Updates on Teaching Yoga During Covid – Winter 2020

This post is specific to NYS DOH, however the procedures and regulations may be beneficial to studios and teachers anywhere. 


Wear A Mask


In mid-October I attended my first in person yoga class in another town.  At this studio the students arrived with masks and once on mats they removed masks.  I consulted a local teacher to ask how her studio handles masks and she said that they do the same. (Note this class and conversation took place in mid-October 2020)


I took my research a little further, reaching out on a Western New York Yogi FB page asking what the clear rule was and what studios were doing considering that the NYS rule for “gyms,” which yoga studios fall under, is that attendees must wear masks at all times.  The overwhelming response, from the 6-10 people who got back to me, was that students must wear masks at all times, as well as teachers, of course. 


This, honestly, disheartened me because of the instant fear I had that students would not attend if they had to wear masks during the entire class, so I posed a follow up question on the same group asking if students were attending with the mask mandate.  The responses that were elicited smothered my fear as all of the teachers who replied said, Yes! Students are coming and are very grateful for the opportunity.


All of that to say that masks should be worn during class.  It feels odd at first, but we’ll all adapt as we have to wearing our masks while running our errands or at work.  That being said, in NY, if a student has a medical reason to not wear a mask, they are able to wear a face shield as outlined by NYS DOH.


Stay Home if Sick


Although masks are worn, students, and teacher, should remain home if feeling any symptoms of Covid.  When entering the space students are asked to sign a contact tracing sheet so that we can contact you if we are informed of a case.  The sign in sheet/contact tracing sheet also doubles as an agreement that you do not have any of the symptoms and have not, to your knowledge, been in contact with anyone who has tested positive and that you yourself are not at the time of class supposed to be home isolating waiting for a test result. 

Provide PPE


Have hand sanitizer available before signing in as well as enough pens for sign in.  Because class size is capped for maximum social distancing at the space (personally my classes are capped at 12 for a space that could easily fit three times as many) it should be easy to know how many pens to have so that everyone can use a fresh pen.  Also, it may be a good idea to bring a box of masks in case a student forgets theirs and does not have time to run to the car or get a new one.  The last thing we would want would be for students to have to have made a wasted trip and go back home without any yoga because they forgot their mask.


Limit Community Use


Request that students bring their own equipment.  We can expect that all students will have their own yoga mats, that should be an easy ask, but many will not have their own props which will change the way that class is taught.  Mention to students that blocks may be very useful in most classes and direct them as to where they can purchase blocks locally at a low price.  I directed students to TJ Max.  I also made it very clear that they are not necessary and it is completely their decision.  


If props are being shared, be clear on distribution, sanitization, and clean up after class.  

Bring Your Mic

If you taught with a mic in the summer or at anytime in the past I suggest that you continue to use it. My new space is large to allow for distancing, I wear a mask the entire class and demo the entire class because I can’t interact one on one, therefore it would likely be very difficult for my students to hear me if I did not use my mic. Another benefit is that I don’t have to shot in a large space that would swallow my volume.


Teachers and Studios, be sure to stay up to date with guidelines. And prepare your students for the very real possibility of in person classes ending suddenly and for an unknown amount of time. If resources and skills are available, have a plan for a smooth transition to virtual and guide your students to those resources. We all know how much we need yoga right now.

Teaching Yoga Public Classes During Covid

Yoga Teachers, here are a few things to keep in mind when teaching classes during Corona Virus this summer.  In person classes have mostly halted and as they come back to life it is necessary to know that they will not be the same as they were in early March, things have changed for the long haul until a vaccine is ready for use, which honestly, will not be for a very long time.  Studios and teachers have already adapted by teaching virtually, but as states move into phases in which gyms and yoga studios are allowed to operate there will be a need for even more adaptation.

 

Safety First

Keeping your students safe is of primary importance, this means, be sure to express to students prior to class in your newsletter and marketing that social distancing is expected and required.  Ask students to bring a face mask to class to wear in case they come into close contact with others, for example while entering the studio, making payments, or using the facilities.  If teaching outdoors, it is still a good idea to have students bring their masks in case they come into close contact with others.

