The secret to survive lockdown is have a routine. Learn a new skill. Clear your to-do list. Simple. Yet life in lockdown appears deceptively the same, but in reality something is out there… lurking…
Since the Coronavirus pandemic hit our shores life as we know it has changed. Even when we come out of lockdown, the way we practice yoga will undoubtedly be different to how it was before. And having your own yoga kit is going to be essential. Many yoga studios had already stipulated that post-lockdown all students will be required to bring their own kit to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
At the moment, as many students practice yoga at home, they’ll also need to invest in some yoga kit to make the most of their online classes. As a yoga teacher myself, I know that the recent crisis has prompted many of my students to make the step to invest in their own yoga equipment so that they can join in fully with my online classes.
A senior yoga teacher once said to me, “If you were going to play tennis, you wouldn’t turn up without a racket, yoga should be the same.”
As yoga teachers it’s up to us to encourage our students to invest in proper kit so that their experience of doing yoga at home is as good as it can be, and also so that they have the tools to start a home yoga practice.
What is a yoga kit?
As an Iyengar yoga teacher, I have yoga props galore. However, if you’re on a budget, then a basic yoga kit list is:
- A mat
- Four blocks
- Two bricks
- One belt
These are the basic building blocks of a yoga practice. The mat gives you a surface that grips to your feet, preventing you from slipping in the poses. It also gives you a space in which to orientate the body.
The four blocks can be used to support the body for seated poses, can be used under the sacrum in supported Setubandha and under the shoulders in Sarvangasana.
The two bricks are like extensions of the arms in standing forward bends such as Uttanasana and Parsvottanasana, and can be used in all sorts of imaginative ways, like between the upper thighs to encourage the thighs to work.
The belt is again to allow those who are slightly stiffer to reach the feet in seated forward bends, to allow the hands to grip in Gomukhasana and can be used around the elbows in Pincha Mayurasana.
What products should I recommend?
There are so many fantastic yoga products out there. Yogamatters offers a wide range of well-designed, brightly coloured yoga props. They also do discounts for yoga teachers.
If you’d prefer to go for a more environmentally friendly yoga kit, then Manduka does a very high-quality range, including cork bricks and blocks, as well as recycled plastic blocks. Their Eko yoga mats are eco-friendly and biodegradable, harvested from non-Amazon rainforest rubber trees.
If these are too pricey, then encourage your students to look out for deals in their nearest cut-price supermarkets, such as Lidl and Aldi, and they occasionally sell yoga props in their ‘bargain’ aisle.
Once your students become committed yogis, you can encourage them to invest in more than the starter kit above. If restorative yoga is their thing then a bolster (or two) is essential. Bolsters’ rounded shape and supportive filling allow the body to open and relax while holding supine poses for long stretches of time.
A good-quality cotton blanket or two is also very useful for restorative yoga, as well as for use in general yoga classes as an extra level of height (with more give than the blocks), and for covering yourself for śavasana. Yogamatters do a large natural cotton blanket which is great for folding into various shapes for restorative poses – you need to wash it before use though as it’s very fluffy!
If you’re into hot yoga, then an absorbent yoga towel is a good investment to stop you slipping and sliding all over your mat. Manduka sells the yogitoes yoga towel, which is ultra-absorbent, lightweight, and quick-drying.
A yoga chair is also a worthwhile investment once your students become serious about their home practice. There are whole sequences you can do around the yoga chair, and it can be a way of accessing the more advanced poses, such as Kapotasana and Eka Pada Koundinyasana.
Part of a good yoga kit is also having the right clothes. If you’re not comfortable and supported, it can be distracting from the yoga.
Sweaty Betty has a brilliantly well-made range of yoga leggings, which survive endless washing and last for years. They’re not natural fabrics, but they’re breathable and designed to be super comfortable. I have five pairs…and don’t regret a single one.
Their tops are also sweat-wicking and made from a lightweight fabric and are both flattering and well-fitting. They also do a great discount for yoga teachers, that applies even in the sales (hence the five pairs of leggings…).
If you’re into cotton yoga wear then yogamatters do organic cotton ‘pune’ pants which are the traditional Iyengar yoga choice of yoga bottoms.
Again, these are quite pricey options for your students, so feel free to recommend that they buy some basic cotton leggings online, just as long as they feel comfortable and can move easily. The most important thing is yoga after all!
PS – none of the above links are generating any money for us, they’re honest-to-goodness, real recommendations 😉
Are we still in lockdown? Aren’t we? Most of us are still none the wiser after Sunday’s latest announcement from the government. The fact of the matter is that the Coronavirus is still a threat, and as such, life won’t be going back to BC-normal for a while yet.
