Best of both worlds
How triyoga’s yoga for cancer teacher training transitioned into a hybrid online/in-person course in the wake of the lockdowns. By Vicky Fox
The yoga for cancer TT changed overnight from being a London-based course to one that could be taken by anyone, anywhere in the world. It made it financially more accessible for some people as it meant that they didn’t have to add on the cost of travel or overnight stays in London. I wasn’t sure how my yoga for cancer 40-hour training would work online, because a key part of this training is compassion and learning to create and hold safe spaces for people impacted by cancer. However, having seen how this intimacy and warmth could be created in my online yoga for cancer classes at triyoga, I felt confident that this could be recreated in an online training.
There is one aspect of the training that I changed: teachers now have to include a 40-minute video of themselves teaching a yoga for cancer class. I hadn’t previously considered teachers recording themselves teaching, as it wasn’t something I felt comfortable with – until I was thrown in at the deep end with lockdown and given no choice but to either teach online or not teach at all.
I think we all became more comfortable with recording ourselves teaching and using Zoom to connect with students. As we weren’t in a studio where I could move around the room, easily observing teachers working in groups, I was only able to see teaching in breakout rooms. The recorded video homework has enabled me to see how participants teach, the language they use and whether they are applying the principles learnt on the training. This also created a level playing field once we went into hybrid trainings for all teachers, whether in-studio or online, to produce a recorded class.
We ran three trainings that were purely online and in January 2022 we ran the first hybrid training. I took advice from a fellow triyoga teacher, Jean Hall, who had been successfully running hybrid trainings, and I am grateful for her time giving me tips. Hybrid trainings bring their own challenges on how you can make online students feel that energy that is in the room and have a connection with each other.
In-studio, students can interact with each other easily in breaks and when arriving and leaving at the end of the day. Students support each other with these spontaneous connections. I didn’t want the online students to miss out on this. On Jean Hall’s advice I decided to have some assistance with juggling the online and in-studio students. I was fortunate enough to have another yoga for cancer teacher — the wonderful Flavia Cerrone — assist me with the online students. It meant she could be fully present there and if there were any technical difficulties, as there inevitably are in a four-day training, she could be on hand to communicate to the online group. I didn’t want them to feel they were not getting the same experience as those in the studio or missing out on some of that support.
Flavia Cerrone was able to make me aware of anything happening with the online group that I may have missed while also holding space in the room. She also had my number so could connect to me if everything failed or communicate with me in a frank way on behalf of the online participants, if something wasn’t translating from the room to the Zoom.
Hopefully, students come with a nonjudgmental mind and some patience to this new way of teaching. You definitely need this when trying to create the same experience on a screen as in a studio. Technology is great when it works but can challenge even the calmest of us when it doesn’t, especially if you're not someone who considers themselves very tech-friendly and would rather not be embracing more time spent on a computer screen.
In the training we have a tonglen practice, which involves working with a partner keeping eye-to-eye contact while following a guided meditation that involves taking in that person's hurt and pain and breathing back out to them kindness and love. On screen, the technical challenge was how every individual could pin one person to create the same feeling as standing directly in front of them. When we're face-to-face this is an easy thing to do but on screen it's necessary to make all the participants a host so that they have the ability to pin. A process of trial and error meant we got there in the end and the response from students in the room and online was that it was an emotional and intimate experience.
It's estimated that one in two people will have a cancer diagnosis in their lives so a yoga for cancer training can bring up all kinds of emotions, as most people have been impacted by cancer. In a room/ Zoom there will be teachers with their own diagnosis of cancer or who have friends or family members with cancer. It's often the reason people take the training – to learn more and to help empower people to take back some control when life gets taken out of their control.
Inevitably, there are parts of the training that are emotionally challenging for people and as a teacher you need to be aware and hold space for whatever comes up. For some this might be the first time they have embraced their own mortality or maybe the first time they have fully connected with their changing bodies or processed what they may have been through. One online student who'd had treatment for cancer was generously able to share their personal experience. They emailed to say, “You allowed me to see myself as an
entirely different entity just when I needed it.” There were intense moments where I know this training was particularly difficult
for them and I hope that I was able to be as supportive to someone all the way in Scotland as I was to the students with me in the room in our Camden studio.
Vicky Fox is leading the Yoga for Cancer Teacher Training course at triyoga Camden and online from June 13–16, 2022. Cost: £650. Visit: triyoga.co.uk