I. Introduction:

This is a summary of the online event ‘Collaborative Sense-Making: The Current Climate of Teaching Yoga’. This was a moderated panel discussion, including 4 experienced teachers who were invited to share their perspective on what yoga teachers are facing today. The aim of the event was to stimulate group discussion around the current teaching climate and engage in identifying ways in which organisations like Yogacampus can support teachers.

When participants registered for the event, they were asked to complete some demographic information (location, age). We also asked about their teaching experience and if they had graduated from specific Yogacampus training programmes.

This discussion forum was an opt-in event. Participants were self-selected and do not form a representative sample of yoga teachers. All of the following findings should take this into consideration.

II. Who Took Part:

The total number of people who registered for the Zoom was (N=68). However, on the actual call there were (N=57). The demographic information reflects the overall number.

  • Location: 7 were international (3 from the USA, 1 from New Zealand, 1 from Belgium, 1 from Germany, 1 from The Netherlands).
    From the UK, 2 were based in Scotland and 59 were in England. The regional breakdown is as follows: London = 34; South East = 4; South West = 4; West Midlands = 4; Yorkshire + NE = 4; North West = 4; East of England = 2; East Midlands = 2.
  • Age: 56 participants supplied information about their age. Of these, most were concentrated in the 46-55 age group:
    >30 years (n=1)
    31-35 years (n=10)
    36-40 years (n=4)
    41-45 years (n=8)
    46-50 years (n=12)
    51-55 years (n=13)
    56-60 years (n=4)
    61-65 years (n=5)
    <65 years (n=0)
  • Experience: When asked, ‘if you are a yoga teacher, how many years have you been teaching?’, 61 people responded. Of the 7 who did not respond, there was at least 1 who had missing data for other variables as well. From the 61 teachers, the average amount of teaching experience was 7.67 years (range: 1 to 20 years). 17 of the participants graduated from a Yogacampus Teacher Training Diploma Course. 8 were Yogacampus Yoga Therapy Diploma Course graduates. 28 had taken part in one or more Yogacampus Specialist Trainings.

III. Discussion Findings:

The discussion was organised around 3 key topics and responses were gathered using the chat function, Zoom polls, and verbal report. The findings that follow are not representative and should be considered in the context of the event. However, the information is a very useful starting point for further investigation.

To get the discussion started, we asked people where they were currently teaching. The responses were varied, with many teachers offering more than one of the following options:

  • Online pre-recorded
  • Online live group classes from home
  • Corporate yoga classes live online
  • 1:1 Yoga Therapy live online
  • Face-to-face in rented space
  • Face-to-face in yoga studio
  • Face-to-face in gym
  • Face-to-face children’s yoga in a library
  • Face-to-face in sports centre
  • Face-to-face private classes in hotel
  • Face-to-face in schools
  • Face-to-face in physio clinic
  • Face-to-face in private classes in client’s home
  • Face-to-face in professional team meetings
  • Face-to-face in the park (weather permitting)
  • Face-to-face in health club
  • Face-to-face in community centre
  • Face-to-face in church hall
  • Face-to-face in photo studio

T O P I C 1: Do you use yoga in other professional work?

Of the 57 people on the call, there were 48 responses to the question ‘Have you included yoga in your other professional work?’. 52% (n=25) responded YES, 48% (n=23) responded NO. Please note that this finding should be taken in context of the fact that the NO response may include participants who are not yoga teachers.

When prompted, a small selection of people who responded YES gave further detail about the types of other professional work. These included: osteopathy; massage & reflexology; working with elders with dementia; counselling; and work with young people.

There was a discussion about how to get into working with the NHS (one of the panelists is working as an osteopath and another panelist is a Mental Health First Aid trainer - they were able to field these questions).

Another related topic that arose was not labelling ‘yoga’ or ‘meditation’ or ‘mindfulness’, but simply describing the practice as movement or breathing. Various participants contributed with their experiences and some with questions for the panelists.

T O P I C 2: Have you experienced any changes in student engagement
compared to pre-Covid?

At the time of the second poll, the number of participants had dropped to 56. When asked ‘Have you experienced a change in student engagement (pre-Covid vs now)?’ 92% (n=45) responded YES, 8% (n=4) responded NO. Again, the results should be considered in light of the fact that not everyone on the call was a teacher.

