Before I did my yoga teacher training in 2018, most of my yoga practice was online with the You Tube yogi queen, Yoga With Adriene. I felt comfortable practicing at home, and was used to the online format.
Until March 2020 I had been teaching regular classes to a constant stream of paddled out surfers at Azul Guesthouse in Morocco, perfecting the art of releasing upper back tension! When it became no longer an option to teach these classes in person, Zoom beamed into my life. It was a natural transition to step into Adriene's shoes and start teaching online.
I now run regular online yoga classes, live from Morocco. We're blessed with 300+ days sunshine, making it the ideal climate for outdoor yoga year-round. Tamraght is a peaceful fishing and surfing centric village. A huge stretch of coastline with world-class surfing. A grounded community with strong family values at its heart. We have mountains, locally-grown organic fruit & veg, Vitamin Sea and good vibes in abundance. And space. During my online classes I invite people to tune into all of that. People often comment on the blue skies, the background sounds - the Mosque's Call to Prayer, village life. A sense of place comes through your speaker.
It wasn't all smooth sailing, there have been many empty classes, time zone confusions and frozen screen frustrations. But, now, 8 months since I taught my first live Zoom class, it's time to share some of the things I've learned so far with other online yoga teachers, or anyone interested in a behind-the-scenes glance into teaching on Zoom.
These are based on my experiences, which are changing all the time, so I invite you to take what resonates with you, and leave the rest.
1) Try out your first online classes on friends and family
I created a Whats App group set up to share weekly classes and Zoom log ins. This started out as two friends, and has now become the 'beta' group of around twenty close friends who I feel comfortable trying new things out on. Thank you ladies.
2) Invest in yourself
It's a new business. Get the yoga clothing kit required to make you feel and look professional. A mat, it's your centrepiece and support. I love Anahata Tribe cork mats and yoga kit, naturally anti-bacterial, sustainably sourced and locally-produced in Portugal. A phone/ laptop that has high quality video, good battery power and memory space. And, a microphone. Sometimes, when indoors the microphone is not essential. But outdoors, it is! Especially here in Morocco, the sounds, be that the ocean, the mosque, the motos. They add flavour to the classes, authenticity. But it's important that your voice is heard. I love the Hey Mic microphone, which syncs with a Macbook via Bluetooth. It fits in your pocket, clips on a t-shirt and works brilliantly. Also heard great things about the Rode Go microphone.
Having started three successful businesses from scratch, I was aware how important it is to invest in a new business marketing. What I hadn't predicted is how much harder it is to market yourself! This aspect has taken me on quite a journey. The result, after multiple failures, is that I now believe in myself, and better value my gifts and time. I would advise you to pick the social media channel(s) that you enjoy working with, and focus your energy on them. Great photos of you in action, accompanied by a few words, written in your authentic voice, will draw your tribe. Even better if you can get someone else to do that for you through feedback and partnerships. People like to know their yoga teacher, to see how you walk your talk, embodying your yoga practice on and off the mat. Be real: let them see YOU!
4) Schedule regular classes
And, be prepared for them to change, like the seasons & Covid-19 regulations. This one I have found hard, but I am committing to a schedule and it is working. It takes a while to build momentum. Sometimes there are empty classes, take it for self-practice. Who are your client base and target market? Are they working flexible hours? Are they Mums on a kid's schedule? Are they in different time zones? In the end, I've learned to ask friends and clients which times work for them, but ultimately choose the ones that suit you best. Having a regular class time and day of the week makes life easier, and you and your clients will respect the consistency.
5) Less is more online
The shorter, focused classes tend to be the most popular. The maximum length class I now offer is 1 hour. People can slot a 30 min class into a busy day, which is the beauty of the online world, it has the potential to bring things to us, and make our lives easier. And you can still enjoy a great, effective class with a focused 30 mins of yoga.
6) Zoom v Facebook Live v Instagram Live
In my experience, Zoom creates the closest environment to a studio class effect. If that's what you want. More viewers may stumble across your live class on Facebook and Instagram, only to stumble out a few seconds later. With the Zoom format, people tend to book like their coming to a class, and are prepared to pay for and value this experience.