Be Prepared

Mark out spaces for mats to placed 6 ft away from each other, this includes from all directions – front to back and side to side.  In many studios this will mean that class size potential will dramatically drop.  Teaching outdoors may be a better option, and while there have been studies that have found that being outside is far better than being inside in terms of spreading the virus, there are also studies that show that social distancing is also beneficial, so space mats apart for outdoor classes as well.

Recently I taught outside and I arrived before my students with tape measure in hand.  I measured mats apart and placed tennis balls down as markers so that they could arrive and put their mats down at a safe distance.  Once everyone had arrived, I put my mask on and collected the tennis balls from everyone.  It worked well.  I also brought hand sanitizer.  It is important to remember that many people will rightfully have anxiety about their health and rejoining gatherings, keep this in mind and make health and safety a top priority.

Make Your Students Aware

For two purposes, express your rules and expectations to students before class.  This will help quell some of the anxiety about meeting up with people and will ensure that people follow rules.  Include text such as: Masks required when in close quarters, social distancing required at all times when possible, and, Bring your own mat and props.

Depending on where you are in the world, most people are now very accustomed to the new normal of wearing masks and will respect your guidelines.  It may be helpful to bring a few spare masks, maybe even a spare mat or two in case people come unprepared, that way you don’t have to turn them away.  If renting or lending out mats, be sure to bring means to clean the mats after class.

Final Thoughts

Prior registration will be helpful in order to ensure that you do not go beyond your areas’ maximum gathering capacity.  Also, communicating your expectations and rules for class will be easier knowing who exactly is planning to come to class.  Pre-registration also allows people to pay ahead of time by card and avoids handling cash.

It is your responsibility as a teacher to lead the way for your students and for your community.  Communicate how you will make your classes safe for students and venues that host you.  Please share the ways in which you are making your classes safe and keep practicing.

 

 

Know Your Audience

This applies to so many things, for example while telling a story it should be altered slightly differently if the listeners are your near and dear friends, or say, your new boyfriend’s parents. That’s obvious, isn’t it?

This little colloquialism is also very applicable to yoga teachers. It’s a good piece of advice for new teachers who just finished their intensive 200hr training and it’s a nice reminder to teachers who have been teaching for years, because it always rings true.

Know Your Students’ Levels

Generally, at least. You can’t walk around before your class starts and ask new students to define their ability level – that’s way too much pressure for a student and will cause ego damage, because nobody wants to say that they’re a beginner in a room full of intermediates or hand-standing-advanced students. Which is silly, because at one point we’re all beginners, but for some reason there’s an embarrassment that comes along with being new to something and therefore not as “good” as others (read more of my thoughts on this here.)

Another way to say it is – don’t teach a dynamic series of non-stop standing balancing to a beginners’ class, unless you’ve prepared them well for it in the first 40 minutes of class. Don’t even teach something like that to a mixed level class in which just one or two of the students are beginners.

Why? Well, my two primary reasons are alignment and ego. Fist, and most importantly – the alignment. It takes time and practice to get alignment of yoga poses well enough that you can  move quickly from one to the other with proper alignment. Even a basic pose like Virabhadrasan II (Warrior II) could take a whole year to learn the full-body techniques of where to align the bones and how to tone the right muscles, what to do with the pelvic floor, ribs, chin, the list goes on. So, if you rush a class with students who are not familiar enough with the alignment to do poses without you meticulously telling them everything, then be careful. Overtime poor alignment can lead to joint damage, or if their joints are already weak then they could possibly even injure themselves during the flow, during your class.

The ego comes into play when you as the teacher, whom has practiced years and years, blows through the sequence with ease and to full capability, and the student in their mind feels down for not being able to look and do the same. Of course not all students will think like that, but some will, and they might not come back to your class if they leave feeling worse than when they arrived. People are sensitive and compare themselves to each other; this happens a lot in yoga classes. It’s good to remember this as a teacher.

