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Getting Ready for Yoga Teaching After Lockdown

Getting Ready for Yoga Teaching After Lockdown

The global pandemic has changed all our lives – there will be BC (Before Coronavirus) and AC (After Coronavirus)  – and it may well be that the way we teach yoga will be altered for a while to come. Rather than being depressed or concerned, we can be prepared for this new way of working. And just as teaching online has given us a whole new skill set, as well as some surprising advantages, there may well be some pros to easing back to in-person teaching.

As our European counterparts start to come out of lockdown and pictures of Italian squares being filled with people emerge, we are currently awaiting announcements from the government as to how and when social distancing restrictions will be lifted. Normal life will resume, but not quite as we know it.

To help you prepare for getting back to in-person teaching, we’ve put together some best-practice guidelines, aka handy hints and tips, ahead of studios re-opening.

Safety First

When it comes to a pandemic, the motto is safety first. Our yoga students, employers, employees, and the people we hire our spaces from – we want to make sure that getting back to teaching is with the health and safety of our whole yoga community in mind.

This means that, just because the government says that we can get back to work, it doesn’t mean that we should. It’s worth thinking about the risks before you agree to go back to teaching in person.

  • Does the place where you teach adhere to any new government-issued health and safety requirements?
  • Will you be able to ensure that the yoga studio is kept properly clean?
  • Will your students’ health be put at risk due to the space in which you teach?
  • Will your own health be at risk?

If the answer to any of these is ‘yes’, then you might want to think carefully before committing to in-person classes again.

Plan your Return

Before planning in-person classes again, you should be clear on what the government guidelines are. We’d also recommend checking with your insurance providers, to make sure you’re covered for teaching in-person classes before you make any plans.

We’ve now spent six weeks adapting to lockdown life and, within a few weeks, we could be getting back to teaching in person. Instead of finding that you’re caught between the two, have a plan of action.

This plan could include checking with your students whether they’d be happy to return to classes yet. Also, check with the studios or venues that you teach to see what their plans for re-opening are. If you have your own yoga studio then make sure you’re completely aware of the health and safety guidelines published by the government or by the World Health Organisation.

A Phased Return

This could be the approach that many yoga businesses take. Instead of rushing from all-online to all-in-person, a gradual return to physical classes could be a safer and more considered way of doing it. By bringing back half your classes and keeping the rest as live-streaming or online classes, then you can reduce the number of students per class, which will help keep social distancing measures in place.

Practical Safety Measures

Social Distancing – In all likelihood, social distancing measures will be in place for a while to come – some scientists have been saying till 2022! So it will be worth thinking about keeping student numbers down to a level where 2 metres between students can be maintained. For smaller venues, this will be very challenging and could mean that it’s not financially viable to go back to teaching in-person yet. To help keep control of numbers, it could be worth taking advance bookings only and avoiding drop-ins for now.

Props – At the moment it would be a good idea to restrict the use of communal mats or props. As an Iyengar yoga teacher, I usually lug a huge bag of bricks and blocks to each class. Post Covid-19 I will no longer be doing this (internal cheer) as I will be asking all my students to bring their own. That way, the risk of cross-contamination is greatly reduced.

Class Plan – if your classes involve a lot of student movement, it may well be worth reducing this for the time being – keeping students to their mats to avoid students going near each other’s equipment or getting too close by mistake. Think about poses that need a lot of physical adjustments; you might want to avoid those for now or think of other ways to do them.

Payment – by keeping your bookings to advance bookings only you’ll reduce the need for cash payments, which aren’t a good idea at the moment. If you haven’t set up online payments yet then you could try using PayPal or stripe on your website. If this is too technical for you, you could get a website designer to add them for you for a small fee.

Records – it’s always been important to keep clear records and registers, but even more so now. Make sure your registers are kept up to date, so that if a case of COVID-19 is reported you can immediately notify anyone else who was in the same class. But don’t forget privacy laws – don’t name the person without their permission.

Cleanliness – this is doubly important now. Ask your students to regularly clean their yoga equipment. Ask them to wash their hands before coming into the class. Make sure you wash your hands (for the regulation ‘Happy Birthday’ x2 length of time) before and after each class.

Face Masks – the UK still seems to be in two minds about whether face masks are a good idea or not, but other European countries are making them compulsory in public spaces. If government guidelines recommend them, you’ll need to decide whether you want to teach a class wearing a mask. It might be that you ask students to wear masks to the class and outside while waiting, and then take them off once inside. You will need to be clear on what the guidelines are for this. (Our marketing team here is thinking of creating colourful designs for our teachers… Face masks, the new fashion accessory?! Let us know on instagram if you’d wear one of ours!).

If YOU Get Ill – have a back-up plan in case you’re taken ill. You can’t take any chances, even if you think it’s just a cold  – and remember, it’s also YOUR health that you’re protecting. If you’re self-employed, your health is your business and you can’t teach if you’re ill.

Reviewing your Classes

Once you’ve made the decision to teach in-person classes again, it will be worth reviewing how things are going a few weeks in. If student numbers are very low, and the restrictions are affecting your ability to teach yoga properly, it might be better to go back to online teaching. As we said earlier, just because you can go back to teaching in-person doesn’t mean you have to.

On the other hand, it might be a lifeline for those students who haven’t been able to use online technology to keep their yoga going. For those people that live on their own, the social aspect of yoga classes is what keeps them coming week after week, and if you’re able to provide even small classes then it might be worth the financial hit.

Poppy Pickles

What are yoga Props, and how to improvise them for home practice

What are yoga Props, and how to improvise them for home practice

Props are really, really great. They are SO useful to keep you safe in class and help you to move deeper into a pose than you could without them. They open up a world of possibilities for making poses more accessible AND more challenging. But let’s start from the beginning…

 

What ARE Props?

