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Teaching Yoga in the Age of COVID-19

With cancelled events and a real fear of losing income, here are 10 things you can do to keep teaching, contribute to collective health, and feel better about the future during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Like so many others, I am unsalaried and part of the service industry. So far, four events (and counting?!) I was booked for have been cancelled. This feels particularly poignant since it happens on the tail end of making a commitment to myself to be more discerning in where my energy is valued and with whom I am aligned. In blunter words, I already chose to make less money in 2020, then COVID-19 arrived. And now the events I did chose are being responsibly cancelled. And like many others, I don’t have a fallback. I also know I had the privilege to chose this life of teaching yoga. And I’m scared shitless.

Hands and legs in meditation

After the third event was cancelled, I paused. I spent an entire day cooking and making a playlist to self-soothe. I checked in on my people. For me, this was akin to putting on my oxygen mask first before attempting to help others. I took refuge in my practice. I sought the grace my practice has instilled me with.

See also Yoga Studios and Festivals Change Schedules, Protocol Because of Coronavirus

Using Yoga to Navigate a Global Pandemic

A global pandemic has issued us an enormous wake-up call. And nobody at all is excluded from that wake-up call. The coronavirus, which causes the highly contagious respiratory disease named COVID-19, doesn’t discriminate when it comes to who will be affected (though it certainly affects disproportionately). Along with this wake-up call has come fear, panic, anxiety, and stress—all commonly touted reasons to practice yoga.

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It’s easy for yoga teachers and studio owners to proclaim today that “The world needs yoga, now more than ever.” But what the world really needs most in this moment is for us to stay home. As much as possible. You see, this novel coronavirus is just that, novel. And we don’t really know how many infected-but-asymptomatic people are contagious. And our glorious gatherings of practitioners in public yoga classes, festivals, and at other events require us to come together, often in warm, moist environments that could be giving the virus more droplets to congregate in and more sticky surfaces to cling to. There’s too much we don’t know yet to make decisions about how it will or won’t transmit.

See also Stressed About Coronavirus? Here’s How Yoga Can Help.

I wholeheartedly agree that the practice of yoga is a refuge. But it was never meant to be a place to escape from the world. It is a refuge in which to cultivate the tools and resources to be in graceful relationship with all that arises, come what may. The love and the light as well as the pandemics and fear and everything in between. And whether you are in the physical presence of a teacher and students or in class or not, your practice is with you and there for you. All the practices that have taken root in your being are now available to you to navigate losses of all kinds, health scares, and fear for your family and for your future. For our future. Your practice is already in you.

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I believe this universal disruption of every aspect of our lives is an opportunity, albeit an extraordinarily painful one, for us to learn the difference between reaction and response. To evaluate what is truly important and worthy of our life force. To see what we DO have, not just what we’ve lost. To understand what self-care we need to feel the proverbial ground beneath our feet. To explore how we can put our years of practice into play and look beyond the self. To get creative with how we stay connected and support and hold space for each other. To innovate.

10 Creative Ways to Keep Teaching During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Technology affords many of us the opportunity to be prosocial, stay connected, and even practice yoga together. Once we have grounded ourselves to the degree possible, we can get creative. Here are some of my tips and suggestions to get your creative teacher wheels spinning:

1. Take care of yourself. Put your “oxygen mask” on first so you aren’t offering from an empty cup. It’s entirely possible to avoid processing your own fear, stress and anxiety by shifting immediately into being productive. Your offerings will benefit from going through this process yourself.

See also 7 Sequences for Better Sleep

2. Stay in your lane. Yoga is a consciousness-based practice. Unless you are also qualified in public health, don’t give advice beyond the scope of your practice and expertise.

3. Explore the viability of digital tools like FaceTime, IGTV, Facebook Live, YouTube Live, and Zoom.

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4. Let go of any emphasis on aesthetic. You neither have to look perfect nor does your space before you make an online offering. Most smart phones have excellent cameras, it may be all you need.

5. Create a schedule for your online offerings. This can support grounding you and those you offer your teachings to.

6. Consider both compensation and giving. The choice to offer everything for free is generous. But doing so can also make it harder for other teachers without any fallback or with a different outlook or set of needs to ask for some compensation or donation. Perhaps the most sustainable and considerate option is to offer some things for free and other things either by donation or for a fee. You can use tools like Venmo, Cash App, and PayPal.

7. Communicate. Be transparent, honest, and real. And don’t be afraid to ASK.

8. Support each other. We all have different areas of emphasis, let’s celebrate them so our offerings reach the right people. This isn’t a competition.

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9. Reflect on anitya, or impermanence. The only constant is change. This is not permanent.

10. Keep up your personal practices and rituals.

See also 11 Yoga Practices for Working Through Stress and Anxiety

To everyone, I’d say: First acknowledge how you feel. Then acknowledge your resources. All of them. Acknowledge your loss. Then, when you’re ready, acknowledge your opportunities. I’ll be doing my best to keep highlighting all of them and reaching out to those who want and need support. I see you.

May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you be safe
May you live with ease

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