For those of us that are lucky enough to be able to work from home, this means more days that blur into each other, as we sit hunched at the kitchen table trying to get our work done, as well as put a wash on, and keep the house looking less like a bombsite.
But staring at a screen can bring all sorts of problems.
What does looking at a screen all day do to our bodies?
Lolly Stirk, the pregnancy yoga guru said that she noticed that women coming to her classes these days often look green and dull from staring at screens all day. Her explanation for this is that when we’re focused on a screen our posture is such that we don’t breathe properly. After her classes, she said the women changed colour and were pink and glowing after actually taking some proper breaths!
As well as barely breathing, our posture is usually pretty terrible:
- We sit cross-legged, reducing venal flow and cutting off the circulation to the legs.
- Our lower back is often dropped, pulling on the muscles of the spine and causing compression of the nerves in the lower back.
- The weight of the head and arms dropping forwards causes the upper back to bulge outwards, creating a ‘hump’ effect.
- The shoulders are also pulled forwards, causing the chest to become convex and drop.
- The head is pulled forwards, again pulling on the upper spine, and pulling the cervical spine out of alignment, which can cause neck problems.
So what can we do about it?
As with most things, the first step is awareness. Once we become aware of how we’re sitting, it’s easier to do something about it. Sit at your computer and scan through your body – get someone to take a picture of you if you’re not sure! Once we see how we’re sitting we can use our common sense to do something about it.
But here are a few tips to start with:
- Uncross your legs, and sit on a chair that’s the right height so that your feet can be flat on the floor with your shins vertical.
- Lift your screen up on some big books (or you can buy a laptop stand) so that you can keep your head lifted while looking at the screen. Or just scroll up more often so that what you’re writing is closer to the top of the screen.
- Draw your shoulders back and down at regular intervals and try to keep them there while you work.
Do some chair yoga
If you haven’t got time to stop what you’re doing but are starting to feel a bit hunched over, then quickly do some chair yoga for your shoulders:
- Urdhva Hastasana/upward-facing arms – stretch your arms up to the ceiling, with palms facing each other. I love this simple pose because it does so much. It lifts the heart, lifts the spine, stretches the shoulders.
- Gomukhasana arms/cow face pose arms – stretch one arm up to the ceiling then fold it down behind your back so that the palm is against the centre of your shoulder blades. Stretch the other arm out and slight the back of the hand up the back – clasp the hands together if you can. If you can’t catch, then get hold of your clothes and pull the top elbow up and the bottom elbow down. Change arms.
- Garudasana arms/eagle arms – bring your arms in front of you with your arms at right angles and your elbows level with your shoulders. Cross one elbow over the other and bring the backs of the hands towards each other until you can catch the thumb of the hand on top with the little finger edge of the hand underneath. Breathe into the stretch across the shoulder-blades. Change the cross of the elbows.
- Paschima Baddha Hastasana/Bound arms behind your back – this is a simple pose that helps to draw the outer shoulders back and down. Hold one elbow behind your back and draw the arm down, then reach across and hold the other elbow. Change sides.
Get up and stretch!
We all take tea breaks and loo breaks don’t we? So what about 5-minute yoga breaks? This should be mandatory in my mind.
When we sit for long periods our legs and back seize up. So try these yoga poses which help to stretch and tone the legs:
- Ardha Uttanasana/Half Forward Fold Pose – with your hands at the wall or on a surface at hip height step back till your trunk and arms are level with your hips, and your legs are vertical. Take the feet hip-width apart and stretch back from the hands to the outer hips, and lift the legs. This stretches out the back and the hamstrings.
- Vrksasana/Tree pose – As well as strengthening the ankles, this pose works on hip and groin flexibility and balance, which is great to focus the mind too.
- Vajrasana/Kneeling pose – while it might feel counterintuitive to sit on your heels after lots of sitting, kneeling is actually a great way to restore energy to the legs, as it compresses the legs for the blood to then efficiently return.
- Sankatasana/Difficult pose (!) – To stretch out the back of the calves and Achilles kneel up on the balls of your feet. Hold onto a chair and then roll backwards and forwards from the back of the ball of the foot to the toes.
- Adho Mukha Svanasana/Downward Dog – Downward dog is a stretch of the whole back of the body, including the shoulders, as well as an inversion.
