Teaching children’s yoga online
How to teach children yoga online: a response to the challenges of the Covid-19 era. By Gopala Amir Yaffa
If Covid-19 has taught me anything, it is that we can make a difference individually, as a community, and as a collective humanity.
We have the tools right now to end world hunger, global warming, animal exploitation, species extinction and all of the other ailments we have inflicted on the planet.
All we need to do is work together.
And with all of the reserves and resistance that I (and maybe you) sometimes have for how technology has taken over our lives, it is that same technology that can save our world.
It is with this technology, with the internet and all of the brave and creative humans that are connected to it, that we all get to share information and positively act on it together.
The global action we saw during this pandemic is only the beginning in us owning our mistakes and making amends together as one humankind.
As the world changes around us, we need to keep turning and changing with it, and, without shame, bring our own talents and the wonderful wisdom and light we have into this new global platform.
Teaching yoga online can save not only your business but also children, families and the world!
If we work together, if we each do our part, stand up against the wrongs and put lots of the goodness we do all have into the mix, then we will see a brighter future for us and for the generations to come.
A question of attitude
We have faced so many changes so quickly and on so many fronts and there are probably more changes are to come — change is the only constant in life.
And when dealing with change, the most important element is our attitude. How do we choose to look at the situation? And how do we choose to respond to it?
We can respond with panic, freeze and do nothing about it — this will probably make us end up in a worse place than we started when the crisis is eventually over.
We can respond in a survival mode, trying to put out fires and caring for any emergency that arises — this will carry us through the difficult times but is bound to leave us depleted and unsatisfied.
We can be proactive in our response and plan for a brighter future — if we are smart about it, if we use our time to gain the skills we need and take the steps required to find ourselves in a better position than when we started, despite and even because of the challenges around us, our chances for growth and success are much higher!
This is all true on the personal, family, and business levels.
A proactive attitude is most likely to prove best for the future of your yoga business too!
There is still a lot we can do — even while in quarantines and lockdowns — to keep our yoga community together, grow our reach, and benefit the world.
Surviving is not enough, we want to thrive. But working too hard is not thriving either, so a balance needs to be struck here.
And let’s not look for perfection; even at the best of times life can be challenging, so while you do your very best, take it easy on yourself.
Many of us have a lot to juggle between family duties (which now may also include homeschooling), financial security and our own mental health. One step at a time, one kind choice at a time, a few minutes of focused effort at a time, is all that’s needed.
Let’s do the best we can with what we have and see this situation as an opportunity.
It is not happening to us, but for us!
Start from where you are; you may have never taught in front of a camera before, but you have to start somewhere and now is a fantastic time to do it.
Yoga online is a major part of the future of yoga, and getting yourself there is very beneficial for your financial security as a yoga teacher.
You don’t need complicated video equipment. Your iPhone or smartphone is equipped with everything you need to take a good video for an online class.
Your students also might have never taken an online yoga class and don’t know what to expect, or if it is worth their money or time investment. So a good idea is to offer a few free online sessions to your audience so that they can experience the value of it.
Free sessions are a fantastic way to show your students what magical things you can offer, and it is also an amazing way to lure in new students and increase your list of hot leads.
But don’t offer everything for free: you need to make an income too.
When teaching online, you have a few options for the way you deliver your classes:
Live session: this can be done through Facebook Live, Zoom or YouTube, for example.
The advantage here is that the class is more interactive as you can see your students and make them a part of the class, co-creating it by offering them choices along your yoga journey, adding self-expression and creativity from their end.
As far as marketing, there is the feeling here for the students that it is “‘ow or never’ which usually gets a few more to join in.
The disadvantage is that you have to do it great the first time! But that’s an advantage too because messing around with editing when you do a pre-recorded session takes a long time.
Live sessions can be recorded too so that students who couldn't make the time you have set can still enjoy the practice later.
Pre-recorded online class: this can be on your website, on Vimeo, on your YouTube channel, or through an online classes platform (I use Ruzuku but there are many others).
The advantage for your students is that they have so much flexibility with when and where to do the class.
If you are not feeling super confident in front of the camera, pre-recording the class gives you the opportunity to do it again if you are unhappy with it or edit (I use iMovie and if you are editing on your phone there are so many funky apps) out any parts you don’t want in.
While editing you can add music and even visual effects, some of which are very attractive to children.
Whether you are offering live classes or pre-recorded ones, you have a few options as far as pricing:
Free: great as a lead magnet and to educate your current students about doing yoga online.
By donation or a sliding scale: Perfect for challenging times where people are struggling financially but you need to make some income as well. It’s a win-win situation.
Pay per class or for a course: you charge per session or they buy a package for a certain number of classes. Eventbrite is a good app that allows you to set an event where people can pay for either one-off classes or a course or even pay by donation. And the cool thing is that the ‘Pay Now’ button can be displayed on your Facebook page or event so students don’t even need to leave FaceBook for their payment to be processed.
Subscription: your students subscribe and pay a monthly fee to receive classes from you. YouTube is great for that!
Pay attention to details
Make sure everything looks and sounds as ideal as you can make it:
The sound of your voice: people need to be able to hear you clearly. I use a mic called SmartMike+. The mic also helps to lower background noises such as traffic, wind, kids.
