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When yoga classes go Zoom

For International Yoga Day, Lounge spoke to yoga gurus about being flexible and mindful in the age of online classes

Divya Rolla, head, yoga, CURE.FIT
Divya Rolla, head, yoga, CURE.FIT

If yoga is partly about gaining flexibility, yoga teachers have shown the way by switching smoothly to the digital studio during these times. Though gyms and exercise studios are still shuttered, and may well stay that way till at least July-end, yoga studios and gurus have converted video-calling platforms like Zoom and Google Meet into classrooms. In fact, the teachers we spoke to for this story said the demand for classes has increased as people spend more time indoors and have greater leeway in terms of schedules. But the online yoga class is a different beast from the real-life one. Since International Yoga Day falls this Sunday, Lounge spoke to three gurus to find out how their practices and teaching methods have changed.

Divya Rolla

Head, yoga,

The actual physical connection between a teacher and students cannot be replicated online. But making the best of the situation, and given that health, especially respiratory health, is at the top of everyone’s minds, we have tailored our workouts to make it easy for students to perform the asanas at home. We have realigned the flow of our classes such that students can’t hurt themselves even if they get an asana wrong. The basic principles that we follow—that every class should include asanas which ensure the spine has moved in six directions, that there is an inversion (head-down movement) and a twist—have remained the same but the actual asanas are simpler. So, for instance, an inversion can be performed using a headstand but we would prefer people didn’t try that at home on their own, so we include the downward-facing dog pose which achieves the same result. The classes are structured in a way that they are accessible to students who are in the beginner or intermediary stages.

Sarvesh Shashi, founder, SARVA—Yoga, Mindfulness & Beyond
Sarvesh Shashi, founder, SARVA—Yoga, Mindfulness & Beyond

Sarvesh Shashi

Founder, SARVA—Yoga, Mindfulness & Beyond

To make group classes online as interesting as possible, we try tobring in a social element to the class by encouraging social fitness and a community feel through the SARVA app, which sends out messages to everyone who has signed up for a class. Once in the class, we try to replicate the studio model. While the core of our classes continues to be based on the three basic principles of asana, dhyana and pranayama, the flow of the classes has changed subtly to include more breathing and meditation practices, which are essential for these times. We have also introduced modules like “yoga to boost immunity". To make sure that students don’t injure themselves by doing something beyond their physical ability, we have brought the intensity down by about 10-12%, and we tell students which forms of yoga (we teach 25) they should choose depending on their abilities and physical barriers like injuries.

Pradeesh Raj, founder, Shakti Yoga
Pradeesh Raj, founder, Shakti Yoga

Pradeesh Raj

Founder, Shakti Yoga

I won’t deny that I miss physically being in a class with my students. I do miss the personal touch and contact, and I find it is easier to monitor students and help them learn better in real life. Also, as much as students gain from a class, the guru also feeds off the energy of the class and the constant give and take. Having said that, I find that being able to teach online has helped me and my students. Many students who had dropped out earlier because they moved cities or were not able to make it to a class physically have joined back. I do foresee that even in the future, when we are able to get back to our physical classes, I will continue to teach some portion of my class online.

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