Jessica Banks / Sat Shakti Kaur
JOY Yoga is London’s premier destination for all things Kundalini Yoga. Here, Jessica Banks/ Sat Shakti Kaur talks to OM about how the studio adjusted to the fear and anxieties posed by lockdown
The first lockdown in March 2020 seems a long time ago now. What was your initial reaction at the time?
Going into the first lockdown and the weeks leading up to it seemed surreal.
Having a studio that at the time had 30-plus teachers, four reception team members, and a tight community of committed regulars, I felt a personal responsibility to help keep all of them safe and healthy.
In practical terms, this meant doing what I could to minimise the risk of transmission at the studio.
In addition to teaching and managing studio operations, suddenly I found myself studying Covid19, conducting risk assessments, poring over government guidance, and analysing ingredient lists on commercial cleaners.
At the same time, continuing to give people access to yoga and meditation seemed essential given that these practices promote physical and mental wellbeing.
When the lockdown order came, we thought the studio would be closed for a month or two. Looking back, two months seems like nothing, but it was monumental at the time.
All the same, there was one persistent message that seemed important to share: keep up! Whether in person or online, keep doing yoga and meditation.
Shutting down the studio and ramping up our online classes was a huge effort. There wasn’t much time for personal reflection. We had to roll up our sleeves and get on with it.
Were you already offering online yoga classes or did you have to launch it all very quickly, and if so, what was the hardest part?
There was no question about moving classes online. So many people seemed to be experiencing fear, overwhelm, and confusion. Yoga and meditation are essential tools that can help you stay centred in times of crisis.
But the online format was new to us. There was a steep learning curve to figure out what worked (and what didn’t) with online platforms. With Kundalini Yoga, sound and mantra can play an important part in classes. In those early lockdown days, it was a struggle to find effective ways to chant – even acapella – without transmitting a noisy mess. We learned as we went along. At the same time, Zoom made some significant improvements as well.
How did your community respond to your online offer during the lockdowns and how did it help keep them going?
For many, myself included, online classes were a lifeline. Apart from the benefits of yoga and meditation, the classes provided routine and an opportunity to connect. Students have the shared experience of the class itself and afterwards, those who want to, can stay on for a chat.
When we were able to reopen the studio in August 2020, and started offering hybrid classes, we had two distinct groups in classes: the online group who had been doing yoga throughout lockdown and the studio group who for the most part hadn’t. There was a noticeable contrast between the students who had continued online and those who hadn’t. As you would expect, the online group were stronger and had an easier time doing more challenging exercises. But also, the online group seemed more relaxed. A bit more at ease with the prevailing uncertainty.
What have been the most sought-after classes during times of lockdown?
What people have seemed to need and want changed as the lockdown progressed. In the beginning, the emphasis was more on calming and balancing practices, helping people recover from the shock of complete upheaval.
As people started to recover from the shock, the effects of a more sedentary lifestyle took its toll, there was more appetite for physically rigorous classes.
What’s the most useful bit of advice or information you’d pass on to people after all that we’ve experienced since March 2020 (in case there’s another lockdown!)?
No matter what happens, hang on to your personal practice! Your yoga and meditation can help carry you through. They won’t take the pain away, but they will help you cope.
Find out more about Jessica Banks / Sat Shakti Kaur and the magic of Kundalini Yoga at JOY Yoga. Visit: joy.yoga