Teaching Yoga Online: A Guide for Yoga Teachers and Therapists

In recent times, the world of yoga has undergone a significant transformation with the rapid rise of online classes. For yoga teachers and therapists looking to extend their reach and impact, hosting group or individual yoga practices online offers a valuable opportunity to make yoga more accessible. However, adapting your communication style from in-person to virtual instruction requires careful consideration and preparation. In this guide, we’ll delve into the essential equipment, technical tips, and best practices for delivering engaging and effective online yoga classes.

Essential Equipment:

1. Computer or Laptop: Ensure you have a reliable computer or laptop with a stable internet connection. This will serve as your primary device for hosting online sessions.

2. Webcam: While newer laptops have excellent built in cameras, it may be worth investing in a high-definition webcam for clear video quality. External webcams often offer better resolution and flexibility in positioning compared to built-in ones.

3. Microphone: Good audio quality is crucial for online classes. Consider purchasing an external microphone to minimize background noise and ensure your instructions are heard clearly.

4. Lighting: Proper lighting can significantly enhance the visual appeal of your classes. Aim for soft, diffused lighting that evenly illuminates your space. Positioning lights in front of you or to the side can help avoid harsh shadows. A simple ring-light can plug directly into your laptop.

5. Yoga Mat: Opt for a non-slip yoga mat that provides stability and support during your practice. Consider using a mat with a solid color or minimal pattern to prevent distractions on camera.

6. Your Clothes: Make yourself visible by wearing yoga clothes that contrast with your background eg if your mat is dark, wear a light colour, or vice versa. You may find some fabrics and patterns don’t show up well on screen – go for solid colours, avoid stark white and lean towards blues rather than reds.

7. Props: Depending on your teaching style and the needs of your students, gather any necessary props such as blocks, straps, bolsters, or blankets. Ideally you stay within the camera view while you teach. If you are teaching hybrid style (to the camera and to people in the room simultaneously) and moving around the room you can verbally let the people online know what you are doing.

8. Online Platform: Choose a reliable platform for hosting your classes. Popular options include Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet, each offering features like screen sharing, breakout rooms, and participant management.

Technical Tips:

1. Internet Connection: Prioritize a stable internet connection to prevent disruptions during your sessions. Consider using a wired connection or sitting closer to your router for better signal strength.

2. Camera Positioning: Position your camera at eye level or slightly above to create a natural perspective for participants. Ensure your entire body is visible on screen, including your hands and feet during demonstrations. You may choose to spotlight yourself for group classes so that your screen is all students at home see. You can turn off the ‘spotlight speaker’ option if you want students to see each other.

3. Audio Settings: Test your microphone and adjust audio settings to achieve optimal sound quality. Minimize background noise by choosing a quiet location for your sessions and using a microphone with noise-cancelling capabilities. Once you’ve said hello to online students you may choose to ‘mute all’ so there’s no background noise, especially for larger groups. For 1:1 you can keep mics on.

4. Background: Choose a clean and clutter-free background to maintain a professional appearance. Consider setting up your space near a wall or in front of a neutral backdrop to minimize distractions.

5. Engagement Strategies: Encourage active participation from participants by incorporating interactive elements like polls, Q&A sessions, or group discussions. Use features like screen sharing to display visual aids and breakout rooms for workshop-style sessions.

6. Hybrid Teaching: It can work well to teach students online and in person simultaneously however you want to be as inclusive as possible – look into the camera (not at the screen) from time to time when speaking and give cues that include both at home and in studio students.

7. Technical Support: Familiarize yourself with the features and functionalities of your chosen platform. Teams, Zoom, Skype, and Webex are some commonly used platforms and each have their strengths. Consider offering technical support or troubleshooting guidance to participants before or during your sessions.

8. Using Recordings: You may choose to add recorded classes to a video library which can be stored on YouTube, Vimeo or similar platforms and offered for free or as part of a membership/subscription. Snippets of your teaching can be used on social media platforms eg as Reels on Instagram. Ensure your students/clients privacy by not recording or selling their image (if you do want to have participants visible, you can ask them to sign a media release and/or have their explicit permission to use their image – this should be clear prior to recording. A common practice when making a video for marketing purposes is to invite regular students to a free class which they are aware will be recorded.)

Best Practices:

1. Clear Communication: Articulate your instructions clearly and concisely, paying attention to pacing and tone of voice. Use verbal cues and demonstrations to guide participants through each posture and transition. Consider that participants still want an internal focus so clear instructions mean they do not always need to look at the screen.

2. Adaptability: Be prepared to adapt your teaching style to accommodate participants of varying experience levels and abilities. Offer modifications and alternatives to ensure inclusivity and accessibility for all attendees. Consider props that people have at home such as rolled up blankets in the absence of bolsters. Adapt to varying visibility – some attendees may prefer to leave their camera off or will not be clearly visible due to lighting or positioning of their device. Let them choose – it is a strength of online yoga that people can be free to be unseen if they prefer.

3. Connection Building: Foster a sense of community and connection among participants by greeting them individually, encouraging interaction, and creating opportunities for sharing experiences or feedback.

4. Consistency: Establish a consistent schedule for your online classes to build trust and familiarity with your audience. Communicate any changes or updates in advance to minimize confusion and ensure attendance.

5. Feedback Loop: Solicit feedback from participants regularly to gauge their satisfaction and identify areas for improvement. Use feedback surveys, polls, or open discussions to gather insights and refine your teaching approach accordingly.

By embracing the opportunities offered by online platforms, yoga teachers and therapists can expand their reach and impact, connecting with students from around the world in a meaningful and accessible way. With the right equipment, technical know-how, and commitment to best practices, delivering engaging and effective online yoga classes, group programs, and tailored yoga therapy is within reach for yoga professionals and can add welcome diversity and accessibility to your work.

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