(It’s not how you think)
Article by Lucas Rockwood
I started teaching yoga in 2003, the same year that Skype launched. My initial thought was, “Oh, I’m going to use this to teach yoga online!”
Bad news for me: it didn’t work out exactly as I’d imagined. The good news for you: it can and does work if you know what you’re doing. So if you’re looking for the best way to teach yoga online, learn from my mistakes and my wins to make the most of your online yoga teaching career.
A Brief History of Teaching Online
For years, yoga teachers and studios have been experimenting with live video 1-on-1 classes and live streams of group classes. I even remember a yoga studio set up in Santa Monica, California, dedicated solely to streaming every single class. Sadly, the concept just doesn’t work as well for yoga as it does for indoor cycling or group fitness.
In most group fitness classes, all eyes are on the instructor, so close-up cameras make it easy to follow along with the exercise and add to the fun and excitement. During yoga practice, you’re mostly in your own head, and you physically cannot look at the teacher in most poses (it’s not correct alignment). Camera close-ups are awkward in yoga and detract from the experience as you need to see the full-body, head-to-toes for visual reference. So what about wide-angle videos? That’s better, but it’s visually uninteresting and lacks the intimacy of a class – so it’s really lose-lose.
The Reality of Online Yoga Teaching
Thousands of yoga instructors do successfully teach online, but rarely through Skype or Zoom videos as you might imagine. Most successful online teachers use published content to share their lessons. They are YouTubers, Instagrammers, writers, and content publishers. For example, I know one teacher that releases a mini-flow sequence to YouTube weekly, another that uses infographics with do’s and don’ts, and a third who uses text-heavy articles complete with photos and illustrations.
To successfully teach online, you cannot simply record your class and hit “publish”, you need to do things differently working with the content limitations and advantages on hand.
Here’s How I’ve Done It
I’ve taught yoga online for years, but I don’t teach a 60 or 90-minute vinyasa class like I would if you invited me to your studio. Instead, I teach mini-segments of 15-20 minutes that are better suited to the online platforms where I publish.
I also produce yoga lectures, workshops, flexibility challenges, and guided breathing sessions. Skype or Zoom are not ideal for anything I do, so I tend to use Instagram, Facebook or YouTube – the platforms my students are already using. My biggest class was an online webinar (lecture style) and had 1400 students, but more often I teach groups of 50, 75 or 100.
How to Get Paid
I do lots of free work, meaning I simply publish on one of these preferred platforms freely, but I’m a career yoga teacher, so I mostly do paid work. Students pay to join my mini-series, online workshops, or online yoga teacher training courses. This allows me to provide better service, more resources, and a better experience than I could if I was just giving it all away. I’ve also found that students pay attention when they pay, so their commit and results are usually better when there is an energy exchange of value.
EXAMPLE: here’s a look at my 21-Day Hip Opening Challenge which I host on Telegram.
Want to be an Influencer? Paid for Sponsorship?
Many online yoga teachers rely on advertising or third-party platforms for commissions. For a select few, this can work. There are huge yoga accounts on social media that make a small fortune with sponsorships and ads, but the work of an influencer is an entirely different business that is not for everyone. The market is more and more crowded every day, and followers are much less interested in sponsored posts than they are in real teaching.
Quick Tips for Online Teaching
- Specialize and focus your teaching to stand out and add value
- Focus on mini-classes more than longer-form class structures
- Choose a platform that your students already use like Instagram, Facebook or YouTube
- Keep it simple, students bail out if it’s too complicated
- Take payment online via PayPal, Venmo or other services
- Keep things low tech and simple, you can do most things with a good phone
- Get started, and go from there!
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