Teaching Yoga Online – A Beginners’ Guide
For those of us who aren’t technical the prospect of teaching yoga online is scary and off-putting. But my advice is not only to do it but to embrace it. Teaching online yoga classes is an opportunity to create something positive out of the coronavirus crisis – to be of service to the people who really need you – whether they’re in Sydney or Sidmouth. You can also use online classes to reconnect with students who’ve moved away, or who have drifted out of your network. This week I have loved taking classes with London teachers I haven't been able to practice with since I moved to Norfolk! It's been quite emotional to see their familiar face again in a time of great stress and uncertainty.
Taking your classes online is also a huge opportunity to develop your relationship with your existing students – to be there for them in a time of massive need, and to help them navigate their way through this crisis as painlessly as possible.
It’s also a fantastic opportunity for personal development. As yogis we are all about transforming our experience; conquering the world of online is just another way to flex that muscle – to step out of our comfort zone and try something new… just as we do every day on our yoga mat, and just as we ask our students to do.
Keen to be of help, I thought I would turn my own lack of technical expertise to your advantage. I decided to read and synthesise as many articles as I could on how to teach yoga online. Without any degree of real technical understanding of my own, I have had to keep everything simple and straightforward - so I understand it! I hope you find the advice useful, and I will update this page as I get more information.
You will learn:
Which are the best platforms for teaching yoga online
How to invite people to your online yoga classes
How to price your online yoga classes
How to take payments
How to schedule private yoga classes and group classes
The essential equipment for online yoga classes
How to set up your home yoga studio
How to structure your yoga classes online
How to deliver your classes online
The best platforms for teaching yoga online
The first thing to do is decide if you want to teach live yoga classes or pre-recorded – or both. This decision affects your choice of hosting platform.
If you only want to offer pre-recorded classes, you can choose from several generic hosting platforms. They are not yoga specific – they enable teachers from all disciplines to share their wisdom. The best known is probably Teachable. This costs around £25 a month plus 5% of sales. Others are Thinkific which takes 10% of your sales and Membervault which is free up to 50 participants. No doubt about it, they do make life easy with their integrated payment platforms and easy to follow instructions.
The issue with these teaching platforms is that they are hard to get out of if you want to move on down the line – there is no easy way to take your content off the platforms and all your students payment details are locked in – so you would have to ask each person to give you're their payment info all over again. Not ideal.
If you want to teach both live yoga classes and pre-recorded yoga classes, you are best to look at what are often known as “video conferencing” or “webinar” apps. There are several of them, including Zoom, Go To Meeting, Google Hangouts, and Blue Jeans.
Zoom pricing: The Free Plan is great if you want to teach up to 3 people at a time - for as long as you like, or up to 100 people for a maximum of 40 minutes. The Pro Version is good if you want to teach up to 100 people without a time limit. It’s £11.99 a month.
Go to Meeting pricing: Unlimited meetings for up to 150 people for £9.50 a month.
Google Hangouts is free.
Blue Jeans pricing: free 14 day trial. The monthly cost is $9.99 with unlimited one to one and group meetings and a maximum of 50 participants at a time.
There is also Namastream, which to my knowledge, is the only specialist yoga video hosting platform. It’s American, super-polished and exceptionally professional but, as with all things professional and polished, it comes at a price: $125/month or $1250 a year. But if you are ready to reach for the stars, and already have the student base to make it profitable, it’s probably the way to go. There’s a Namastream film school, templated emails and lots of structure for displaying your classes. If you’re not quite ready to shell out this kind of money I suggest making use of their blog, which has a tremendous amount of free resources, to help you get there.
Assuming a monthly Namastream subscription is not for you yet, Zoom is the online platform of choice for most yoga teachers who don't want a substantial monthly bill. I am getting reports that it's a bit slow at the moment (20th March), but I am sure they are working to improve their speed and will have the issue resolved shortly.
Zoom can be used to teach live classes and you can record them simultaneously so they can be watched afterwards. It works for both one to one private yoga classes and public classes. You, as the teacher, can see all your students in a series of tiles. They can’t see each other unless you choose to allow this.
How to set up a yoga class on Zoom
It’s all very straightforward, even for the non-technical amongst us. Just sign up and click the HOST A MEETING button on the top navigation bar. Click “With Video On”. You will then fill in the online form with the following information fields:
Registration required – tick box
Recurring – if yes, fill in the day of week and time
Give the participants a password
Video – tick on for both host and participant
Audio on - for both phone and computer audio
Allow join before host
Then hit save. This creates an invitation with all the info you inputted, including a link to the meeting. The invitation contains a lot of info – if you think your students will be overwhelmed you can just copy and paste the link to the meeting, the meeting ID and the password. That’s all they need.
