Am I just a yoga teacher?

Updated: Jan 7, 2021

Let's go back to January 2020. We had just celebrated Christmas and New Year, life was looking good, new beginnings were starting, the typical ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ were being made and everyone was looking forward to what this year had in store.

I was exceptionally excited because this was the second year for my yoga business. I had been out of full time teaching for a year and I felt it was the best decision I ever made. I had my life back, my income from supply teaching was great, I could choose which days I worked and my yoga classes were packed, averaging at 18 yogis per class. I was buzzing!

I had also just moved to a new and more accessible venue for one of my classes. I had new people signing up and waiting lists were forming. I didn’t have my website or booking system in place but I was managing it all myself. I was emailing, messaging, phoning those who wanted a space and my make shift booking system was working well. Once the class had finished, people were writing their name down straight away, reserving their space for the following week. I wasn’t securing spaces with money, I knew that mostly everyone was reliable and honest and should they not be able to make it, they were giving me enough notice to allow others to join in. I was honestly so happy and thrilled as to how things were going and everything was moving in the right direction. After my first hard year owning and running a business, my second year was shaping

up very well. I had even dropped one of my supply teaching days and began working only Monday-Wednesday in schools. On Thursdays, I started working in a day care centre doing chair yoga for the elderly and began planning my next course which was my pregnancy yoga one.

So then let’s fast forward about 6-8 weeks to the second week in March. The moment we had been dreading. Surely this virus that was in China was not going to reach us? We should surely be ok? Well hindsight is a wonderful thing. If I knew back then, what I know now (that old cliché) I certainly would have never imagined where my business is now.

Venues were suddenly emailing to say they were cancelling bookings and I was then quickly messaging everyone to say classes were cancelled immediately.

That first week of lockdown was a completely alien to me. As far as I was aware we were in this strange lockdown. Not sure for how long, possibly a few weeks, a month, I was thinking probably maximum of two and then we could get back to normal right?

For many, this lockdown didn’t just mean setting up a computer, desk and continuing work at home for a few weeks. It didn’t mean having time off and being furloughed. It also didn’t mean that we could continue working outside in open spaces because that is perhaps what we do in the summer and not so much in the middle of March anyway. Suddenly we had to create this virtual studio space for everyone to be able to access and little did I know, my role as ‘Yoga Teacher’ was no longer just a ‘Yoga Teacher.’

In the first week of lockdown, myself and my partner moved into our new home. We got the keys that Friday, so I knew I needed my first week off to help sort out the flat and try and find a space for an online studio. I’ll give credit here to my partner Paul, because he helped tremendously during this time. The moments when I was getting upset that it wasn’t going to work, I didn’t have the right space, the picture quality was great, he stepped in and helped me to get it sorted. We decided the spare room would become the yoga room, I would use his computer for the class and I would use my phone for music. I had never used zoom in my life and to be honest I didn’t have a clue what I was doing with the technology. But what made me so incredibly happy was seeing all 18 of those who used to attend my classes back in their own makeshift home studio! That buzzing feeling was different but it felt amazing. I was flowing on my mat virtually for the first time alongside many others and suddenly my mind was at ease. However it wasn't all plain sailing however, now I was no longer ‘just a yoga teacher.’ Gone were the days of planning a lesson, turning up, and then leaving to go home.

I want to make it clear that I am not referring to the ‘just’ part of that title so that it sounds like my job is worthless. Because I 100% do not feel that at all and every job is worthy of something. You should never say ‘oh I am just a….’ because immediately you are making it sound like you don’t feel your job is that important. However what I am getting at is that my role as a yoga teacher now encompassed lots of different job roles.

I was suddenly a: (be prepared for the long list…)

1) Sound Technician- having to find ways of sharing music with my yogis so that the quality was much better and more relaxing for them. Before I was putting my phone against the speaker thinking it worked fine. However, I very much appreciated the feedback as it was coming through quite tinny. I now share links to my playlists through a zoom chat so that if they have Spotify, they can listen to the playlist separately to provide more of a relaxing atmosphere. Or I direct them to YouTube, still not ideal but better than that ‘tinny’ music.

2) Lighting Technician- I was noticing how the light on the camera was changing depending on the level I was filming yoga at. For example, if I transitioned from a high Warrior I to Anjaneyasana our low lunge, the camera lighting was going from light to dark. I found myself getting so frustrated to the point where I had to find so many different lamps around our flat to help keep the lighting at the right level.

3) Studio designer. So no longer was my studio a community centre, a gym, or a village hall. I had my studio at home right there in front of me. However despite being extremely lucky in that I knew I had some space in the flat, I still wanted to make it a relaxing and calming space and for it to also to be more appealing for myself. (This is my perfectionist part of me coming out.) So when lockdown 2.0 was happening, I chose some colours and painted. I finally got the pictures up, the beautiful signs that Paul surprised me with, and suddenly this home studio was looking much better. (Yes I did move rooms again and now I have claimed what was the games room and made it into a tranquil and peaceful room for yoga and exercise. Thanks Paul!) But I also want to share that I am definitely not saying that every yoga teacher’s studio needs to be decorated or that people at home need a studio make-over. Not at all. I spent years at home practising in the lounge with just my mat and that was absolutely fine and was all that I needed. A few candles or some incense burning, low lighting and bam, a calm and quiet space was created. So please don’t think I am saying you have to do this… it is just me and me being a perfectionist for my yoga space.

