Full stream ahead for remote fitness lessons
Yoga teachers show they’re supple in mind as much as body in their ability to adapt to online streaming in the Covid-19 age of self-isolation
Since the lockdown started in SA three weeks ago, yoga teacher Shasta Jordan’s online streamed classes have grown by a third. They are relatively small numbers, but it demonstrates the shift towards streaming in this sudden-onset age of self-isolation.
Jordan is a Joburg yoga teacher who specialises in pregnancy and post-natal classes, and has a dedicated following. But she is also an adept convert to this new form of teaching.
Yoga is an intimate wellness practice. The teacher demonstrates the position and then walks around the class, correcting postures. Like all other forms of group exercise, traditional yoga lessons are verboten in the Covid-19 age of self-isolating. Yoga, more than any other form of exercise, seems the least likely to be adaptable to an online format — but the change to remote lessons is proving to be immensely popular in SA, and globally.
"My classes have definitely increased in numbers. It was a great transition to make, but you have to adapt your teaching style," Jordan told the FM (via a traditional phone call). She says her classes have grown under lockdown because the online versions have inadvertently reduced many barriers to entry, not least of which is introducing a new-found flexibility in people’s days. "People [also] don’t have to get into their car and go anywhere."
Jordan uses an Apple MacBook Air laptop to stream her classes, and upgraded her fibre line at home just before the lockdown, especially the upload speed which is crucial for good-quality streaming video.
She uses Zoom, the video conferencing app that is suddenly in the spotlight for its ease of use (and security issues) in this stream-from-home period.
But Jordan is proof that yoga teachers show they’re supple in mind as much as body as they adapt to this new way of doing a traditional practice renowned for being personal and intimate.
Instead of being able to show the posture and then move around the physical studio to check her students have it correct, she finds she does more demonstration poses herself because of the nature of streaming a video. "It has been more challenging to do three to four classes a day online," but she has found a clever strategy to keep her eye on her students.
"When I have a strong student in my class, who knows my teaching style and poses very well, I pin that person [to the Zoom screen instead of Jordan’s feed] so that when people look up they see that person and they are seeing perfect posture being demonstrated."
That enables her to go to her laptop and look at the poses of her online students, whom she then corrects with verbal instructions. Her teaching style has changed but at the same time, it hasn’t. "I taught a very specific [post-natal] class today for pelvic reset. I looked at every person on the screen. Some of those people can get lost in a normal class," she says.
There is another useful and unintended consequence: people do marketing on your behalf on social media. "The opportunity to reach a wider audience is incredible. Other people are advertising for you. They put their stories on Instagram and Facebook. Suddenly I got more exposure than I was giving myself before," she says. "There have definitely been some positives to that."
For another Joburg yoga teacher, Michelle Kriek, online teaching has helped her change the way she interacts with her students.
Kriek does her art classes and yoga classes through Zoom, also preferring an Apple MacBook.
"I have had to learn a lot of skills," she tells the FM. "I feel lucky that I have been able to maintain students. I lost a few, mostly because of tech or internet connection issues. Most of them are paying, but a handful have said they can’t afford to. I’ve said I would rather they continue, because they are part of the studio, and they pay when they can."
She has had to shift her focus towards tutorials and masterclasses on techniques because of the nature of streaming to an audience. She feels lucky to be in an industry where moving to web-based streaming via Zoom is possible. "Zoom makes it easy to take my art and yoga classes online," she says.
Jordan and Kriek’s clients mostly pay by EFT. This overcomes the biggest barrier for home practitioners: finding a cost-effective booking and payment system.
Jordan uses a service called Bookamat, which integrates a booking and payment system. She is signing up for PayPal for international payments, from Germany and Dubai. These foreign clients found her because she offered a free, 20-minute, midday meditation session, which has proved not only to be calming for her, but excellent marketing for her yoga.
Arguably the most famous beneficiary of the teach-from-home trend is British fitness YouTuber Joe Wicks, whose physical exercise (PE) classes for schoolchildren have gone truly viral.
Though Wicks has been teaching via YouTube since 2014, his classes in the lounge of his flat have become an internet sensation. He said he’d had 28-million views in the 10 days since they went viral. He dresses up in funny outfits and chats back to followers who comment (via his brother, who is his producer and reads the text messaging on the screen).
He’s been interviewed by comedian Russell Brand and is a bona-fide celebrity in the new work-from-home era. It seems it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.