Suche

An emotional experience – Teaching Yoga online live in times of the pandemic

Interview with Uday Bhosale

by Claudia Lamas Cornejo


When the COVID19 pandemic spread out rapidly and worsened in March 2020, it led to tremendous shifts and changes affecting many aspects of our lives and life itself. As educational institutions and others had to close down from one day to the next, also many yoga schools, institutions, teachers and students faced a situation, that no one ever thought would happen.

Uday Bhosale, who over his many years at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune, conducted classes for children and adults of all levels and who is considered one of Iyengar Yoga´s most experienced teachers, was one of the first Iyengar Yoga teachers who tried out teaching in the context of an online live class. In the following interview he is generously sharing his personal experience of teaching Iyengar Yoga in an online live format, as well as its many challenges and new insights on teaching yoga in times of a pandemic.



Claudia Lamas Cornejo: How did you approach the new situation of being limited to your own house but wanting to reach out to your yoga students, what challenges did occur?

Uday Bhosale: Prior to this, we have always been used to in-person learning and teaching. But when it was no longer feasible to do so, online teaching seemed to be an option that we could try out. My wife Sonali and I thought of arranging a trial class. We gathered a few friends (virtually on Zoom) and I taught for half an hour. Soon we realised this is slightly different, but surely doable.

One of the initial challenges encountered was warming up to the idea of online classes. How can we teach someone while we are not present in the same room was the thought on everyone’s mind. Tech-phobia was another problem with many students and teachers. Not knowing how to install the application on various devices - placement of the device appropriately - rumours about the application not being safe and news about meetings being crashed: Zoombombers. All this was causing resistance for people to try online classes.

Getting the internet connection was another important challenge.

Uday and Sonali during an online life class, using their wall back home for Jatara Parivartanasana. Photo: Jacky Taylor 2020.
Uday and Sonali during an online life class, using their wall back home for Jatara Parivartanasana. Photo: Jacky Taylor 2020.

We started off with an intent to virtually reach out to students and gather them together for an hour-long session and conduct basic practice. It would even give some time for virtual socialising. Many friends from across the country or from different countries could meet up and chat before and after the classes began. Along with the asana practice, this appeared to be an important contribution for many who were alone and in isolation. A student in one of the initial classes, mentioned that it was an emotional experience to see some friends after couple of weeks in lockdown.

For some time, it felt like a mission for us to convey and propagate this mode of teaching. So that teachers can continue to earn their livelihood and students can benefit while being locked down at home. Slowly but surely the word started to spread.

Many teachers contacted us seeking help and we were glad we could share our experience.

With the help of Iyengar Yoga (UK) we shared a document with basic guidelines and how to go about teaching online classes.

CLC: What other difficulties of teaching online did you encounter?

Uday:

Over the months we have come to realise, this medium has both benefits and drawbacks. The biggest difficulty here is the absence of touch. The lack of physical presence of the teacher. As a teacher, I can no longer say to you, “Go ahead and try, I am here for you”.

The comfort and confidence that a teacher can provide while a student is reluctant or scared to try something, cannot happen (and rather should not be done) in this mode. The skilful physical adjustment that an experienced teacher can carry out for you, cannot happen.

It is only clear instruction that I can share as a teacher with you as a student and trust the ability of the student to follow it safely. This can be possible for relatively less complex and less threatening asanas.

Another hurdle, mainly in the beginning is about getting students accustomed to the use of device and placing themselves in front of the camera in a way that I can see and correct where required.


In action: Sceenshots of Uday's online teaching from home. Photo credits: Jacky Taylor 2020.


CLC: So, would you say, teaching online live does affect your teaching? Does, to some account modify your teaching even?

Uday:

A good teacher will always adapt to the situation presented. It could be with respect to the students in front or the location. The teaching approach changes depending on if you are teaching a small class or a larger group. So, this is totally a new medium and does require some adaptations and getting used to it as well.

It is important to convey clearly what I want students to do in the class, so clear demonstrations from various angles help. The best part here is, everyone gets to see what I am showing clearly. There is no problem of somebody else blocking the view which can happen in bigger classes or conventions.

Explain with clear instructions, demonstrate and then conduct while observing them, has helped me run the classes effectively.

Whenever, I need to see my students from a different angle, I ask them to face in a particular direction or adjust their camera where I get a clearer view of their asana. As a teacher it is easy for me to look at and check numbers of students within the same screen.

Along with this I encourage my students to judge their situation themselves while attempting something more challenging to their ability. In this mode, it is better to play safe and build the courage of the student over a period of time.

But we realised a surprising benefit of this scenario. Many students reported saying that they find themselves more focused and responsible than they were while in the classroom. They have no other distractions. They know their safety is their responsibility and they end up being more focused and careful. Some students even said they had no peer pressure as they cannot see others performing in the class. It was like a 1-2-1 class experience which come to think of it is quite something.

CLC: …for the first time in modern yoga times, the student is “alone” with his or her teacher so to say… We have been physically isolated and virtually connected more than ever, though, as yoga students and yoga teachers around the globe – what do you think is the effect on our yoga community? What is your hope or wish?