If you’re reading this, you’re more than likely well aware of the huge shift and quickly adapted response that we’ve seen from the yoga community to move local studio practitioners from the sanctity of their “go-to mat” space to the Zoom Yoga Studios of present day [in response to COVID-19]. Bedrooms, living rooms, closets, and [yes] even bathrooms, have become the new yoga studios as online classes have surged and studios have transitioned their schedules to livestream platforms and outlets like Instagram Live, YouTube, and Zoom. Now, as states start to reopen local businesses and yoga studios in the upcoming months, I imagine we’ll see a lasting impact and a change to the way yogis think about their practice as well as an expanding notion of who local yoga studios target as their clientele.
When the “state shut-downs” and stay-at-home orders first started to come in, we knew it was only a matter of time until it hit our hometown of Columbus. Some studios were quick to transition and offer online classes and some were a little more reluctant. However, within two weeks, virtually every studio was forced to close and owners were left with very few options to provide for (and retain) their monthly members. I have to admit, I was skeptic about the severity of the virus at first and frustrated to leave the comfort of my local hot room. The 100 degree studio where I practice has a very profound impact on my daily life, it feels like my yoga-home. I considered whether setting up an at-home practice in a one bedroom condo was worth the headache until I saw the virus spreading quickly and realized, this would be my only yoga option.
Now, after completing 6 weeks of online (Zoom) yoga classes in the comfort [and sometimes discomfort] of my bedroom, I think that I’ll look back on my “quarantine practice days” as the period-in-time that reshaped my relationship with yoga and helped me grow significantly as a practitioner. I’ve really enjoyed this brave new digital world that offers me access to my favorite global teachers, at a fair rate, and believe the yoga community has responded exceptionally to the situation. There will always be a collective energy from “in-person” classes that’s hard to replicate online and, if Zoom classes stay, we should consider adding more safety measures for new students. Nevertheless, throughout my quarantine experience, I’ve practiced with roughly 20 different teachers and feel like most of them have adapted their cues beautifully and have offered corrections when they see fit. It makes me wonder, “What aspects of this giant social yoga experiment will stay after the pandemic has passed?”
Erasing our Borders
Out of necessity, we’ve seen a new skill-set adopted by teachers and I wonder if those [teachers] that nail down their online platform and process will someday travel virtually across the globe to conduct the majority of their workshops. During the quarantine, I’ve taken energetic zoom classes with teachers who are collaborating with different studios and “swapping” guest teacher spots from remote locations. And while the guest teacher spot isn’t anything new, the ability for virtual teachers to advertise and bring their independent clientele with them to different studios seems like something that is new. I’ve found myself “traveling” with teachers and purchasing drop-ins from studios that are literally 800 miles away from me. In essence, students no longer have to wait for their favorite teacher to visit or travel to their city anymore. When it’s an online zoom class, every studio becomes a local one.
As a result, studios now have a stronger incentive to market to the global yoga community, not just their local base. From my experience over the last month, I think studios that find a niche with a specific class, teacher, or time slot, might have an outlet to grow their user base beyond the borders of their local community. Over the last 6 weeks, I have witnessed celebratory classes that have garnered more than 300+ yogis in one zoom room. I’ve seen fun experimental pop-up classes that have had 12 different teachers (one for each posture). And almost daily, I’ve practiced with yogis across multiple time zones and continents. I know there has always been a strong base of “online-only” practitioners because of remote locations, studio accessibility, and social anxiety; maybe this environment can serve as a stepping stone for them to connect with new studios as well. As our independent yoga communities have merged into one big Zoom family, I hope we come out of this and give everyone the access they need to feel supported and connected with each other.
Obviously, there is a tragic humanity to the pandemic and the reality of financial hardship that most teachers and studio owners are facing is real. Couple that with the mental challenges of isolation and grieving the loss of freedom, my entrepreneurial heart has been heavy as well. However, there have been some very real benefits from this and I believe that as we distanced ourselves socially our yoga community has pulled together and become stronger.
Developing an at-home practice during a time when my struggle with anxiety and depression has been magnified by the quarantine has had an amazing and profound impact on my life. The postures may not be as deep but they’re fun and more exploratory in nature without the self-imposed judgement of others. In addition, I’ve finally taken classes with some of the teachers that I’ve always wanted to (even though our whereabouts have never aligned). It seems as though our borders don’t matter nearly as much now. We have a common passion for the practice and I have never been more grateful to be a part of the community. It took a pandemic for me to roll-out a yoga mat in my bedroom and I have a feeling it will stay there, long after this has passed.