Happy body, happy mind
Remember that our bodies and minds are intrinsically linked. If we don’t look after our bodies and let them tense up into one big knot, our brains will also be fogged and tense. Getting up from your place of work to do some yoga (even an online yoga class) isn’t skiving off work, but making sure that you’re working to your optimum level.
Being a yoga teacher is a great job. You’re doing something you love, and teaching other people to love yoga as much as you do. But there’s a lot more to being a yoga teacher than just teaching yoga.
Students don’t just turn up by magic – sadly. In order to get students through your door, and then keep them coming, you need to do some marketing. Which for some yoga teachers is a thing they love to hate.
If you have a background in marketing then congratulations, you’ve got a big advantage! But most of us don’t, and have to learn from scratch how to keep our classes full. So here’s a basic ‘how-to’ of yoga marketing, just to get you started. And who knows, you might even start to enjoy it!
Your Yoga website
Some teachers maintain that they don’t need a website, and use Facebook and other social media to get their details out there. Others think that having a website means that there’s a more structured way that potential students can search for you and find out information. It’s up to you, but as a way of controlling and updating your ‘brand’ image, as well as coming up in Google searches, having a website is very helpful.
It’s worth bearing in mind that having a website is an extra cost, as you have to pay an annual fee for the domain name, the site, and fees for other ‘add ons’ (for example, you opt for an email address to go with your website).
Squarespace and WordPress are popular website platforms, but there are loads of well-designed platforms out there that make it easy to build and maintain your website. Wix and Mailchimp are also currently offering a free website-building service – although it’s worth noting Mailchimp’s offering is pretty basic at this stage as it’s not their core product (see Mailchimp Emails, below!).
The key is to keep it simple. Look at other yoga teacher’s websites that you admire, and take notes. Keep your home page uncluttered, clear – and don’t forget to keep it updated.
A Yoga Blog
A regular blog is a great way to keep your students engaged, and it should also mean that your website goes higher up the Google search list. The key is to keep it regular though, so once you’ve decided to write one, think about how often is realistic. For example, publishing a monthly blog can fit into most people’s schedules. It also means you’re not filling up the inboxes of your email list.
And talking of email lists, Mailchimp is a pretty essential marketing tool. It’s also free up to a certain amount of people. Find a way of collecting every student’s email address. For example, you could use a medical form that you give to every student who attends your classes. As part of the form you can ask for their email address, just make sure to add a clear paragraph about them agreeing to be sent information, in line with the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) that came in in 2018.
You could also add a landing page to your website, perhaps offering something for free in exchange for an email address. That way you can grow your mailing list from online sources.
Use your Mailchimp email list to notify students and prospective students about upcoming workshops, or send out your blog to your students before posting it on your website. Regular contact using high-quality content will keep you in mind and mean that they’re more likely to get in touch.
Taking Online Bookings
The current crisis has highlighted our reliance on the internet, and this is set to increase, especially as cash is being avoided at the moment. As up-to-date yoga teachers, it’s worth working out how to take online bookings for your classes.
In order to set up online bookings for regular lessons, you can use scheduling apps that link to your website. Many yoga studios use Mindbody as an external booking system for the classes. Or, using Paypal or Stripe, for example, you can set up a ‘products’ page on your website, so that people can pay for each class separately.
Posting on Social Media
The main social media platforms are Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Each one is used in slightly different ways and attract different users.
Starting your own Facebook page is a useful way of reaching out to local people, Instagram is about the yoga community, and Twitter is more about interesting info on the subject.
Once you get into posting on social media this is when the small job of marketing can consume your every waking hour. It’s helpful to pick a platform that you feel the most comfortable on – being aware of your target market too. For example, if you’re going for slightly older students, then Facebook is probably the platform.
Once you’ve decided which one to focus on you can start to get organised, using a scheduling tool such as buffer. Due to the algorithms that these platforms are run on, you have to keep up a regular stream of posts in order to come high up in people’s news feeds.
However, there’s a balance. Some experts would have you posting twenty times a day, but personally I feel this would make me come across like some demented egomaniac. Be consistent, engage with your audience, and make sure you believe in the content that you’re putting up; quality is important.
Leaflets, Flyers, and Posters
This may not be relevant just yet, but once we’re out of lockdown, people will be out and about again and possibly desperate to get back to in-person yoga (when it’s safe to do so, and when you’re ready). This is when good old-fashioned flyers can do the trick, especially if you’re hoping to get new students in your local area.
Keep your posters, simple, colourful and with only the KEY information – don’t write an essay, no one will read it and it will distract from your eye-catching image.
