Lessons, Challenges and Opportunities in Online Yoga Teacher Training
Since the beginning of the global pandemic in early 2020, we have all been finding creative solutions to pursuing our goals and dreams, and maintaining connections despite physical distancing. Zoom has become a household word and a ubiquitous tool that supports us in personal and professional settings. Many of us have experienced “Zoom fatigue”, or a sense of weariness related to spending many of our waking ours pegged to a screen. However, there have been many benefits as we have grown more accustomed to, and adept at communicating with people across vast geographical distances. The possibilities for connection, including taking online yoga teacher trainings, have expanded on a global scale.
Originally the relationship between a student and a teacher of yoga was highly individualized and often one to one. Over the last 50 years, yoga instruction has predominantly shifted to more of a group endeavor with one teacher for multiple students, and over the last two years yoga instruction has shifted again, by necessity, to an online format. While this has certain drawbacks, there have been so many positives.
Finding the Positives in the Pivot
In concert with many other schools, Balanced Rock + WildYoga Teacher Training embarked on the big pivot, taking our 10th annual 200-hour yoga teacher training online. We created and ran a unique program and successfully supported 13 incredible new graduates in profound learning and community connection in the face of global pandemic and physical distance.
We had no idea how this online learning journey would unfold, and we were thrilled that it was better than we could have ever imagined. We were inspired by how connected students were to the practices and to one another, and by the extent of the learning that this flexible format provided. The professionalism of the instruction and the easy-to-use learning platform made for a top-notch educational experience.
“The virtual space feels sacred, much like if we were practicing in a studio together. I had a deeply connected experience to the yoga philosophy and wonderful people that joined me on this online journey. I was amazed how much I was learning and connecting in this online format. This is truly one of the best gifts you could give yourself.” ~Netty DeGarlais, 2021 YTT graduate
The Gifts of the Online Yoga Teacher Training Program
Specifically, we noticed that the new format offered consistency. Weekly meetings ensured regularity and routine both in community and in structuring students’ individual practice. All students loved the consistency of the group commitment over the eight-month program.
The new format provided some certainty in a world full of changing regulations. Rain or shine, quarantine or not, we would gather in our sacred virtual classroom. Regardless of what was happening in our unpredictable world, our study of the ancient wisdom of yoga carried on, through offering tools to support us in navigating the known and unknown.
We were successful at building community during a time when many people felt truly isolated. While we’ve all experienced how awkward and alienating Zoom can be, we found that our virtual classroom quickly became a deeply nourishing group learning space that our students found to be a refuge – both during live Zoom classes and offline through group communication.
Moving Out of Comfort Zones
2020 was a year that pushed most people outside their “comfort zone” and interrupted the pursuit of many well-made plans. The WildYoga Teacher Training offered students the opportunity to pursue their goal of immersing in the teachings of yoga from the comfort of wherever they were! Because it was not a destination program in an exotic location or studio, the elimination of travel made our program gentler on the planet. Furthermore, we received feedback from students that building a practice in your personal environment creates a routine you are more likely to continue once the course is completed!
Before the advent of virtual tools, one often had to make great sacrifices to train as a yoga teacher. With the virtual format, this goal became far more convenient to achieve; you could complete this program without giving up your job, your family responsibilities or drastically changing your schedule. The course provided a perfect blend of self-paced learning and live Zoom sessions, which accounted for approximately 15 hours per month.
Finally, because all instructors were teaching remotely and diminishing travel, we were able to offer the course at a lower cost. Our virtual program is more affordable than most in-person yoga teacher trainings that can cost upwards of twice as much as our offering. At a time when many people were unemployed, we continued our commitment to offering various financial assistance solutions for students to feel confident in joining this program without breaking the bank.
Because we continue to face uncertainty around in-person gatherings, we’ve decided to offer it in an online format again, this time with the possibility of adding on in-person modules. The WildYoga Teacher Training is an incredible opportunity to certify as a yoga instructor via a rich interdependent, grounding journey of connection, while staying local and embedded in the fabric of your life, and being in community with learners across the country and around the world.
Paula Wild is the Program Manager and Lead Trainer for Balanced Rock Foundation’s WildYoga Teacher Training. Paula’s teaching blends alignment based, heart-centered, therapeutic yoga with her love and knowledge of ecology and natural history. Since 1999 Paula has been exploring the overlap between yoga and sustainable living, and her greatest intention is to support people in connecting to the wild world within, and around us. Please check out more wonderful programs to inspire health and wellbeing through deep connection to nature and spirit at Balanced Rock!