The importance of small

The importance of small: why I’m permanently changing my exercise habits this lockdown and supporting small, local yoga studios and teachers. By Emma West

Before lockdown, my weekly exercise and yoga habits were set in stone. I would go to my local yoga studio once a week, visit my local gym two to three times a week and train with a personal trainer once a week.

When the first lockdown hit back in March 2020, all that stopped. Yoga became a home practice, with the occasional online class and exercise was put on the back burner as I went into survival mode — having two small children and a full-time business took its toll.

My motivation seemed to completely disappear over time. Like so many others, money has been tight for me over the past year, so I have had to rein in my spending, and attending classes online had to be cut back. I am a qualified yoga teacher with my own home practice, so yoga classes seemed like a luxury rather than a necessity.

Over that time, I kept in touch with my local gym, personal trainer and other yoga teachers through social media. I joined in with the free live workouts online, kindly provided by my local gym and personal trainer. I paid for access to pre-recorded classes with my local yoga studio and joined in with the occasional livestream class.

My fantastic yoga teacher streams a weekly mantra meditation and dance session on a Saturday morning (free on Instagram), which I have faithfully attended week after week. It keeps me going and helps me to feel connected to our local yoga community even when we cannot practice together.

Now into another year, we are again bombarded with the usual adverts for various online exercise programmes. These online, mass-market programmes offering free trials and discounted memberships are very tempting. The idea that I can choose any type of workout at any time of day works for me because I am juggling running a business and home schooling my kids. My time is as limited as my finances at the moment.

Keeping it Small

On completing a workout the other evening, (on a discounted-rate trial membership with a large online company) I felt the need to brag about my achievements on social media. I opened Instagram to find a post from a fellow yoga teacher reminding us of the importance of supporting small businesses. I felt a wave of guilt wash over me.

Without realising it, I had inadvertently ditched these amazing small businesses when they needed support more than ever. In my mind, sharing posts and interacting over social media was supporting them. Obviously, showing support through social media is great — small businesses rely on it as a form of advertising — but that doesn’t pay the bills.

My income as a yoga teacher has dropped by a whopping 90% in lockdown. Luckily, I still have an income from my other business, but many in the yoga industry do not. Yet these yoga teachers are the ones offering free classes, worrying about others and holding our yoga communities together.

Before lockdown, these yoga teachers were a constant — always there to lend a shoulder to cry on, offer advice, friendship and support. That has become even more apparent over the last year.

So I have changed my habits. No more mass-market workouts or generic yoga for me. I cancelled my discount-rate memberships and invested in a 10-class pass at my local yoga studio. Quality over quantity from now on.

All our local yoga studios and teachers desperately need our support right now. Money is tight for everyone, but if you can afford to buy a pass to attend an online class, please do. A class can cost as little as a couple of coffees or a lunch out, and it’s not like lunch out is an option at the moment!

I guarantee that purchasing an online yoga class with your favourite yoga teacher will make more of a difference than a takeaway lunch. We need to vote with our money and invest in what matters most to us.

Small businesses are brilliant, and we need to use them, or we risk losing them.

Emma West

Emma is a Cornwall-based yoga and meditation teacher and positive mental health ambassador for WarriorKind.