With the world finally coming out of the other side of the black hole that was the COVID-19 pandemic, now is a good time to reflect back on these past few years, and take stock of everything on a personal, as well as global, level.
The pandemic hit the yoga industry hard, with studios having to completely close their doors for – in some cases – over two years, and many people unable to afford online classes (especially with the plethora of free youtube classes available). And challenges remain even now that the pandemic (in most places) is over – many students are still fearful to come back to group classes, and the changing nature of the workplace means that city centre studios may no longer have the same kind of footfall, with many people now permanently working from home.
Yet, while no one was resistant to the effects of the pandemic, many people seem to have come out of it in a better state than they entered, myself included. Through yoga, I was able to use the pandemic as an opportunity for learning, growth, and reflection, and to take the lessons I learned from it and use them to enhance my personal and professional life.
In particular, these are the 5 greatest lessons I learned as a yoga teacher during the pandemic…
No, I don’t just mean being able to get your leg behind your head!
As yoga teachers we are expected to be physically flexible (to a certain degree), but the pandemic taught me that it’s even more important to be flexible in your mind, especially in our industry. As studios began closing their doors almost overnight, the main source of income for many teachers suddenly disappeared. Those who thrived jumped on the ‘online teaching’ bandwagon early, and didn’t whine or complain about it, but rather embraced it as an opportunity and a new skill to learn. In fact, for many newly qualified teachers, the move to online teaching actually worked in their favour – no longer were they competing with dozens of others yoga teachers for those rare studio jobs, but now they could start teaching immediately by advertising through their own social media, gain their own following of loyal students, and get to keep 100% of the profits for a change!
While there are definitely downsides to online teaching, the teachers I saw who resisted the move to online (or wouldn’t accept that it is here to stay permanently) tended to have a worse experience of the pandemic overall, not only as a business but also personally and emotionally.
How to apply this lesson: It pays to predict future trends (or get on board with things that are inevitable), and use the yogic idea of acceptance and balance to make the most of every situation. Like water flowing in a stream, sometimes the best idea is just to go with it, and see where it takes you…
While those who embraced online teaching fared better, there’s still no doubt that the pandemic was rough on those who teach yoga full-time. The pandemic highlighted the precariousness of relying on one source of income; yoga teachers who had another part-time job, or a side hustle, at least had something else to fall back on (especially if they were furloughed).
Does this mean we should all stick to our ‘day jobs’ and give up on yoga (as a full-time career)?! Not necessarily! But even millionaires don’t rely on one source of income, they have diverse streams of income, so that if something happens to one, all is not lost.
As a Holistic Health and Life Coach, I was lucky in that I could focus on turning my ‘side hustle’ (my passion for women’s health and hormones) into a business. Combining yoga with women’s health, means that I can focus on creating other sources of income (such as private coaching and online courses) as opposed to only being able to teach group classes.
How to apply this lesson: Something that has blossomed since the pandemic is the rise of online (on-demand) courses. Why not create a yoga course that your students can buy online, giving you a source of unlimited passive income. All Yoga also has a community platform for showcasing graduates’ programmes, so you can even benefit from some additional marketing!
Another idea would be to combine yoga with something else you love and offer workshops in this new niche area, or even retreats! Or maybe you love being an educator… so why not think about becoming a yoga teacher trainer yourself?!
Something the pandemic absolutely highlighted is the importance of taking care of ourselves mentally and physically. Not only to try to avoid getting COVID-19 (or to recover faster if/when we do get it), but also to build mental resilience for dealing with a pandemic (and whatever the future holds for us).
Personally, my attitude towards the pandemic started to shift when I began to see it as an opportunity to finally spend the time on my own fitness and yoga practice that I had always been complaining I didn’t have! For the first time, working from home, I was able to structure my day around my exercise, as well as having plenty of time to cook everything from scratch, and to prioritise my own self-care (including journalling, pranayama, etc.).
I believe all of this played a part in helping me stay super healthy throughout the past few years (I’m definitely in better shape now than I was before the pandemic).
The phrase ‘health is wealth’ sums it up perfectly. By looking after ourselves now, we save ourselves much greater costs down the line (including not having to miss days at work due to COVID or other illnesses). After all, without our health, what do we have?
How to apply this lesson: Make sure you are taking time for yourself, mentally and physically, including your own yoga practice. This will not only help avoid burnout and make you a better teacher, but also helps keeps you and your loved ones healthy and safe.
One of my favourite (yet most challenging) teachings from yogic philosophy is the idea of non-attachment; the fundamental lesson that the very nature of life is change, and that nothing lasts, so you better learn to live with impermanence! While this can seem quite depressing in relation to things we love or are enjoying, such as relationships, it is a great source of comfort in times of stress or overwhelm. Remembering that nothing is permanent, and that, one day in the future, I might wish for these quiet days back, allowed me to make the most of the extra time I had during the pandemic to finally do things I had never before had time for (mostly online learning!).
How to apply this lesson: When you are going through something hard, take a deep breath and remember, “this too shall pass”. With that in mind, is there something positive you can take from this experience? Does it allow you more space somewhere else in your life? If you were to look back in 5 years’ time, how might you wish you had spent these days?
Although our classes might be quieter than pre-COVID, make no mistake: people need yoga and meditation now more than ever. With mental health issues at an all-time high, as well as the need to improve our physical health in order to ward off (or better recover from) the virus, everyone would benefit from starting a regular yoga practice, and most people are now realising this (many GPs and therapists are now even prescribing yoga to their patients!). As a yin yoga teacher, I found that this was especially in high demand during the pandemic, as people needed a way to switch off and learn to relax amidst the stress of the world, and my students were grateful for the little stories and poems I read during class, based on different mantras and lessons (such as “this too shall pass”!).
How to apply this lesson: Get yourself out there; share the benefits of yoga and meditation with the world through your social media and in your community, and people will come! And remember the value of what you are offering – people need it, so don’t sell yourself short, or doubt that what you are doing is worthwhile.
I am truly grateful for everything yoga has given me – not only the ability to make money teaching yoga online, from home, but also powerful tools and skills that helped me navigate the global pandemic and come out the other side wiser, healthier, and more resilient than before.