4) Cameraman – and probably like many others, I created my YouTube platform for shorter flows so that those who couldn’t attend a class could still access one online for free. However this proved to be a huge new role in itself. I am very lucky in that my partner has a DSLR camera and a Mac computer which has helped tremendously for filming content and editing. But this still wasn’t as easy as it sounds. I am sure many others feel my pain when they were half way through filming and suddenly the battery died, or there was not enough storage, or the neighbours next door made a racket and that was all you could hear on the video, you move and the lighting changes, the camera angle is suddenly not right, when you stand and lift your arms up, anything from your elbows upwards get chopped off. So, then you delete, re-charge, wait another hour and then start again. Not to even mention microphones… Hearing the sound quality back after a couple of film takes was very disheartening when the quality sounded awful. Being a perfectionist doesn’t bode well when you are comparing your YouTube quality with those professional ones. Many times I had to relax, unwind, and come back to the video at a later date. So since then, I have gone through two microphones and I am still not happy with them and the quality. (So if anyone who is reading this has any tips or any they find really useful, please share them with me, I’ll put my email at the bottom of this long blog.)

I also had the idea of filming the content without speaking and then doing the voiceover after. This has worked for filming with noisy neighbours, I can continue my flow and voice over after and if they’re noisy for 30 seconds, it is much easier to edit. But then bear in mind that this takes twice as long to complete. This leads onto job role number 5…

5) Film editor. I was now having to remember what I learnt when I was 13, doing Media before choosing my GCSEs. You may think ‘oh that wasn’t so long ago for you,’ but actually it was 17 years ago… oh my gosh that is scary! But as we all know, technology has vastly improved since then. So during lockdown 1.0 I was learning how to edit on iMovie. I was slowly getting the hang of it, how to add in transitions, how to split videos, add in freeze frames, voice overs, detach audio from original video, importing music from YouTube library so that I wasn’t fined for copywriting and then…. the dreaded upload. So as I mentioned many many paragraphs up, we moved into a property during lockdown. This meant our internet installation date was pushed back 2-3 months. Not ideal when you are now thrown into working from home and it wasn’t your choice. Lucky our old neighbours let us use their internet but it was still very, very slow. Uploading was taking 24+ hours, my patience was wearing thin, all that hard work for hours editing one video was then lost because quite often, after going to sleep and coming back to the computer the next day, it would say failed to upload. Our neighbours then moved out and next door was empty which meant 4G it was… and nope it still didn’t work. All I kept thinking was why was this not working for me? Why was I trying my best and spending ages editing and filming for it to not upload? Why am I having to compress and convert file types? Why is this not easy? Well I can now say that I have nailed iMovie, we have our internet now which is super fast, and I have learnt that shorter videos work best. I am still learning though as I know the videos are still nowhere near perfect.

6) Technology Guru- I was beginning to know how to work zoom, how to share screens if I wanted to start with a picture or talk them through the meaning of chakras for example, learning how to create meetings and schedule them correctly, plus linking them to my website. I created my website in lockdown 1.0 which was something I wanted to do for a while and whilst I had this time, I created a website with an online booking system.

7) Marketing manager- with everything being online, we were, and still are also making sure that we keep on top of marketing and advertising. I have been on social media for quite some time before I started my yoga business and therefore I have quite an understanding of how it works. Although I am sure that there are many teachers out there who have not used social media before and are being thrown into the deep end. Yet this social media platform is important for us as our classes are no longer being advertised through word of mouth, or through posters in local cafés, or by seeing groups of people walking to a venue with yoga mats which sparks up interests in the eye of the passer-by. We are literally relying on social media and partly word of mouth when people are catching up with friends and family on zoom. We are also then working out pricing and whether we should advertise our classes for free because we know many others are not going to be earning and are being hit hard with the pandemic too. We start to question if we should continue at the same price when teaching face to face or if that is too much, especially now that the instructor and yogi rapport is virtual and not quite the same. All these extra things to think about could give someone a headache.

8) Lastly… A Photographer. Immediately all those pictures you took of your classes back before lockdown are suddenly even more important. Asking family members or partners to take pictures of your yoga poses so that you can advertise your class from home. Getting more and more frustrated with self timer and that 10 second cap on your phone which doesn’t give you enough time to get into that asana that you want to use to advertise your class that night. Not to even mention editing, cropping, making sure Instagram will take the whole picture and not cut it off. Questioning if it is light enough, do the colours come out well, is it blurry and unfocused? After lockdown we will certainly be pros at photography, and could probably be in charge of a wedding photographer business. It is just insane how many things that us teachers have learnt in the space of a year.