7) My Live Class style
This changes depending on the class, times etc, but mostly I have found people practicing online want to move a little slower, and be guided mindfully. Ask your students what they want to work on, but also, ask yourself - what do you want to work on? I teach classes that accessible to all levels. I love surfing and ocean swimming, and choose a yoga practice that focuses on the muscles that support these passions. This led me to starting a Wednesday morning - Wake Up Your Core - yoga fitness class. During lockdown, this helped me stay motivated and to retain my surf fitness!
8) My Live Class format
I start classes with a few minutes of breathwork, inviting students to be present in their body, to find their quiet centre. People enjoy being given the space and cues to go within for a moment. Then we start moving through a slow, mindful flow, usually with a theme or focus ie Core/ Surf Fitness/ Yoga Booty/ Balance / Truth/ Forgiveness. People respond well to a class focus. I always include Savasana, and in the longer classes finish with a guided meditation. After class, I like to allow 5 mins for any questions/ feedback.
9) Plan Classes
Simple clear verbal cues are key. Teach what you know. Plan a class with poses that you can guide your students into with simple instructions. People need to focus on themselves and their practice. Looking up to check their screen is fine occasionally, but it is better to be able to guide them with your voice. The first class I ever taught online, and will often go back to is a class that's exclusively on the mat, no standing poses. It is easy to lead, and easy to follow. With so much confusion in the outer world, keeping things simple for yourself and those in the class is appreciated.
I always start the class by reminding people that this is their practice and everyone is at different stages of their yoga journey. I am there to guide them safely into the poses and through the practice, but ultimately your students are responsible for their wellbeing, only they will know how a pose feels for them on that day. Due to the online nature, I remind people that I am not able to make adjustments, to correct their alignment and oftentimes I cannot see them on the screen. Therefore I ask them to bring awareness to how their body is feeling, to respect their intuition, to move and to be mindful of that throughout the class.
11) Setting up for class
I log in to Zoom 15 mins before class starts, whilst am setting up my mat. I will be sitting, ready in front of the screen 5 mins before starting the class. It's a nice way to check in with your online students and create a connection with the group.
12) Setting up with a Zoom Registration Link
Have trialled a few classes on friends and family, I discovered a simple way to get people to sign up in advance within Zoom. Signing up in advance means people are more likely to join. Its easy to sign up for the individual class via Zoom link, and Zoom automatically sends them an email with the class login details. You can edit this email to include any payment instructions (ie Paypal or bank details) and add any requirements for the class. These class links can be shortened using websites like lnk.bio, and then added to your website, Instagram or Facebook profile. The next step would be an online booking system, but to get started this worked for me.
A strong internet connection is essential. For teacher and student enjoyment. When there is good connection you are relaxed and your class will be too. I like to take a moment to visualise connecting with those practicing with me. This helps to create a group energy and virtual safe place for my students to meet. This connection helps, especially when people are feeling lonely, isolated, and separated from friends and family.
Before Covid-19 I was the girl who hid away when life got hard. I didn't want people to see me struggling, telling myself I was better working through stuff on my own, in private. Living solo for 3 months of a strict lockdown here in Morocco broke that pattern. It gave me plentiful opportunities to grow, to face fears and destructive thought patterns head-on. The Zoom yoga classes I taught at this time - mostly with friends and family - were a way to stay visible and connected, to work through life's challenges with people. I learned it was ok to not be ok, and to share that and my vulnerabilities via Zoom! Thank you Zoom. And, thank you to those who have been part of this journey so far, I am truly blessed and excited for the next chapter.
Thank you reader for reading. Would love you to join one of the online classes/ retreats, and maybe one day soon, in person too! Pop me an email to register your interest. Perhaps you are teaching on Zoom, or enjoying participating in Zoom classes? I would love to hear your thoughts, and anything you'd like to share about your experiences...