Yoga’s been around for thousands of years, but there’s a real case for doubling down on the practice now, even if the future feels uncertain thanks to COVID-19.
Why be a yoga teacher now? For starters, the pandemic launched our collective stress levels into another stratosphere, and there’s a body of research deeper than your diaphragm suggesting that yoga and meditation can relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression (more on that in a bit).
Plus, yoga offers an approachable, equipment-free way to move, ideal for those who continue to embrace at-home exercise during the pandemic. And new fitness software allows yoga instructors to teach clients virtually.
So, if you’ve thought about starting a yoga brand of your own—either in-person or online—now might just be the ideal time to get your fitness business up and running. See why below, then learn how to become a yoga instructor in 7 steps.
We’re experiencing a mental health crisis
The American Psychological Association (APA) calls our current moment a full-blown “mental health crisis.” We’re stressed about economic uncertainty, social justice issues and the inability to plan for the future. The APA warns that the mental-health effects could linger for years.
To be clear, fitness—even yoga—can’t replace expert-provided mental health care, but study after study shows that yoga improves mood and reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. Indeed, just 25 minutes of yoga or meditation a day can boost people's mood, according to a study published in the journal Mindfulness.
“Yoga teaches breathing techniques that help people return to the present moment,” says Bre Williamson, yoga teacher and founder of Mindfully Bre. These techniques help students manage stressful thoughts about an uncertain future. “People in the yoga community also tend to be open about their struggles, which destigmatizes those experiences.” Read more about the new rules of training clients during a pandemic, including how to acknowledge anxiety.
Our bodies need some TLC
If you thought people were sore and stiff before COVID-19 hit, just wait until you factor in our longer work-from-home hours. Research from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the average workday increased by 48.5 minutes at the start of the pandemic (and this doesn’t include increased at-home demands like care-taking and home-schooling), which often translates to less movement and more body imbalances.
Williamson says she’s seen more stiffness and lower back pain among her clients. “Before the pandemic, many people were walking more during their commutes, or to grab lunch or talk to colleagues,” she says. “Little movements add up, but now we’re just sitting at home.” Whether you plan on offering classes in a studio, outside or online, yoga can help people address these issues.
Community is everything
When the pandemic hit and cleared her calendar in a day, Miami-based yoga teacher Julianne Aerhee Byun knew she wanted to recreate the hallway banter that surfaced naturally before and after her classes. “Those small daily interactions are so important, which is why we started a digital forum where students could chat,” she says. “Community is the heart of yoga,” and while this community might look a little different now, we still need it—arguably even more than we did before the pandemic.
Digital developments help you invest in your brand
“I’ve always used Wix Bookings for my studio, so when we stopped offering in-person classes, I just connected it to Zoom and hosted my sessions online,” Williamson says, noting that she thinks video-on-demand workouts are here to stay, at least in some form. “I think hybrid fitness trends will be cyclical,” she says. “If people are traveling more during the summer, maybe they’ll want to do video-on-demand workouts from their lake house; same for the winter when they don’t feel like going into the studio.” That’s good news for anyone who wants to experiment with new classes or launch a brand for the first time: there’s minimal investment with the potential for major pay-off. Here's how to shoot a workout video like a professional producer and how to up your Zoom exercise game.
We want to be inspired
The New York Times called languishing—a sense of stagnation and lack of progress—the “dominant emotion of 2021.” Again, yoga isn’t a cure-all, but it could help. “Part of yoga is discipline,” Williamson says. “Once that wheel picks up speed, and you keep showing up over and over, you feel more motivated and inspired in other parts of your life.” It can also help you feel more confident as you become stronger and hold poses for longer, Byun says. “People take joy in seeing progress on the mat.”
Yoga helps us work through the hard stuff
“Yoga fosters stability and courage in times of chaos,” Byun says. “Peace is easy when life is good, but staying calm when shit hits the fan is hard.”
That’s why we practice, and that’s why we need yoga in these uncertain times. (By the way, that's what inspired former NFL player DJ Townsel to become a yoga teacher.) “We hold challenging postures to cultivate inner strength, so that when something difficult happens, we can say, ‘I’m still okay. I’m still me. And I can keep moving forward because I have inner stability,’” she says. “We sit in discomfort and trust that we can get to the other side, where something new and beautiful will blossom.”