Tagyoga community

How to Build a Yoga Community

How to Build a Yoga Community

One of the worst things about this current crisis and the lockdown, is the loneliness.

Loneliness is one of the number ONE factors in deciding life expectancy and can shorten a person’s life span by around 15 years. This extraordinary fact shows how social interactions are not only pleasurable but essential for life.

Part of our job as yoga teachers is to offer a regular place for people to come together with others who are like-minded; to feel part of a supportive community. And, during this crisis, this role is more important than ever.

Why yoga teachers are well-placed to build community

As we become established yoga teachers, we notice the effect that it has on our yoga students. Hopefully, they will start to cultivate their own home yoga practice. You can see the instructions you give them going deeper, making sense in their bodies and not just their minds.

It also starts to become a more and more important part of their life, as they realise the benefits it brings. They see their yoga classes as a sanctuary, a place where they can be themselves and spend time with like-minded people.

This sense of community is a valuable and beautiful thing to cultivate, and as yoga teachers we are perfectly placed to add a real sense of belonging to our students’ lives.

What is a yoga community?

A community is a group of people that have the same beliefs and needs, or a unified body of individuals. This last definition is a great one, as yoga literally means to join, to unify – and of course, the body is how we do that.

As a yoga teacher there’s a lot we can do to encourage a sense of community and it has many benefits. And while it has many benefits for your students, it is also beneficial to you, because if your students feel like they belong to a community, they’re much more likely to be loyal to you and your class. Building brand loyalty is one of those marketing holy grails!

Practical ways to build community

Let’s start with the basics, the first thing is to know all your students’ names! This can be a real stumbling block for some, but there are memory games you can use to help if you struggle to remember names. And at the moment if you’re teaching on Zoom, you should be able to see everyone’s names on the screen. It might be worth reminding them to make sure they log in with their names, and not ‘iPad’.

When we get back to in-person teaching, there are lots of ways to encourage community. You can encourage students to come to class a little earlier and start a conversation from the front of the class – making sure you include everybody, and drawing everyone in.

This can be applied to online live-stream teaching too. Make sure you’re online in the meeting space in plenty of time and encourage students to be in gallery mode with the microphones on if they want to chat (not if they’re just banging around and ejecting the cat).

Do things together – Karma yoga

This applies more once lockdown is finished and we can get back to in-person teaching. But even then, we don’t know how yoga teaching is going to be. It may well be that we won’t be able to teach in a small space for quite a while. But there are other ways to get together to build your yoga community.

Karma yoga is the yoga of selfless actions. Encourage a sense of giving and shared community within your student body. If you run a yoga studio get them involved in the upkeep of the building, in return for a nice lunch or free lessons.

While we’re still social distancing you could suggest a yoga lesson outside, where it’s safer. You could even suggest a mindfulness ‘yoga walk’ once we’re allowed to meet in larger groups.

Be generous!

There are a lot of yoga teachers out there, and if you want to keep your yoga students loyal to you it’s worth going above and beyond. Plus the more you give, the more you get – that’s just a good old fact of life.

So, what about giving out bespoke home practice sequences to your students? Write a regular blog to help them establish a home practice, and ask them to let you know how their home practice is going.

If you’re confident enough to teach workshops, ask them what workshops they’d like to do, so that they feel included in your decision-making process and to highlight the fact that you’re there to guide them on their yoga journey.

Keep in touch with them over email and if they’re usually a regular student, check in if they miss classes to make sure they’re ok.

Create a supportive community for yourself too

As a yoga teacher you also need a support structure! So make the effort to keep in touch with your own teachers, as well as spend time with other yoga teachers. This is such a great way to discuss issues that you might be struggling with.

Practice with other teachers and make the effort to go to other teacher’s classes, you’ll be surprised at what you might learn. At the moment this could be done on Zoom, or just by practicing at the same time and then having a chat afterwards to share how it went. Did we mention we’re running free Saturday and Sunday sessions at the moment?

Use your social media accounts wisely, follow other yoga teachers who inspire you (but don’t make you feel rubbish about yourself), and reach out online to create a sense of belonging to the wider yoga community.

However…

Remember that there’s a fine line between being someone’s teacher and someone’s friend. Yes, it’s fine to have friends in your classes. But when you’re teaching, you’re the teacher and they’re the student. They come to class to be taught, not to be your friend.

It’s also tempting to give too much as a teacher. You are not their therapist or carer, the primary focus is to be their guide on their path to yoga.

Poppy Pickles

A Yoga Teacher Marketing Toolkit: How to Promote Yourself

A Yoga Teacher Marketing Toolkit: How to Promote Yourself

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.

Mailchimp Emails

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.

Images

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.

Poppy Pickles

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
Yoga makes the heart sing

6 Bad Reasons Not to Become a Yoga Teacher

6 Bad Reasons Not to Become a Yoga Teacher
Image Credit: Contemporary Jewish on Flickr.
Image Credit: Contemporary Jewish on Flickr.

If you’re thinking about taking the plunge and signing up to do a yoga teacher training course, there will be a multitude of doubts, excuses and fears that arise in your mind. As yogis, we’ve already thought, felt, and experienced them all — so let us metaphorically take your hand and lead you through them and out the other side. (more…)

Poppy Pickles