Online Yogis: Expanding Your Teaching into Cyberspace
The Internet has become indispensable for making life easier: You can pay bills, check in with family members, read the news and order groceries, all in one sitting. It was inevitable that yoga would also expand online, and many yoga teachers are finding the Internet a useful tool for reaching students.
"By far, the best outcome is the improved and increased communication between everybody, as well as being able to talk to so many people that I'll probably never meet in person," reflects yoga teacher Erich Schiffmann about his website, Moving into Stillness (http://www.movingintostillness.com/index.html). "I can type in a response at a time that is convenient for me, hit the enter button, and suddenly it is available to everyone, everywhere."
Content, Content, Content
The first step to establishing an online presence is deciding what information you want to communicate. "The most important thing is content. People don't like to hop around to 20 different little websites," emphasizes Suzanne LaForest (http://www.letterdance.com/stillwave/suzanne.htm), a yoga teacher and moderator of Schiffmann's online chat community. "They would like to find a site that's well-organized and has lots of information that they can trust and that they feel somebody is sorting through."
This material could be anything from sequencing information from a recent class, to dissecting a more difficult pose, to musing on an aspect of yogic philosophy. It can provide a specific group of students with a listing of local yoga events, or it can serve interested yogis everywhere and encourage discussion between the host of the site and its visitors.
Getting the Word out: Personal Websites and Blogs
Once you've started assembling material, you need to decide how to present it. Personal websites and blogs can include written information, display pictures and drawings, offer audio or video downloads, and sell merchandise.
If you want to get started immediately, you can set up a free blog account with such sites as Blogger (at http://www.blogger.com/start) or Wordpress (http://wordpress.org/). Most Internet providers offer free website templates and hosting with an email account. If you want more control over how your site looks and the features it offers, you may look into investing in some easy-to-understand website design software, such as Adobe's Dreamweaver or Microsoft's FrontPage.
The Power of the Voice: Podcasts
Other vehicles for your yoga message are audio or video podcasts. Although these approaches require more equipment, because your voice or video must be prerecorded on a digital recorder, they offer the immediacy of the spoken word. You can post a podcast on a website or blog, or onto iTunes (http://www.apple.com/itunes/), the online media store, where it can be downloaded to any computer or MP3 player. This way you can present demonstrations of asana or guided meditations, and you can even run interviews.
Lara Cestone, creator of the podcast interview show Yogapeeps (at http://yogapeeps.com/), says, "Podcasts are new and exciting. You can listen while you cook, do the laundry, walk the dog, or commute. It's also less dense than a blog. It's more relaxing as well, as you aren't sitting staring at a screen, but you are active, moving and listening."
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