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March 9, 2020

Teaching Yoga in a Time of Coronavirus

After I taught my regular Sunday yoga class yesterday, which had a noticeably smaller attendance, one of my students said to me: “I almost didn’t come to class because I was concerned.” I taught without physically assisting others, did not offer essential oils in Savasana, and I brought my own block to class. I used hand sanitizer before and after class. I went home and ordered equipment to record classes for my yoga community.

The coronavirus is going to change how we teach yoga.

All yoga studios and teachers should pay attention to what is happening in the news. It is our imperative to create safe environments for our students and teachers. In the coming weeks, perhaps even sooner, it may become untenable, and even unsafe, to teach group classes.  Many of our students fall into the over sixty years category that are particularly vulnerable, and those that are not can come in contact with the at-risk populations. 

The CDC has recommend social distancing and not gathering with crowds. Additionally, the recommendations include disinfecting and sanitizing surfaces which are touched by many people.  The challenges for yoga studios and teachers are huge with these in mind. 

Some of the procedures studios need to consider are: 

1.) disinfecting all props, studio mats or removing them from use for a time period

2.) providing hand sanitizer for all yoga students and teachers

3.) stopping all hands on assists

4.) asking students who have any illness symptoms to not come to class and enforcing this policy

and if it’s appropriate locally, 

5.) closing the studio for a period of time

At the same time, yoga studios and teachers provide a valuable service, we offer a place for people to breathe, to find calm and to be steady in a time of crisis.  Yoga is a form of movement and can include poses that have strength, stability and flexibility. It is a practice that can be done anywhere, with minimal accoutrements. It offers ease and mindfulness in times of crisis.  What we can provide for our communities is peace, which is  imperative when the world is in upheaval. What we do is incredibly important. 

How do we navigate this challenging time?  We need to figure out how to make our services available online for all to use. We as yoga teachers and studios need to create virtual studios that are available to all.  We need to create classes for those who cannot afford to come to a studio, or who are stuck in quarantine can practice.  We need to offer our best skills to the world as it is needed so immensely now. Many populations will be losing jobs, losing family members, losing hope, and it is imperative that we provide some light in this dark time for these communities.  We need to offer virtual classes for first responders, the medical community and those supporting the sick.  These communities will need mindfulness, stress release and reminders to breathe more than most. We need to practice Seva and give back to the communities that we love, that cannot afford to pay and that are suffering.  Free online classes that teach yoga, mindfulness, breath work and meditation, practices for calm and ease are needed. These are things we can offer when the news feels so helpless. 

At the same time, we need to consider the bottom lines of studios which will struggle during this crisis.  Paying for yoga is a luxury that many will no longer be able to afford. Yoga teachers are part of the service industry and most are independent contractors, many with no health insurance. The crisis will be landing on our sangha doorsteps as well.  Studios must figure out ways to offer virtual subscriptions and classes that are both affordable and provide some payment to their staff.  The ability to teach our students in their homes and yet without compromising the health of either the students or teachers is imperative.  In doing this we can guarantee our people are taken care of and no one, including the yoga teachers, will be exposed to any risks. We must as studios and teachers be willing to commit time to record classes for our communities. 

The path forward in these challenging times will not be easy, but as a yoga community we need to be flexible. We need to open our hearts and studios to the world and offer what we can, and support our studios and teachers as they may also struggle in the coming weeks. The balance we can strike is as important as all the Vrksasanas we teach in our classes throughout the world. 

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Nancy Alder  |  Contribution: 320