Teaching

Get a Feel for Which Level of Spirituality is Appropriate

We all know that yoga is about more than body movement, unlike other “workouts,” yoga involves breath synchronization with each individual movement and usually has some level of body and mind union. This might mean a theme of gratitude in a class, or it could go further to include a lesson from Shiva, Hanuman, or the Buddha.

To some students it may be too much to hear about the destructive, dancing Shiva. Or, say

20160307_213008for example if you line up a class venue at a church, it’s probably best not to teach lessons from Hinduism or Buddhism. For me it’s second nature to teach my classes in English and Sanskrit, saying each pose in Sanskrit so that my students learn the pose names, but I gauge who I’m teaching and sometimes stick to just English. Something to not only keep in mind for students of different belief backgrounds, but also for levels. If I teach a group of beginners I explain why I use Sanskrit and where it comes from, something I will try to do even more after reading this insightful article on cultural appropriation and yoga.

 

Themes of nature and the environment are other themes that I like to incorporate as it is a strongly felt passion that I have; to take care of the waters and land, and as part of that stewardship, to spread knowledge about how and why with others. Put into a word it can be called activism. I consider myself an environmentalist (which can have negative connotations depending on which political party you’re talking to, so changing the label to say that I’m a nature level is more appropriate depending on who’s reading this.) It’s a good idea to create classes with themes like these that are more appropriate for all. Also, as mentioned before, gratitude, mindfulness, and grounding are other great class themes.

 

When designing a class, keep in mind who your expected audience will be. Plan appropriate poses, themes, and language and be prepared to have to change it all last minute. Being a yoga teacher requires being flexible in more ways than one; know your audience, as best you can predict.

Top 4 Yoga Study Tips

So much more than being a yoga teacher, I am a yoga student. There is so much to learn about yoga, and you don’t have to be a yoga teacher to delve in. There are thousands of years of yogic history, philosophy and knowledge that cannot all be learned in any YTTC.

As a teacher, I strive to learn more and more about the human body and it’s movements and interweaving, working systems. This means studying human anatomy. Muscles, bones, and the like.

On top of the physical aspect of yoga there is a whole new language to learn – Sanskrit.

The list could go on, so to aid your study of yoga, here are four of my top yoga resources that I use to increase my understanding of yoga.

  • TIP ONE – ANATOMY COLORING BOOK – My trainer, Kimberly Waugh of Radiant Life Yoga School, had recommended that I get a coloring anatomy book during my YTTC exit interview back in 2013 when I asked her for advice on how to self-study anatomy. I don’t know why I didn’t take her advice right away, instead I only just recently purchased my coloring book and instantly fell in love. It’s stress reducing and educational at the same time! Grab your own and get to coloring… just one tip – get the big box of coloring pencils, minimum 24 pack.

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Netter’s Anatomy Coloring Book, 2nd Ed

  • TIP TWO – LEARN THROUGH YOUR EARS – I. Love. Podcasts. Many of my conversations begin like this, “I was listening to this podcast about (fill in the blank) and …” I subscribe to an array of them and am open to expanding my list. My favorite all time yoga podcast though is Yoga Body – The Yoga Talk Show by Lucas Rockwood. Episodes include interesting interviewees not only from the yoga world but from all areas of the health and wellness industries. Every show also includes a questions and answers segment with Lucas and a Nutritional Tip of the Week. Get this app.

ybn2

 

  • TIP THREE – FLASH CARDS – Be traditional and make your own, or try this flash cards app: AnkiApp. This app is new to me but I’ve already studied with it quite a lot. You search topics, choose a deck you like, download it to your app and start flipping. They even have flash cards specific to yoga.

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AnkiApp, English/Sanskrit Pose Names

  • TIP FOUR – CREATE A STUDY GROUP – Ask fellow yoga students and/or teachers to study with you. Share resources and help commit each other to study dates and times. Claim a large table at a cafe, spread it all, sip some herbal tea and study.

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Changing your perspective of yoga from just a practice to a study of yoga will deepen your experience. Once you open that portal you’ll realize that there’s so much to learn and with that learning your practice will evolve.


*If your studying is taking you to a retreat or teacher training, then check out one of my first blog posts full of how to start the process of choosing the right YTTC for you.