• Riley

How my yoga practice and teaching changed because of the pandemic

In the beginning of 2020 I was just starting out with my yoga business. My personal practice has been evolving through the years and I had reached a point at which I was working on more advanced poses and getting stronger than I have ever been before. I would be in the gym every morning before work. I had two regular classes every week, one consistent vinyasa practice that a friend teaches art work and a Saturday morning Iyengar class at the gym that was my favourite part of the weekend. The rest of my practice would be at home when I find time or at events, taking advantage of living in London.I had social media accounts but I didn't rely on them to attract new customers as I was only teaching two classes - one at work and one at a community centre that was normally busy so I didn't worry about advertising.

I stopped going to the gym in the beginning of March because the personal hygiene of some people I observed scared me in the sight of the situation elolving. I started bringing antibacterial wipes for all the blocks and spare mats. I skipped my much anticipated trip to Connecticut to visit friends where I normally get to visit some classes as well. I had an almost empty room at my class in the community centre.

Everything stopped..

I thought my teaching is coming to a long pause. I spent a week panicking about the state of the world and worrying about my family and friends, endlessly scrolling through the news and social media. I bought some dumbbells and kettlebells to use at home. I tried running for cardio which I never liked before but I found that I have so much energy built up that it was very useful. But there were too many people on the street even early in the morning and I was worried so I stopped exercising outside.

Then a good friend showed me how to use Zoom for classes and I decided to try it so I started running my two regular classes on Zoom. It doesn't fit my teaching style very well, I really too much on the atmosphere in the room for feedback and I like to work on fine adjustments and alignment so I had to make do. I lost a lot of regulars. For some people online classes don't work and pretty much everybody's circumstances had changed. But I also gained some faithful followers that would rarely come to my classes before and we built a little yoga community again. I love the feeling of when people enjoy the classes and share how they've helped them. The classes are donation only so I didn't expect much but it has not been as big a financial hit as I expected. I'm also teaching a few more one-to-one classes which has been a fantastic experience. But I have to spend a lot more time on social media which doesn't come naturally to me. But it is so important to adapt to the changes.

As for my own practice, my wall for practicing inversions is now permanently occupied by my makeshift laptop stand from all the props I take to classes (see picture).The home gym is not as productive as going to the actual gym but I do get moments when I pick up all the weights and can't stop. It has expanded as well, I now have a big pilates ball that is my current favourite and a foam roller. I am wondering if I should invest in a pull up bar. I am doing a lot more yoga than before. I miss the community aspect of it though. The classes I was going to before are either not online or don't fit my work schedule now. I find that I need to start the day with meditation, I cannot just jump in vinyasa or any other more physical class. I've been doing a 30-minute kundalini class and then something a bit more intense or going for a run. Also I discovered that iyengar doesn't work for me in the morning. I need to work to warm up my muscles before I'm able to think about the fine control. As much as I try to stretch them, my hamstrings are as tight as ever because I am not constantly walking around. I am also not working on specific poses at the moment, I am just trying to take care of my general strength and my mental health which has been the biggest change in my practice.

I am very lucky to have a space on my own and to still have my full-time job. I am very lucky to have my friends, family and neighbours and an outside space. However, I did feel trapped in my 30-square-meter home. I did resent it being an office, a gym, a living room, a yoga studio and everything else. I did feel trapped around concrete in London without being able to just get on a train or bus or go somewhere. I do know my anxiety levels are up. I don't care if I have gained weight. I have appreciated having all this time but I do want to go back to a normal of sorts. I miss dancing. I miss all the people I would see every day. In that respect the little Zoom yoga community is of so much help. But I think the most important thing to do is acknowledge that we are all on a journey and the best we can do is just to make sure that we are kind to ourselves and to all the people around us. That does include considering how your actions may affect others even if that wasn't' a problem a few months ago. It does mean that we might need to be more patient with others as their journey might have been different.

And yoga will be always there to give some calmness to everything that is happening and take us within.


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