I’d been practicing yoga for seven years when I decided to enroll in a 200-hour teacher training program in the winter of 2020.
I had been through a few immersions and completed half of a teacher training before, but never felt like I had found the exact match for my practice or my teaching. I never felt empowered in a way that made me feel unique.
The first weekend of our training in January 2020 cracked me wide-open. It had been a while since I had been in a room full of people and asked to be vulnerable.
The leaders of the training had an incredible way of pulling things out of you, asking hard questions, and surrounding you in warmth when you’re not sure of what to say.
Holy hell, I thought, driving home after the last day of the first weekend. Am I ready for this?
What none of us were ready for and none of us could have predicted, was a global pandemic. Just after our third weekend together, the nation shut down and our training migrated online. Suddenly, our lives were all turned upside down and we struggled to articulate the future together.
Living in a sea of uncertainty and fear became the norm. What became steady and fortified—because of the community I placed myself in—was my practice.
After many years of wondering if I wanted to lead yoga practices, I became empowered. Something I once questioned became something I was sure of. This was a huge gift.
Without hesitation, I began to teach online. I had always had a vision for my own studio: one bathed in light, one covered with plants, and one where the life practice of yoga was just as revered as the asana practice of yoga.
Instead of the vision being put on hold, it mutated. I was able to distill the essential tenets of my vision and translate them into an online space. And in a time of uncertainty, it felt instinctive to take the seat of the teacher.
It has now been nearly a year of teaching online, and I’ll say it again. “Holy hell, what a year it has been.” I have learned a great deal in the process. Some things have gone swimmingly, others not so much. At every juncture, I’ve been supported by my training, my community, and my practice.
Here are five things I learned after a year of teaching yoga online:
1. Jump in.
The yoga world is saturated with teachers, but none of them are you. If you wait until the right moment, the right studio, or the right sequence, people will be missing out on what you have to offer. The beauty of yoga is its celebration of diversity. It is not black-and-white, nor should it be. Articulate what you love about yoga, why you practice yoga, and then share that. Every time.
2. Professional development is essential.
I went a little “whole hog” this year, which has been intense, but it has also kept me focused and inspired. In addition to working toward my 500-hour certification, I took The Art of Sequencing with Jason Crandell (essential), the Accessible Yoga Teacher Training with Jivana Heyman and Amber Karnes (the highest recommend), and a Pre-and Post-Natal Teacher Training with Sue Elkind (absolutely eye-opening).
Each training was wildly unique in method, presentation, and topic, but each has added greatly to my teaching and practice. It’s important not to get stuck in the samsara of practice, or to think about something in one way. When we become rote, we become stale. There are many leaders and mentors with diverse wisdom to share; seek them out.
3. Marketing is tough.
Getting people in your class is tough, especially in this environment. There are so many options, and after a year of Zoom life, everyone is understandably a bit burnt out. It’s important not to get too hung up on how many people are coming to your classes or what other teachers are doing, but instead to focus on the experience your students are having. My numbers aren’t huge, but everyone returns. The feedback I have gotten this year is tremendous, particularly from people who had never practiced yoga before.
If you can create a connection through your teaching, your personality, and your offering, people will return—and they will bring their friends. What you offer is unique. Find your people, and be consistent. Don’t give up.
4. Collaboration is key.
The beauty of teaching online is the ability to connect with anyone, no matter where they live. I have lived across the world over the course of my life and have friends in every corner. Friends who would never be able to walk into my physical studio are present every week in my virtual one.
In the same vein, I am able to work with other teachers and practitioners who I would otherwise not be able to afford to fly in for an event. I’ve sought out some of my favorite teachers and mentors and hosted or co-hosted events and workshops. Not only is this fun and invigorating to everyone’s practice, but it brings a new audience to my studio.
5. People are thirsty.
We are living in a remarkable time when every individual on the planet has been affected by a single event. The lack of physical touch and in-person interaction is damaging to each of us, even if you’re a hermit like me. Because of this, people are so damn thirsty for warmth, laughter, hope, camaraderie, joy, peace of mind. These are all things you can provide in your class. These are all things you can receive in your class.
Though it was nerve-wracking to begin, though I still stumble through some class plans, though I’m not paying all of my bills while sharing my practice, I am giving and receiving equanimity, substance, and worth in a time that is depleting.
“This is the year I learned how to breathe,” said one of my students. “Thanks to your classes.”
That, my friends, is all I need to hear to keep going.