I am pretty sure there are many other roles that other teachers can also think of. But it is true, I am now a wizard at lighting, editing, filming, designing and photography and that’s not to mention my yoga role of planning lessons and practising with other amazing yogis.

Nevertheless, I would still not change my job for anything. Despite all these roles coming into play, I would still continue this if we were to go through this again… oh wait we are… lockdown 3.0

Now this third lockdown has meant for me, and no doubt many others, that our dreams of teaching back in studios is still quite far away. Schools are off for another six weeks which means they will re-introduce those first, then probably other hospitality venues and shops. So for us, who rely on the community, are probably going to remain online for quite some time and that is ok. We have this sorted now, it is nothing new to us. We understand that yoga online isn’t for everyone. As I saw in lockdown 1.0, once it got to summer, people preferred being outside in the sunshine, those who had kids and a family at home found it difficult to find their quiet space and that was also absolutely fine. I appreciated that online yoga and technology was and still isn’t everyone’s favourite thing. It certainly isn’t mine and we all know how frustrating it can be when it doesn’t work.

However to finish and round off my blog about not just being a yoga teacher, I wanted to finally bring your attention to a post I saw online only yesterday which I thought fitted perfectly. It is written by Lucy_Yoga on her fb page and she shared it on her Instagram platform too and it really did strike me. Not in a bad way at all, but in a way that made me breathe a sigh of relief. A sigh that I thought yes, I am not the only one. Thank you Lucy!

Before you read the post, or maybe you have already skipped ahead because this blog is rather long, my bad, I want to say, and I am sure I speak on behalf of Lucy too, that this is not at all saying that those YouTube teachers are not amazing because they are quite the opposite. Those teachers on YouTube, that have millions of subscribers, are great and I once practised many of the flows in my living room with a popular yoga instructor when I was starting to get into yoga itself. YouTube is such an amazing platform and I would never discourage anyone from taking part in those flows. However, Lucy in her post quite literally ‘hit the nail on the head.’ Because despite how great those instructors are, they do have a huge team behind them. They have their cameraman, lighting, sound and music technician, plus their editor who will spend many paid hours to edit the video correctly. Those instructors will also be paid on how many views they get and how many subscribers. Don’t get me wrong, I am also not saying that these instructors haven’t worked hard. Because I am almost certain, they were once teaching a few classes a week and worked extremely hard to get to where they are. Yet it is so true what Lucy said. Every time you hear someone say ‘I will be back but I will stick to YouTube for now’ it is quite disheartening. Especially when you spend many unpaid hours, like myself, planning, filming, editing, day in and day out because you know that lockdown 3.0 will be around for a little while and you don’t want to lose your members or for your members to lose interest in yoga.

Many reading this might think, “Well you chose that career and that is your decision so stop complaining” and I will say yes. Yes it was and still is my decision and I would still not change it for the world. I love my job, I love sharing my passion and enthusiasm of yoga with others. I love teaching beginners and people of all ages abilities and it is amazing to hear so many of my yogis say, “Thank you for that flow tonight it is just what I needed,” or “I love your classes so thank you.” I love learning how to edit, film, photograph and all the above roles I've talked about.

But I just wanted to draw your attention to us yoga teachers. Who do spend such a long time preparing your online class. Because hopefully you may be able to appreciate, that we are not “just yoga teachers” now, who teach on their mat and when they are finished they go home and relax. We are many other roles too and there is a lot of ‘behind the scenes work’ that perhaps some do not realise which is totally fine and I appreciate that.

No one would have expected this in January 2020. 2020 was a year of many ups and downs. Despite all the stress and upset, with my role changing and adapting, I still enjoyed and appreciated the year. I learnt so many new things (like the really long list above… sorry) and qualifying in other courses that I perhaps wouldn’t have had the time to do before. I appreciate every single person who has attend a class, whether that was in March 2020 or up until now. I love my job, I love sharing my passion and I will continue this through lockdown 3.0 and into the far distant future. It is a journey that led me to many amazing discoveries and sparked interests in many different areas. I am not complaining, I just want to bring people’s attention to what is happening and what many of us instructors are noticing.

For any yoga teachers who maybe reading this, I also want to say thank you and well done for your achievements especially this past year. I don’t feel we give ourselves enough credit. If you are like me, you may finish one idea and immediately start another. It is important to stop, reflect and refresh. So well done for getting this far!

So for all you amazing and inspiring yogis out there who attend our classes or not, all I ask is please just remember, support small (local) businesses. If you practise on YouTube that is great and absolutely fine, but perhaps once or twice you could switch to another instructor, or search for an online zoom class or fb live with an alternative instructor? Because those extra views, subscribers, messages of interest mean the world to us. We are relying on all of you amazing people out there to help keep our business alive. We want to continue and support you in your journey, form relationships with you, to guide you to where you are wanting to be and to help you experience that enlightenment that we did when we first practised yoga. We are not ‘just a yoga teacher’ we are all amazing yoga teachers!

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