teaching online yoga classes

The Obstacles of Online Yoga Classes (and how to overcome them)

October 28, 2020

Several years ago, I started teaching online yoga classes.

I had resisted for years, preferring the simplicity of showing up at a yoga studio, teaching my classes on the schedule, and then going home.

Online yoga felt impersonal and cold. 

I loved my community of students and being able to laugh with them before, during, and after class.

Teaching yoga in a studio seemed like the best way to teach yoga.

And although I’d taken a few online classes with some of my favorite yoga teachers, I also felt like it wasn’t worth the expense. I have a pretty strong and consistent home practice. The idea of paying someone to basically guide my home practice felt a little silly.

I started teaching online yoga classes because I could no longer teach at studios.

My husband joined the Air Force and I no longer had the ability to teach yoga classes in person at a studio.

Unsurprisingly, studio owners don’t want to put you on the schedule if you’re only going to be in town for 6 months or a year.

I decided pretty early on that if I was going to keep teaching yoga, it would have to be online.

Even when we did finally settle for a few years, my schedule was limited. I had 2 young kids and a surprise baby on the way. I had little-to-no consistent, affordable childcare. 

And when you’re making less $$ to teach a class than what you need to pay the babysitter, the decision makes itself.

I started teaching online yoga classes out of necessity and self-preservation for my business, but I actually grew to love it.

The students in my online studio are all over the world. Many first met me on the mat back when I taught in DC, but some found me on YouTube or Instagram.

And although it is different, I do still get to connect with everyone who shows up live, as well as people who don’t through in my online community on facebook. (I know, I know…someday there will be a better alternative but for now, it works).

I can teach yoga from my back porch with the sounds of birds in the tree outside my window and also sometimes the sounds of my kids fighting just inside the living room.

There’s no commute and no parking lot drama.

I do think that there are some big obstacles for students and teachers when it comes to online yoga classes.

Here are the most common obstacles of online yoga classes and how to overcome them.

I miss my community!!!

This one is more on the teacher than the students. For online yoga classes, the teacher can show up early and stay after. This is what I do. I think it’s a fine balance between valuing the time that people have set aside for class and wanting to create conversation, connection, and community.

Not everyone will see this as community.

So my question is, what determines community?

Does it have to be face to face all the time?

Does it have to involve physical contact?

I can’t answer these questions for everyone. I can simply say that I am grateful that the internet has allowed my community to expand beyond the immediacy of local community. I have students who join me live online for yoga classes in California, Connecticut, Chicago, Maryland, Florida, DC, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Nebraska. And those are just the places I actually know.

When I am teaching, I feel like I am teaching in community.

Yes, it’s not quite the same vibe as practicing in a room full of people. There is almost a tactile energy to that. As one friend described, even taking savasana after an awesome class can have a powerful energy in a room full of people. This can’t be replicated. But that doesn’t make the online class less powerful or impactful.

I miss physical assists!!!

Listen, if you’re missing physical assists or adjustments, go get a massage. Truly. Yoga teachers aren’t trained nearly enough to be qualified to give the kind of physical assists people want.

They’re also not paid enough.

Physical assists can be great when they’re done well.

Unfortunately, they’re not usually done well and they’re usually done in place of giving a verbal assist.

In my experience, assists are just an excuse for overly enthusiastic teachers to touch because they want to touch and because their verbal assists aren’t skillful enough.

I know I might be in the minority here, but I think physical assists are overdone in yoga.

I miss personalized feedback on my form!!!

This one is tricky. When I first started teaching online, I was sure I’d be able to offer feedback while teaching. Turned out, I was wrong.

The problem is that in order to teach yoga online, the teacher often has to do the practice with her students — which is not how I teach in-person classes. This is because if those classes are recorded, it doesn’t work to send a recording of the teacher just sitting on her mat, speaking poses.

The way I try to work around this is by staying after my online classes are over and answering questions about the class or about form. I also tell my students they can unmute anytime to ask a question about a pose during the live class, so occasionally someone will do that, too.

These workarounds are not ideal for everyone, but they get the job done.

I miss going to the studio!!!

Yeah, I can’t replace this one for you. But you can see it as a mindset shift. This is tricky. 

For lots of people, the act of leaving their house allows them both the physical and the mental space to practice yoga.

I’ve had students who joined my online studio only to say, “yeah, I’m just not motivated at home,” and they cancelled their subscription.

I get that. And honor it.

Some people don’t like practicing in their messy living room/bed room/dining room. They don’t want their partners or roommates or kids watching.

My advice there is to join an online studio and set aside those times when classes happen as you would if you were leaving to go to an actual studio. (You can join mine for just $28/mo — or get your first month free using the code YOGASUPPORT)

Or if the monthly membership model doesn’t work for you, find a teacher offering weekly classes and commit to one of their classes each week.

Tell your partner you need 30-60 minutes—however long the class is. If you can go into a room and close a door, do that. Make it an event.

One of my online students lights candles when she takes class. I love seeing that when I’m teaching because it looks so intentional and special.

I’ve had online students invite friends to practice with them. Like a yoga date.

Sometimes kids join in.

Or dogs.

Or cats.

All all of the above.

For some people, that works.

For others it doesn’t.

If it doesn’t for you, let me introduce you to my favorite babysitter, Netflix.


Meaning, unless something truly catastrophic happens, this time is sacred and don’t allow yourself to cross these boundaries.

I miss the focus of being in the studio!!!

The truth is, there is a different energy in being at home vs being in a studio. I see this in my daughter who is doing remote learning, too. It’s hard for her to get into the groove of online learning because when she’s at home she wants to play with me or her dad or her brother. She wants to watch TV and have snack breaks every hour on the hour.

For awhile she’d say, “I hate school,” when really she meant, “ I hate online school.”

She misses her friends and in-person interaction, extrovert that she is.

Lately, she’s been doing better with online school.

What changed?

She could print out the weekly schedule and have the expectations for each day clearly listed for her on a sheet of paper.

This gives her more focus and clarity.

I think the same is true for at home yoga.

I create an idea of what to expect in my own online studio by having a pose of the month and a theme of the month. This past month, I had a request to stay off of our wrists after a month of vasisthasana. So I picked camel as our pose of the month. Each live class during the month featured flows and sequences with no hand contact on the ground or weight bearing on the wrists. It’s been an awesome month.

I also primarily teach 30-minute online yoga classes live because our attention span is shorter at home.

I’m really bad at having a home practice!!!

Guess what? Online yoga classes are not a “home practice.” They are classes. Especially when they are live with the teacher online. Pre-recorded classes are a bit more like a guided home practice. Even still, if a person who is not you is leading you through a practice, it’s not “home practice,” even if you’re doing the practice in your home.

This mentality might be the hardest to shift but it’s an important one.

If you don’t view online yoga classes as actual classes taught by actual teachers, this obstacle will be impossible to cross.

Here’s the deal:

What it comes down to is how important having a regular, consistent yoga practice is to you.

If you have a strong home practice and don’t feel you need regular guidance, online yoga classes might not be for you and that’s ok.

If you know you need more yoga, the obstacles of online yoga classes are easy to overcome.

You just need to shift how you think about them and get a little more creative with what you’re used to your yoga practice looking like.

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