Embracing The New Reality: Online Interactive Yoga

by Beth Lui

     Denial, that the lockdown was going to happen—and hope, that the lockdown will end soon—were the initial emotions I had in March.  For the first few weeks, most of us did some pocket gardening, cleared out cabinets, and endlessly flicked the TV remote for binge-worthy Netflix shows.  Then, yippee! Sankalpa Yoga classes via Zoom eventually became the highlight of each week. 


     Gratitude is the emotion that accompanies me in each class.  Gratitude for the teachers who continue to teach, gratitude for the techies who develop and support this real-time, online platform, gratitude for classmates who keep the yoga community connected, and most of all, gratitude that we are healthy and safe.


     The first time I was asked to teach an online yoga class, I was anxious. How can I most efficiently juggle teaching time between the iPad screen and the yoga mat in my living room? The Iyengar pedagogy of adjusting the students during the pose, walking around the class to see the students from different angles, demonstrating the pose and at the same time, calling out the instructions had to be modified to suit Zoom.  The props that are readily available in the yoga studio are not available to most students who now attend class in their homes. I had to make sure that students could substitute whatever they had at home in lieu of studio props.


     I was glad that for my very first few classes, I had the luxury of another teacher to support me. I had to quickly learn how to split my time between demonstrating the pose and running to the iPad so that I could see the students up close and call out adjustment instructions for specific students.  In a brick and mortar studio, I could have done all that by being in the same space as all my students. But now, a virtual yoga studio was made up of many tiny screens on my iPad.


     Iyengar teachers are used to helping students with alignment and balance.  In this new reality, in-person adjustments are not possible. I have observed that even without the physical in-person presence of the teacher, the students are able to bring their courage to the fore—standing on one leg or balancing on one’s arms, relying on their home walls for support.  During and after class, students asked questions seeking clarity and reassurance regarding the instructions, giving feedback that the discomfort they felt during the pose had come and gone, and that the yoga path we all collectively embark is still doable and achievable.  After addressing their questions and comments, I always felt reassured by the students that online interactive classes are worth doing.  We always wish for the old days, yes, but we know we need to make the best of our new reality.


     It has been many months since the lockdown began.  Our new reality is still the current reality.   Luckily, I believe that for many of us, a light bulb went on in our brains: we can and do adapt to change,  we can stay connected while remaining physically distant, and we can still enjoy some freedom of movement without causing unnecessary harm to other people.