Observed Trends - Anecdotal Reporting

In the discussion, there were various contributions with some noting that they found a greater demand for particular specialisms. With certain participants noting that online Restorative, meditation, mindfulness, resilience practices were more in demand. Others noted that face-to-face classes such as Hot Yoga, Power Yoga, Rocket Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga were still popular. This is anedcotal reporting and should be interpreted with caution.

When asked about location and its impact, there were some reports of finding local community locations proving more popular as students living locally attended nearby classes (and city centres having experienced a greater drop-off in attendance). However, there was no consensus on this point - even within this small group there were examples of local community classes struggling.

A participant noted that price as an issue might be a consideration. In particular, with the cost of gym memberships including yoga classes, students may be reluctant to pay for additional yoga outside of a gym.

New Students - New Teachers

One comment from a studio manager was that people seemed to come back to in-studio classes with familiar teachers, but newer teachers were harder to launch in-studio.

A newly qualified teacher contributed to the discussion to say how challenging she was finding it to build a student base in London. Other teachers reported super-saturation in the local area. A member of the panel highlighted the importance of finding one’s particular area of expertise, and becoming the go-to teacher for that area of expertise.

Challenges around involving new students were also discussed in relation to type of yoga experience: engaging students who were introduced to yoga during lockdown and practiced online (one teacher noted You Tube in particular - pre-recorded video). These new-to-yoga students may not have ever practiced in a face-to-face setting, so it may be a barrier to joining a class in a studio/group/etc.

Lack of Predictability

One of the panelists shared her own experience about finding it puzzling when classes took ‘a nose dive’ in September, a time of the year that historically was very busy for teachers. A member of the group also shared her observation that she also noticed that what she would have previously found as a predictable rhythm to the attendance in her classes is now not applicable. Many chimed in to say how reassuring they found it to hear that they were ‘not the only ones’ having this experience. From this came the observations that ‘we don’t know what people want’ and there are challenges to ‘building connections’.

T O P I C 3: What types of support would you find useful from organisations such as Yogacampus?

When asked about the types of support they would find useful, the participants on the call were enthusiastic about events such as the one in which they were participating.

‘…regular opportunity to share and feel supported.’

‘Yes, events like this, hearing from others is encouraging and inspiring.’

‘…Would love more sessions like this.’

In terms of course offerings, one participant would find online courses in the evenings more helpful, in order to fit in around her own teaching schedule (she cited the recent Restorative Training with Judith Hanson Lasater as a positive example).

Group and Peer Support

Supervision sessions, like those for psychotherapists, were also mentioned as a potential source of support. A member of the panel shared her experience with being part of a professional mentoring and coaching group.

‘… I felt such a responsibility to support my students during Covid and it would have been lovely to have had the opportunity to offload and share with other teachers.’ (Marcia M)

Sessions in which teachers would share support with one another, especially in relation to their expertise. One teacher noted that she offered a free business development consultancy to her fellow Yogacampus students. There were some verbal contributions related to the value of peer support.

Yoga as a Profession

One teacher suggested that we use setting like the current event to discuss the professional identity of yoga teachers, saying ‘… It would be great to talk about how COVID is an opportunity for a re-structure that is supportive for us and individuals we teach.’

Professional guidelines were also raised as an important source of support to some teachers. One of the panelists shared the reference of a union of yoga teachers and how he found this helpful.

Resourcing Yoga Teachers

The discussion also included the acknowledgement that yoga teachers are tired. Contributions related to how support might be offered so that yoga teachers could really engage in self-care. One panelist shared that a recent self-care for yoga teachers workshop was not at all well attended. Another noted that she would be more likely to engage in a self-care event that really allowed her to fully turn-off, like going on a retreat. There were some ideas shared around a well-being conference, with the point being raised that cost might be a barrier for some yoga teachers.

IV. Conclusions

This event represents a starting point for engaging with one another and sharing experiences. Rather than providing the answers, it served as an opportunity to listen and hear from those navigating the current waters of teaching yoga.

Potential next steps, including (but not limited to):

  • Creating an online questionnaire to a larger group (and therefore having more generalisable findings);
  • Small group discussions about specific topics that are facilitated by a Yogacampus staff member (semi-structured);
  • A large group facilitated discussion with small break-out rooms (not facilitated);
  • Specific events to address some of the points identified above (ie. how to set up peer support groups, events in local areas to connect teachers living near to one another, particular aspects of the business of yoga, how to increase people’s value of yoga, challenge as an opportunity to restructure, etc.).