Music: music is the soundtrack for life, and for yoga! It can really help in making your class even more awesome. Make sure that the ratio between the volume of the music and your voice is just right. If the class is going to be public on social media or YouTube, make sure to use non-copyrighted music or your video will be rejected when you upload it.
Your appearance: be mindful of your hair, clothing, anything that can cause a wardrobe-malfunction; use some powder if you find that your face is too shiny.
The environment: make sure the space you are filming is not cluttered and that the background is nice and pleasant.
Lighting: not too dark or too bright. You can buy special lights and have your environment be more controlled. Otherwise natural light (from the sun) always looks best.
Distance: if you are too far away it is hard for people to see the details of the poses and your facial expressions and get excited with you. You also don’t want to be too close so that your arms or legs get cut off in the frame as you stretch. If you show anything, such as a storybook or yoga cards, come closer to the camera. A good idea, if you are doing it all on your own and don’t have someone filming you, is to do it in selfie-mode so that you can always see yourself and adapt as you teach.
Testing: always test the sound and the video first; stretch your arms up to make sure that the whole of you is in the frame, make sure that your voice and the music are at the right ratio to each other, make sure that you don’t have anything in the frame that you don’t want people to see (like your dirty laundry for example!).
Adapt, adjust, accommodate
Life is in constant motion and evolution is happening right in front of our eyes.
To try and keep things just like they always were is a big disservice to ourselves and to future generations.
Just like the practice of yoga needs to be adapted to each individual, it also needs to be adapted to the environment where we teach and to the new times we are in.
When news of Covid-19 first started coming in and people became more apprehensive about touch, I started to adjust my classes to include less touch, and then to no touch, in addition to all other precautions such as keeping yoga mats extra clean and making sure everyone sanitises their hands at the beginning of class and on returning from the toilet etc.
As restrictions are lifted, we will again need to introduce supportive touch, partner and group work, massage and adjustments in the poses gradually to gain students' trust.
What is happening to us as humans during isolation is only going to make the need for the connections we work to enhance in yoga more needed than ever!
Your students and the world at large will need you and other yogi warriors to go out there and spread the love, bringing people together again with some of the elements that make us human.
We are social animals, and we crave and need connections with other people just like we need food and water. And I believe that this will be more apparent than ever when this crisis is over.
Returning to in-person classes
So if you teach in-person classes during these trying times:
Keep the groups small allowing for enough distance between the students.
Have a hand sanitiser and make sure that everyone uses it whenever entering the classroom.
Sanitise your yoga mats and any equipment used after each practice.
Avoid partner and group poses, massage or any practice that involves touch.
Discourage participation of anyone who is not well.
Keep your immune system strong by sleeping well, eating healthy food, exercising, keeping your stress levels down…and of course, doing yoga!
On the other hand, both for in-person classes and for online classes, keep all of the usual principles so your class is still engaging and captivating, especially when working with a younger audience:
Keep it fun and playful.
Add any talents and skills that you have that may make the class even more exciting.
Still play yoga games and interact, just with no touch.
Co-create the class with your students by giving them choices, encouraging creativity and letting them lead too.
Allocate times for self-expression; expressing our fears and worries can help in relieving them.
Gratitude is also a fantastic way to see the bright side of anything we are going through.
Remember the law of the jungle and be big, expressive and dramatic by using dynamic body language, vocal variety, dressing up to match your theme and using imaginative play.
Even without the element of touch, we can still connect people through:
Saying a kind word
Setting a personal or a collective intention
And much more
With change, fear of a pandemic and social isolation comes anxiety and stress. This makes it the perfect time to share mindfulness techniques, gratitude practices, more breathing and new ways to find calm and relaxation with your students.
Our yoga work is essential to help take children and families through challenging times with more acceptance, joy and resilience.
Improve your skills
As your work schedule may have changed during the pandemic threat, you may find that you have some more time on your hands. This time can be used to learn new skills that will be of service to you and your students.
You will also need to do some yoga yourself to get you through this! The best teachers are the ones that are doing their best to practice what they teach. Teaching from your own experience is really the only way. This is true for teaching life lessons through yoga, and it is also true for teaching yoga poses.
As you get ready to teach online, doing yoga online yourself will give you many insights; all the while you’ll improve your yoga skills and reduce your own stress levels.
I use YogaGlo for my personal practice but there are dozens of different yoga apps and websites to choose from.
Some of those sites have thousands of classes and you can find a practice for the specific duration you want, the style of yoga, the focus, the level of difficulty etc.
Doing yoga online, you are sure to gain more skills in sequencing poses, variations of poses, cueing, alignment and much more. And the best thing about it is that it will be experiential learning for you. You will feel it from the inside out, which will certainly make you a better teacher for your students!
And all those new principles that you will learn will apply later on to partner poses and group work as well when the world is ready for it again.
Other skills that are essential for teaching yoga to children can also be learned online: mindfulness, breathing techniques, social games, to just name a few.
Drama is on the top of my list when working with children and can also be studied online.
And let’s not forget about your own talents! Those talents make your classes one of a kind and bring your own personal passion into the classroom.
And when you teach with passion, this is when your students are inspired and are transformed.
Music, dance, science, arts and crafts, martial arts, clowning, juggling…there’s an infinite list to explore. Make yourself the best person and the best teacher you can be!
Whether it’s face-to-face classes or online, our mission here is clear: to be of benefit to the world and to bring a smile to the faces of children and students whenever and however possible.