How to invite people to your online yoga class
Publicise it to your email list and on social media with text along these lines:
You are invited to a Zoom yoga class on <day, date, year, time, time zone>.
Places are limited. Please register in advance for this class by clicking this link:
<Insert the meeting ID link provided by Zoom>
Once you’ve registered you will receive a confirmation email and information on how to join the meeting. Log in from x time to say hi to me and your fellow students. We will be starting promptly at <scheduled class time>.
Consider adding a simple little 1 or 2-minute video with you talking to the camera, explaining to potential students what to expect from the class. This will help anyone with technical fear, or who has never done an online yoga class before. You could reassure them that only you will be able to see them, that they can wear anything they want, that they don't need fancy props - just a yoga mat, that they can go to the loo if they need to, that Zoom is easy to use – just install the app on their phone or iPad, or watch on desktop, and follow the meeting link, etc.
Tell them you are new to it too so it will be a learning curve for you both – be human and personal. Also, this is a good time to ask them for any injuries or pregnancy – which is almost certainly important in order for you to be covered by your insurance.
How to take payments for your online classes
The simplest payment tool is PayPal. In your announcement text on email or social media, you can just say something like:
“I can send my bank details or you can pay by PayPal <paypal.me/yourpaypalname>”
Note that you will need to pay a processing fee in addition to the platform fees. Usually around 2.5% of the purchase price.
If you prefer you can ask for payment before sending them the link to the class.
It can be time-consuming to track who has paid for what, but you can integrate a payment system with video hosting. Acuity integrates with Zoom, allowing you to take payment via PayPal, Stripe or Square. It takes a bit of time to set up but will save admin time in the long run.
If you want to get fancy with it, Acuity and Calendly both allow your students to book one to one classes according to your schedule.
Calendly pricing: The basic package is free. Premium is $8 a month
Acuity pricing: Free sign up. The next package up is $15 a month
The essential equipment for online yoga classes
The best guide to equipment is Namastream’s Essential Equipment Guide. They say all you really need is:
A camera that can shoot video
A microphone – a built-in microphone on your iphone or computer or an inexpensive external mic
Good lighting (are you ready for your close up?!)
A platform to host your videos like Zoom, or Namastream ;)
A way to accept payments
Highlights from their tips
Smartphones are a good entry level option for recording your online classes. Just invest in a little tripod so that can keep the phone upright (and not pointing at the ceiling!). The GorillaPod starter tripod retails at around £25.
You can certainly just start with your phone and a tripod. However, my research suggests these add ons to enhance the experience.
The SmovePro smartphone stabiliser prevents wobble and a tracking device so it can follow your movements and keep them in shot. Around £200.
Go widescreen – to make sure your student gets a full view of your home studio. The latest iPhone has a widescreen option though it’s not always possible to use the wide camera on a phone when on a conferencing app like Zoom – so it may be best to use something called an Olloclip if you want a widescreen view. Basically, the Olloclip fits over your phone camera lens and then you click the lens into place. On Amazon for around £65.
A Rode Smartlav+ wearable microphone clips on to your top and connects to a smartphone or tablet. It will improve the sound quality but be careful of the wires – the product carries a “beware of strangulation” notice! Around £45.
If you are filming on location, you might want to consider a battery pack for your phone.
Alternatives to your phone
Namastream’s advice is that a phone should be fine for shorter classes, but phones are limited by the size of the file you can create so if you want to record your class you might struggle with anything over 45 minutes. Here are some other options...
If you’re just getting started with video, Namastream suggest the Canon VIXIA HF R800. It’s around £300 and apparently it’s easy to use. It takes SD memory cards that you can pop out of the camera and plug straight into your laptop.
Webcams are good if you want to teach sitting down. This should be your choice if you want to watch what your students are doing. If you are planning to spend the class demonstrating you won’t be able to see each student tile individually from a distance unless you have excellent eyesight! So it may be better, especially if you are doing private yoga classes, to sit in front of the camera and verbalise all your instructions. The C920 HD Pro Webcam is around £90.
Namastream says to use the Samson Airline 77 Channel N3 if you will be demonstrating or moving around. It rests on the ears and clips round the back of the head – just like the microphone you see on singer/dancers like Madonna. For voice-overs or talking to camera, they, like many others, recommend Blue Yeti. It’s not cheap at £120 but it looks, and sounds, the business.
Namastream has lots of tips on lighting, with a basic shopping list that comes in around £100.
The Namastream Equipment article also covers editing software for both PCs and Macs. Too complicated for me to get into now, and if you’re offering live yoga classes, which seems to be what most yoga teachers want to do at least initially, it’s irrelevant.
