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Writing Detours | Yoga instructors find calm in chaos

As the world takes a moment to breathe in moments of calm for the International Day of Yoga on June 21, yogis are also reflecting on how the pandemic has affected their practice and interactions with their fellows and instructors.

The state-imposed restrictions and measures to help fight COVID-19 continues to prevent physical gatherings and indoor group exercises like yoga, but dedicated followers of the lifestyle remain resilient with creative spaces that keep their energies flowing.

Displaced freelance instructors

The reality is sad for most people in the fitness industry: with gyms closed until further notice, many of the freelance fitness instructors are on their own.

“Many of the instructors are freelance, so we don’t receive those government subsidies offered for company employees,” said yoga instructor Joanna Christina Lizares Co. “That is why I make this appeal to Davao: to continue supporting our community, the instructors and teachers here in the city. If they have online classes, take them and continue to support them.”

A number of yoga instructors have brought their asana and meditation practice online—in Zoom or through Facebook. Using these platforms comes with its own challenges.

“Honestly, it’s tougher teaching online classes especially with the interaction I do. I’m viewing all of the participants from a computer screen and I have to be extra descriptive with postures and transitions, while performing them myself, and correcting students when needed,” she said.

She takes the same deep breaths that she encourages her students to take—it’s how she helps ease the tension when doing classes online. She’s had as much as 32 students in a single class.

Some instructors are yet to find ideal situations as they shift to doing yoga online.
“We need to deal with internet connection issues and how it interrupts us mid class. We aren’t social media experts, either, so we have to make do with the smartphones that we have,” said fitness and yoga instructor James Fritz Freire. “I also have a hard time not seeing my students physically. There is a fear that they might not be able to execute the moves safely.”

For Fritz, the pandemic changed their work routines.

“During the first part of the quarantines, most of us were feeling depressed. Our routines changed and suddenly, we aren’t able to make a living,” he said. But as time passed, he said they braved the situation and adapted with online platforms, as requested by some loyal students. Eventually, the online following became steady. And the instructors couldn’t be more happy.

Go for gratitude

“I am grateful! I love that yoga continues. People are motivated to exercise especially at these times when we need it most for both mind and body,” Joanna said.

Yoga instructor Apple Capangpangan who is also conducting yoga classes in a virtual space with her fellow teachers also admired how her students continue to come together online these days.

“I guess this pandemic has given a lot of people a sense of self-love—a deeper understanding of the importance of their physical, and mental well-being,” Apple said, expressing equal gratitude that she and her fellow professionals are still able to do classes despite the current situation.

There are bumps along the way but these don’t stop the yogis from holding steady.

Tips for students

“Since it’s an online class, we rely fully on the internet connection for the stability of our classes. I’ve experienced being cut-off in the middle of a class because of poor connection,” Apple said. “Now I use my cellular data as a backup. We are also giving our students a one-on-one off-practice meeting where we discuss every student’s practice.”

To make up for the physical disconnect, Joanna also goes the extra mile as a teacher.

“I try to make the class as interactive as possible, still maintaining the assists and directions like how I do it in in-person classes.

Then after each class, my clients can expect that I review the recorded session and we get to discuss what we did for the day: what needs to be improved, posture issues, and all that. We do this in a chat group,” she said.

She admits that the recording, reviewing and discussions afterwards require extra effort. But she is willing to make this because seeing her students “transform” and get better makes it all worth the while.

Joanna shared these tips when attending online yoga classes: know very well that this practice is for your well being; don’t be afraid to talk to the teacher; find a good space to practice at home; decide not to be disturbed during the class; and fight the urge to be lazy.

Apple added: “Students need to prepare a computer or smartphone with good internet connection. Set up your device’s camera at an angle where we can fully see you.”

“Find the right instructor who motivates you and is able to convey instructions safely through the online platforms,” said Fritz.

“Commit to the classes to make the most out of them.”

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