It's no secret that there has been a huge shift to providing services electronically: everything from medical advice and meditation to guitar practice and language lessons seem to have their own app. Yoga has often had an uncomfortable relationship with new technology, with many fearing that there is a hidden commercial interest, or that only the most superficial elements tend to get attention. It's true that sensationalist articles tend to grab surfers' ever more limited span of attention. But it doesn't need to be that way.
Why should I reach out to students online?
Let's start by asking ourselves a question: how much do you really manage to communicate to your students during a 60-90 minutes yoga class? No doubt you can cover a short piece of yoga philosophy, a pranayama practice or two, and a range of yoga asanas. Perhaps students switch off for a brief moment, and leave content that they have achieved a little relaxation. Could you be doing more? Is there an alternative medium that works better?
Many students don't have the opportunity to attend class more than once or twice a week because of time constraints or limited finances. They may have a home practice, and here is where you can reach them online. You have much more opportunity to spread a complete message of yoga that encapsulates your own particular vision of the practice. Through video and music, writing and photography you can inspire, inform and educate, building a strong following who will use your online material to complement their practice in the studio.
So how can I get started?
- Record some yoga sequences: get your camera / GoPro or phone out and record a few 10-30 minute classes for different purposes: waking up / evening relaxation / lower back pain etc. Record the audio separately on your computer or phone and add it to the video. You can edit easily in Windows... And compress the file with Handbrake. Facebook greatly rewards video at the moment and you are guaranteed to reach a large number of people. YouTube is an obvious and easy place to host your video; put a link on your website or blog. I have been amazed by the number of people who have followed my video classes at home ("you'll never guess who i did yoga with last night "). It is especially helpful to beginner students who are not confident enough to design their own sequences yet.
- Write informative articles: you might consider anatomy and protecting the body, yoga therapy, philosophy and lifestyle, poses, sequencing, travel and links to helpful resources. It might be the opportunity you need to get beyond the superficial elements of practice and explore yogic ideas in more depth. For instance, you could introduce the yamas and niyamas and look at how students could apply them in their own lives off the mat. All too often yoga magazines focus on the superficial: puff pieces with yoga celebrities, how to reduce body fat and the latest trends in "yoga fashion". This is your chance to provide something refreshingly different.
- Attract and inspire with photography: this works particularly well with tasty food. I've often caught myself watching sped up videos of food preparation and ogling the inventive creative inventions of my yoga friends. It's all to easy to get trapped into eating the same thing over and over, so your photo/video could be what is needed to inspire a healthier lifestyle. Instagram and Pinterest are obvious places to share your own material and the creations of others. Photos of yoga poses can be great for inspiring and communicating some of the beauty of the human form in movement. But beware of intimidating beginners with pictures of very advanced asanas. A regular comment I get (especially from men) is "I could never do yoga, I'm not flexible enough". Ask yourself what your intention is with the photo and what its effect is likely to be.
- Apps, podcasts and more: I am a huge fan of some of the high quality material that others have put online, and use it for guidance on my own path. If you haven't already done so, I recommend taking a look at the Headspace meditation app and consider recommending it to beginner students and more experience meditators alike. Some of us just need a little encouragement to sit down and do our practice regularly. The dharma talks from the Insight Meditation Centre in California are an excellent source of inspiration and information about mindfulness practice in the modern world. They also have regular guided mindfulness meditations. See their Audiodharma podcast for more.
In the end your online presence is limited only by your creativity. From mood-boards and infographics to Instagram gifs and vines, you only need to think about who you can reach and how it will help you communicate your particular message. If you have enjoyed this article you might consider signing up to our newsletter below, or even thinking about one of our internships, where we cover everything from online presence to class sequencing, vision and philosophy. Contact us for more information!