To design your poster you can use apps such as Canva and Adobe Indesign in order to give your finished piece a professional look. Canva in particular is a great tool for non-designers, as it’s extremely easy to use and comes with lots of (free) templates.
Before you do any of the above you’ll need to have some good images. You can, of course, buy high-resolution images (please don’t use low-res pixelated images on your marketing material) from websites such as Shutterstock (as well as some good free ones on Pexels), but having some great pictures of you in action will be worth the money.
Check out images of other yoga teachers that you like and ask them who took their photos. It’s helpful to find a photographer that specialises in yoga photography as they’ll be able to guide you on the shoot.
Have a wide range of photos taken in different outfits and with different backgrounds. If possible, having a few with a plain white background is very useful for flyers and as background pictures.
Word of Mouth
Marketing is important. But it’s also about putting the time in. Once you’ve been teaching regular classes for a few years you will find that you’ve developed a yoga community of your own. You will have regular students who tell their friends about you, and suddenly you’ll find that you haven’t had to do a hard marketing push for a while.
However, this doesn’t mean it’s time to rest on your laurels. There are always reasons why people stop coming to yoga, and you’ll always need new students coming through your doors.
Do you miss our teachers as much as we do? Here’s how to stay connected with them during the lockdown.
Banish any yoga nerves and step on the mat with Abi, who is offering classes every day of the week: everything from Morning Movement & Meditation; Slow Flow, a gentle practice suitable for everyone; and Vinyasa Flow, a more dynamic practice with plenty of room for wobbling and laughing! Suggested price £5-10 depending on duration. Find out more: www.abibiyoga.co.uk
Her style a mixture of strength and softness, Alice is live-streaming classes on YouTube every Monday morning and Tuesday evening. No need to book – just turn up and she’ll be there, leading you through varied and creative sequences to help you find your flow. Price is £6 a class, £20 for 4 classes or £35 unlimited for the month. Find out more: https://www.alicetrowyoga.com/classes
Anais, YogaLondon’s French Fox, is making the most of her bilingualism by leading a Gentle Flow in French on Wednesdays and a Vinyasa class for all levels in English on Thursdays. Suggested price £5-10 or free for anyone who has lost their job because of the pandemic. Find out more: www.anaisyoga.org
Our Captain, Corrie, teaches an empowering and fluid style, free from those standardised alignment cues. She blends osteopathy, pain science, somatics, sports science, pilates, psychology and dance to tailor her classes to students. Vinyasa Flow classes and workshops running Tuesday to Thursday; price £6/£10. Find out more: www.stretchbreathesmile.com
Philosophy guru Francesca shares her highly experienced teaching that places emphasis on the breath-work, enabling students to develop strength, flexibility, focus and balance both on and off the mat. She offers sessions on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, which connect body movements and breath. Donations accepted as payment. Find out more: www.bunow.co
Jess currently offers 5 classes per week online, a mix of slow flow, flow & restore and restorative. All classes are taught with the intention of exploration, growth and self-understanding. Jess is also offering workshops and an online course on emotional resilience. YogaLondon students can sign up to her newsletter for a free class as a thank you for their support during this trying time. Price: £8 for 75 minutes. Find out more: shakeyourbuddhi.com/online
Join Jo’s classes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Rise and Shine is an open level Vinyasa flow class to energise and get you started for the day. Slow Flow is a moderately paced mindful flow. Pregnancy Yoga is suitable for women from 14 weeks onwards. Price: £8 for drop in or £25 for a 5 class pass. Find out more: www.joharrisyoga.com
Get ready to play! Joshua teaches high-energy classes on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. They’re led by alignment, presence, a sense of play, and encourage students to invite balance into their lives while pushing their boundaries as a yogi and an individual. His passion for theatre and dance merges with yoga to fuel these playful classes. Come prepared to play, find your edge, try new things, and not take anything too seriously! Find out more: yoga.joshualeclair.com
Restorative yoga expert, Luci, offers Vinyasa Flow sessions for all levels, as well as Restorative Yoga. Classes run every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and on alternate Fridays. Linking to the breath throughout, the attention is drawn to different parts of the body – finding balance by awakening lazy muscles and relaxing those that do too much work. Suggested donation: £10, feel free to pay what you can. Find out more: lucindabeatty.com
Our very own Cheeky Yogi, Sandra, is leading classes on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, offering different flows and variations for all levels. Prices range between £8 and £12 and you can enjoy a free taster class with code YOGALONDON100! Find out more: www.yogaflowsandra.com
Have you joined one of our teachers’ online classes? We’d love to see the pictures! Tag us on instagram 🙂