Props come in in a range shapes and sizes.

Blocks tend to be flatter with one long edge, one medium edge and a short edge – imagine a big book shape. Bricks tend to be smaller blocks with one long side and 2 pretty much equal length sides – yup, a bit like a brick… Blocks and bricks can be made of dense foam, wood or cork.

Yoga belts are usually woven cotton or webbing and can be a single length with a buckle at one end or can be sewn into a loop or figure of eight.

Meditation cushions, or zafus, come in a variety of shapes and sizes with all sorts of fillings from spelt to foam. Bolsters are similar but tend to be long, round and sausage-like.

Then there are yoga wheels, head up stools, eye masks, weights, blankets… All sorts of things that yogis use in their practice. I guess the modern yoga mat is a prop too, really.

Why use them?

Props can be used to improve alignment in a pose when a yogi has yet to develop sufficient range of movement to achieve the full expression of that pose.

An example would be using a brick under the hand in trikonāsana (triangle) when a student can’t reach the floor without folding the trunk forwards. Placing a brick under the hand at a height where the trunk remains rotated upwards gives great alignment for that student and teaches a good movement pattern that can be maintained as the pose deepens with practice. Using a block like this usually makes the pose safer for the yogi, too, as it prevents over stretch and uncontrolled movement.

Props can also be used to teach specific muscle activation in a pose. Think about placing a block between the knees in setu bandhasāna (bridge). By squeezing the block as you lift the pelvis, the inner thigh muscles activate to prevent the knees rolling outwards. Learning to activate these muscles with the block is the first step to being able to activate them in the pose automatically in future.

Another really useful prop is the belt. This is saviour in paścimottānāsana when your feet seem to be just too far away. Here, the belt is basically an arm extension – loop it round the feet and pull to fold. Another way to use a belt is to encourage one element of a pose that is often hard to achieve. Think about prasaritta padotanāsana (wide legged forward fold with hands on hips), with the belt looped round the elbows. This encourages the elbows to stay drawn together to open the chest. Delicious!

Sitting is another time where many yogis gain SO much from using a block or cushion under the seat. This lifts the hips above the knees and allows the pelvis to roll into anterior tilt. Without this movement of the pelvis the spine is often unable to lengthen and opening the hips and chest are a real struggle. Sukāsana (easy pose) is anything BUT easy for most of us without that prop!

Purpose-made Props

Many yoga classes have props available for you to use as you want or need to, while some yoga teachers insist you bring your own. Purpose-made yoga props are available in stores and online, ranging in price from a few pounds to positively eye-watering amounts. It is well worth shopping around to find something to suit your budget if you are going to buy your own.

Having your own props is great if you have enough spare cash and the space to store them. But not everyone is in that position. Or maybe you are practising away from home – hotels and hostels are not noted for their plentiful supply of yoga props, I have found… But that does not mean props are not available to you. No matter where you are, there are things you can use as props: you can improvise, adapt and overcome! Here’s how.

Improvised Props for every occasion

With just a little imagination, most of the common props you find in a yoga studio can be very effectively improvised from normal household items.

1. MEDITATION CUSHIONS

So many options for this one… Try a normal sofa cushion. Or maybe 2 piled up. Or fold a pillow and place the folded end under the buttocks with the free ends supporting the thighs. Folded blankets or towels piled up can work well too. Or I have been known to sit on the edge of our garden decking with my lower legs rested on the grass in sukāsana – this is SO lovely for an impromptu early morning breath session or meditation in the open air.

2. BLOCKS AND BRICKS

If going under buttocks, then folded towels and blankets work well as a block. If needed for under hands to support weight, then positioning yourself near a step or low stool might work. In the trikonāsana example above, placing your hand on your own lower leg gives a point of fixation but it does make balancing more of a challenge, so it doesn’t suit everyone.

3. BELT

The easiest way to improvise a yoga belt is with the one out of your trousers! As long as it is not stretchy, any normal belt will do. Alternatively roll up a towel to tea towel length-ways and use that for looping round feet on paścimottānāsana.

4. HEAD REST IN BALĀSANA

If you usually need to rest your head on a block in balāsana (child pose) then try making fists and place one on top of the other with the thumb side uppermost. Resting the forehead on this platform can be just as good as a purpose made block and SO much easier to move out of the way as you transition into the next pose of a flow sequence. Result!

5. PARTNER BALANCES

Practising alone when the online teacher says ‘reach for a partner to balance’? Never fear – go to the nearest windowsill or kitchen units. These make perfect stable partners for any home practice. I love to use a windowsill to support my hands in a modified virabhadrāsana 3 (warrior) as it lets me REALLY focus on activating my legs in the balance.

6. BOLSTERS

See meditation cushions above and think BIGGER… Try 3 or 4 towels or blankets rolled up into a sausage to make a bolster. If you have a foam roller to hand, you could try that – though I do recommend wrapping it in some padding or putting a pillow over it if you are going to spend any amount of time resting on it. They can be SO hard and uncomfortable.

And finally

Purpose-made props are a relatively recent addition to the yoga world. Generations of yogi’s practised prop-free for centuries.

Did you know that the first yoga mats were born when someone tried pieces of carpet underlay to stop their hands slipping in down dog? Improvisation at its best! And I suspect that the first blocks used were just that – blocks of wood.

I love the idea of connecting to our yoga roots and practising more simply using what is to hand. It opens up the possibility of yoga any place, any time, anywhere. It brings freedom and simplicity for me. I hope it does for you too.

 

 

 

 

 

Sally Schofield