world has changed but as human beings we’ve adapted very well so far – let’s face it, some of us remember life before computers and look what we’re up to now? Hopefully our new yoga world will shape out to be just fine but will it ever go back to as it was BC (Before COVID)? I suspect not.
Let’s see if we can embrace the change and make it work?
Just under 3 weeks ago (19 days to be exact) I planted a whole host of vegetable plants. These were tiny plug plants that were bought on-line and which arrived on one of the hottest days of the year so far. They came with the warning that there were threats of frosts and to be ready to protect the seedlings from cold weather! So, the words on the flyer that accompanied the delivery didn’t equate to the reality! Thankfully the garden centres had reopened a day or so before so armed with a few bags of compost and some worm cast feed I went into battle with the elements to give these babies a fighting chance. After planting came the process of nurturing.
Again, the instructions and the reality were poles apart. The instructions suggested watering every two days so the tiny plants could dig deep, seek nourishment and develop strong roots. The reality was that within hours the baby plants were wilting and in need of a drink. I fought between listening to the advice or following my gut. My gut said that they needed water, I did so, and the next day the seedlings were standing upright and ready to face another hot day. Still, the instructions said don’t water, but by the lunchtime the baby plants were lying on their sides gasping for water….so I watered. We spent a good few days playing this game and eventually the watering is down to once a day and the plants are still looking healthy. The salad leaves are providing a couple of bowls a day, and the peas have pods – hurrah!
In our yoga practice we talk a lot about strong foundations. My teaching cues almost always cover the foundations for the pose – so how to set the hands, wrists and shoulders or the feet. For years I used to attend classes and rush into the posture – I was often racing ahead and there before the teacher and if I’m honest I still do sometimes rush. It’s my nature and I am goal and deadline orientated. However, when I rush into the posture I usually have to take a step back, correct myself, re-set and start again. On the times I follow my breath, take the guidance of my teacher and build upon the foundations of the posture step by step the end result is usually better and more satisfying to my goals orientated mind.
My little veg patch is a very good reminder to me that it takes a while to build strong foundations and see the fruits of the time investment. There is a quick way of getting kale, broccoli, beans and peas – it involves a short drive to the supermarket. However, once the week’s shop has been eaten there is nothing left. I am trying the slow way of building the foundations and growing my own veg which should (I hope) give ongoing results. Yoga practice is akin to this – build the foundations and watch the results. The results don’t come immediately and it can take a while to achieve that “nemesis” pose. Sometimes that pose never seems to work but the by-product of focusing on it is such that all the rest of the day’s problems/challenges, etc. melt away. As with the veg patch, it’s not really the end result that’s important (although it would be nice), but it’s more about what’s learned along the journey.
Can you tell this photo was taken by someone who used to be scared of the water? Probably not.
Prior to every dive I was full of anxiety and frozen with fear the moment I jumped into the sea. After one dive in the beautiful waters of the Maldives others were talking excitedly about the sharks they had seen – and I had been so scared of the current that I spent most of the time hooked facing into the reef whilst the sharks swam in the open water behind me!
So, how did I start to conquer that fear? Simple – by connecting to the breath. It was with yogic breathing techniques taught to me by a patient dive instructor. He explained that breathing underwater should be as natural and effortless as on land. He made me realise I was hyperventilating, so my initial anxiety became worse and I was unable to think straight – definitely a recipe for a dive accident.
My interest in yoga was re-ignited so back on dry land I found an excellent yoga teacher and continued my practice. On my next trip I realised my physical strength had improved with the yoga, that I could use the power of my breath to control the nerves and that I had air in my tank at the end of each dive!
It took a good few years before I became comfortable, calm and focused enough that some dives like the one in which this image was taken feel like a meditation. Wherever I travel my mat goes with me.
In this time of COVID 19, both as a yoga teacher and a diver much of what I practice and teach is driven by a wish to keep the lymphatic and immune system as strong as possible and keep the muscles around the ribcage strong and flexible. It’s also about developing/maintaining coping strategies for remaining mentally as well as physically well.
Who knows when we’ll be able to travel, but meanwhile the yoga is a constant that should keep me fit to dive.