For fourteen weeks now, I have taught all of my classes online using the Zoom platform. I transformed my business from a “face-to-face, in-person” experience to an “online, view-through-a-screen” experience. It has been less than ideal, but this teaching format has become the way I now do business. It has allowed students to be flexible and attend classes “live” or use the recorded class at a later time in the convenience of their home.
As a teacher, I was trained and crafted my skill based on immediate feedback from students. I am observant of alignment, fatigue, attention, breathing, facial expressions and verbal comments throughout the class. This feedback loop helps me be the kind of teacher who teaches to the class and the people who are present instead of to a script or my own agenda. I am paying attention and present throughout the entire class. I am able to offer modifications and words of encouragement to the students in the room because of the cues I am witnessing throughout the practice.
Maybe you are wondering what it has been like to make this necessary change? It has definitely been a process. Luckily, I have been participating and watching fitness and yoga teachers evolve on screen for 20 years. Jane Fonda, Kathy Smith, and Denise Austin paved the way for me and helped create my interest in teaching on-screen to the masses. My mom was even an aerobics instructor with my aunt Jane in the 80’s. Together they choreographed routines to the latest hits and created a video to sell to their loyal participants. I grew up wanting to be just like them. I loved all of their on-screen energy and the ability to reach a large audience. I was motivated by their “Woo-Hoos” and words of encouragement. Just when I felt like I could not do one more grapevine or rep, their uplifting comments came at just the right moment. It seemed like they were teaching to me in my living room and could tell I was struggling. Just those few encouraging words helped me push forward to the end.
Later as a yoga student, I was introduced to yogaglo.com in 2014. This online platform gave me the ability to expand my practice and learn from teachers I had only heard of. They were some of the most respected teachers in the industry and I could learn from them in the comfort of my home without traveling to pay for a workshop across the country. These teachers and classes gave me experience once again as a student in my own home. I listened to when and how they would cue. I also paid attention to what I needed to hear a teacher stay when I could not always see the screen. As a student, I wanted to be able to practice by listening to a teacher talk instead of needing to rely on what they were showing me on screen. This gave me the freedom and versatility to use my laptop, phone, or iPad as a device. If the screen was too small for me to see and I was upside down or facing the other direction, it didn’t bother me because I could hear what the teacher was asking me to do and I could follow along.
In 2018, I made a shift in my business and re-branded myself. A new website was created. In 2019, I launched a YouTube channel and in 2020 I started my own podcast. Each of these online platforms has helped me transition from in-person classes to online a lot easier. I had the ability to practice teaching to a camera when filming my YouTube classes and talking to a mic when leading meditations on my podcast. Combined, all of these experiences have helped make it easier for me to move my business from in-person to on-line.
Maybe you are wondering which format do I prefer? The answer is always in-person! Nothing can take the place of teaching to students live. The immediate feedback and enthusiasm I feel inspire me and I want to keep going. I truly get as much energy from teaching as I give. Their smiles, hugs, words of gratitude, and look of contentment and calm fill my soul. It is what keeps me stepping on my mat as a teacher. Luckily through zoom, students can jump on 15-minutes before class starts and we can continue our connection and sense of community. Although screens turn off and microphones go to mute when I am teaching, students switch back again and say thank you and good-bye at the end of class. I can see in their eyes how the workout made them feel and they continue to keep coming back and saying YES!
So what happens during class while everyone’s microphone is on mute and their videos are off? I am teaching to a camera. I look at myself because I have spotlighted my screen and I have to teach from my heart. Having a personal practice seems almost more important now because I want to teach from a place of authenticity and knowledge. I practice the sequence before I teach to a virtual class so I can feel and experience the poses and understand how I feel inside. I tune into my breath and allow my intuition and energy guide me. My home practice and many years of teaching in-person have guided me up until this point. I am doing the work.
I have always believed great teachers are teachers who have a consistent and current practice. They stay tuned in to what is happening not only in the industry but also what season it is, what is happening in our world nationally or locally, and what time of day it is. Everything is energy and it can all affect how we feel physically, mentally and emotionally. Although we may be living individual lives, we are all connected. I take the seat of a teacher with reverence and ask the universe to guide me. I also remind my students they are the teacher. I am just a guide offering suggestions. At all times, they are in charge of what happens to their body. They can stop or made a modification anytime. In fact, I want them to continue to stay connected and curious throughout the entire practice. I don’t want students to “check out” and give me all of the control. I believe yoga is a beautiful exchange of energy even if we are now together online instead of in-person.
Technology is amazing and it has allowed me to continue working as an instructor. I have students not only in Des Moines where I live but all over the nation. It is fun having friends and new students join us wherever they live. Location is no longer a barrier.
You are invited to join me from the comfort of your home anytime that works for you. Please send me a note and let me know you would like to drop-in and sample a class sometime. I am happy to share the Zoom meeting ID and password. Give it a try. You might just surprise yourself that you don’t mind taking a virtual class or listening to one of my guided meditations.
Having a consistent practice is helpful now maybe more than ever. We are all experiencing major changes and shifts in the way we live and do business. I am on this journey with you and plan to stay curious learning about the needs of my students and staying up-to-date with the industry. Thank you for your support and traveling on this journey with me. We are all in this together.
You can view my calendar online at www.mary-mccarthy.com Join me for a weekly class or a special event. All are welcome. I want you to feel good at any age!