At the start of 2020, I was teaching two yoga classes on Wednesdays at a local dance studio and was about to start a new weekly series for Duke University employees. My calendar was as full as I liked it, with room for other yoga gigs that periodically came my way. This all came to a dead stop in March with our first Covid-19 lockdown. Pandemic-mania meant time for me to take a break. I was not interested in moving my classes online, either with YouTube videos or scheduled Zoom sessions. I felt the Internet was already flooded with good content, much of it affordable or free. I thought “I’ll just wait it out, resume in-person classes when the situation improves.” Are you laughing along with me?
By the end of April, the situation was not anywhere near improving and I found that I missed teaching yoga. I missed having a weekly commitment that kept me pro-active and involved — devising new sequences, considering modifications, researching and learning. Most importantly, I REALLY missed my students.
I capitulated. I purchased a basic Zoom account, rearranged my 2nd bedroom, and emailed announcements. My first class was April 29th and, except for holidays, it has continued weekly.
Having spent many hours on conference calls in my corporate life, the Zoom learning curve was short and, luckily, I’ve had very few technical difficulties. But, the teaching experience has been VERY DIFFERENT, in both good and bad ways.
First, the bad news
I cannot see my students. Because many people are visual learners, I demonstrate all the routines in my classes, which means that I am on my mat, away from the computer. Each person is in a little individual window along the top of my 13-inch display. I cannot tell if they are having trouble and alter what I am doing accordingly. I cannot give better cues or suggest something that might help them. Sure, they can interrupt or stay on after class to ask questions, and occasionally do, but everyone is more or less on their own.
It is impersonal, detached, and strange. I feel like I am teaching to a group of imaginary friends. Like I have on a blindfold. Like it’s a dry run, a rehearsal in front of a mirror. Like I am performing on a stage. Like I am pretending and playing “yoga teacher”. Yes, all those things. I am slowly getting used to it.
Now, the good news
Geography is no longer a factor. The class has expanded to include my family and friends who do not live nearby, and some of their family and friends. They have joined from MA, FL, NY, NJ, IN, RI, and CT. One of my favorite classes included both of my grown sons and two of my friends from high school with their grown daughters. Another favorite included my niece and her 10-year old son, who stayed on after class to show me his magic tricks.
Self-consciousness is reduced. Participants can “go dark” and become incognito by just turning their video off or pointing their camera in another direction. Any fears of doing it “wrong”, looking awkward, or being judged are gone. They can also just sit and watch or take a break anytime without being noticed. With their audio off, they can freely moan and groan, loudly chant Om with me at the end…or not. And, if the phone rings or the dog barks and climbs on them, no one knows.
The door is always open. I don’t use the Zoom waiting room. People can sneak in late or leave early without disruption. They don’t have to cringe as they tiptoe around other yoga mats. While it’s not good to miss the warm up or final repose, sometimes it’s necessary. No shame, no guilt. Life happens.
It’s safe. As safe as being in your own home… because you ARE in your own home. (Well, usually, except for my digital nomad friend.) No masks, no fear of being too close, no fear of viral spread. That alone is worth the price of admission…which is always free.
Accepting it all
Maybe we’re all tired of Zoom, along with all the other Covid-19 restrictions. I know I am. Yet, I will continue to run this class each week. I might even keep doing it after the pandemic ends. It has become an anchor in my life that keeps me current in my skills and interests. Beyond that, it’s an opportunity to see my friends and family, sometimes just to wave and say “hi”, sometimes for a longer chat afterward.
We all know that it’s not as good as being in the room together (not even close). Hopefully, it’s better than watching a video and certainly better than nothing. It’s what we have now and I’ve accepted it.
This article was written by Mary Lou Mazzara and originally published in her Yoga Adventure blog.