My strong suggestion is that you get started with the bare minimum and build out from there.
How to price your online yoga classes
Namastream has great advice on how to make money through online classes including example calculations and an online calculator.
Group classes: As a rough rule of thumb, charge around £10 for a 60 minute or 75 minute class. Maybe £12 depending on your student base. If you don’t feel comfortable asking for a particular amount then you can ask for donations, but it’s probably still a good idea to give people a guide. This wording from Jeff Phenix for his 75 minute class works well, to my mind:
“This will, at least initially, be done on a donation basis...suggested £10 or I'm really ok with whatever you can afford to pay with your current financial situation... I'd hate to think you couldn't enjoy the benefits of yoga because you couldn't afford it!”
Private yoga classes: charge what you would normally charge for a private face to face yoga class. It’s taking you the same amount of time and the client is still getting your full attention. Additionally, they get to keep the recording and can refer back to it throughout the week which is real added value for them – no need to keep scribbled notes or ask you for a page of stick men.
How to set up your home yoga studio
Set yourself up with the light and windows behind the camera. Film yourself against a neutral background if possible, but don’t sweat it – it’s actually really nice to see someone in their own space, surrounded by normal domestic life.
Light some candles or have some fairy lights in the background. Creates some light and shadows with anglepoise lamps or table lamps if you have them.
Phone filming hack: To check the view for your students switch the camera into selfie view.
Don’t aim for perfection. The chances are that your first online classes will be with people you know well, and they will be really forgiving – in all likelihood just happy to see a familiar face who can help them feel better. Having said that, it’s a good idea to ask one of your long-term clients to join you in a trial run, maybe in exchange for a freebie.
Teaching your yoga classes online
If you are teaching your regular students I would say you should start by giving them something familiar and comforting. Remember everyone is very stressed at the moment and it's probably enough for them to be dealing with not seeing you in person, and getting to grips with new technology.
Over time you can create a signature programme that best reflects your stand and how you want to serve your students. I am working on tutorials around this which will be released shortly but, in the meantime, here’s an example that just came to mind…
Given that real-world retreats are cancelled for the time being, an online retreat could be fun. You could theme it to particular groups – like new mums or hens or writers. Whoever resonates with you. And you could do a tie-up with a home delivery food company that specialises in wellness.
How to deliver your online yoga class
The best resource I found on lesson content and delivery was by Frances Cacaervero who talks very knowledgeably about teaching private yoga classes online.
She started off trying to teach group yoga classes online but ended up only offering one to one yoga classes because she prefers the personal approach. Her video is full of gems including:
Do a 20-minute practice session with each new student to make sure the set up works for both of you. She doesn't charge separately for it – instead she makes it part of the package. It’s a chance to play with your set up and the lighting and the sound quality without getting in the way of a paid for class.
Setup…Her advice is to ask the student to position herself so you can see the whole mat and the whole body standing up, so it’s better to have the mat sideways.
She needs to be able to see the student in some detail (she is a yoga therapist) and so she chooses not to demo poses. Instead she sits close to the camera, as if she was giving a webinar, and teaches using only verbal cues.
Pace… Rushing becomes very obvious on video – so she says to slow it down – to have respect for the student and create a sense of calm.
Sequencing: It can be easy for online classes to feel choppy. To guard against this she suggests starting with sitting or lying down and working up from there, or starting standing and then moving to the floor. A typical class might start supine, then onto hands and knees, then standing, then finishing seated.
Transitions: She avoids a lot of transitions as she is not there with them and can’t adjust them. It’s all about keeping transitions simple and not doing too many of them.
Repetitions: She does a lot of repetition which she feels gives a sense of grounding, a feeling of flow and grace.
Yoga voice: She is not normally a fan of “sing-song” voices in yoga classes but, as she points out, there is no music or scent or in-person warmth online so she recommends using a more sing-song voice than you would normally. Her feeling is that it helps to create the atmosphere, provides a steadying quality and can be used to encourage movement and flow.
That’s it for now. I hope you found the information helpful. Please do let me know any hacks or tips of your own for teaching online yoga classes. There’s a whole community of yoga teachers out there who need help connecting online with their students right now!
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is a yoga advocate and writer with three yoga books to her name, including the beloved travel memoir Yoga School Dropout. She writes regularly for the national press, has authored over 150 guides to types of yoga and yoga poses, discovered nearly 250 proven health benefits of yoga through her painstaking classification of 300 clinical studies, and collected more than 500 personal testimonials to the real life benefits of yoga. She is also the creator of our yoga shop – YogaClicks.Store – handpicking yoga brands that are beautifully made by yogis committed to environmental and social sustainability.
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