There are both pros and cons, gains and losses when going from in-person classes to virtual and they are different. Some of it has to do with the technology, and some of it also has to do with who the instructor is and how they teach.
I was once that person in class who felt new, nervous, shy and intimidated so I get it. Sometimes students want to be guided to do the moves correctly and sometimes they want to be invisible to others and when I am a participant now in other instructor’s classes I still feel that way.
The complexity of novel technology adds yet another layer of barrier to fitness that now must be overcome for those already intimidated by fitness. So I try to be the kind of instructor who never loses sight of that because there will always be someone in class who is new or feels insecure about their body or their coordination or the setting.
There are a few things I do right at the start to make things easy:
I have taken the guess work out of registration with my automated signup and zoom link process; You will have your zoom link immediately after registration and you’ll get an email reminder automagically with that link again 15 minutes before class.
When you arrive in the zoom class, I welcome you by name.
I announce what the format of the class will be (and if you’re in the wrong class you can just bail right there and then).
I let you know about how I will accommodate different bodies and different abilities in the course of the class: usually offering a variety of options or expressions of a yoga pose all of which are equally acceptable nurturing you to find which expression feels best within your own body. In trauma-informed yoga for resilience the concern is less about the ideal posture and more about finding your own expression and presence and breath in the posture in that day and that moment- which in many cases IS the most advanced posture regardless of what it may look like in the variety of shapes the body makes. If it is a cardio or strength class, you will be told that there are level 1, 2 and 3 options given. You are told how to measure your intensity to stay within a safe zone.
If at any time anyone needs assistance, during the course of the class they can un-mute themselves and say that they need help or another option.
I wear a headset with an ear piece so it is like you are speaking right into my ear (something you probably couldn’t do in a in-person class in the middle of class). Other ways to get my attention include putting a note in the chat or physically waiving your hands.
You will know that I come close to the screen a few times during class to observe even if I spend a lot of it demonstrating.
We go over the basic orientation of camera positioning if you wish for me to comment on your form or you do not want me to comment. Some folks choose to turn their camera off once class begins for privacy.
We leave some time at the end for people to schmooze too or ask questions. We also have a what’s app and/or a Facebook group for schmoozing so nobody feels held up for leaving as soon as class ends.
There are other things I do when teaching online to help students which are slightly different than in-person; I try using more verbal imagery to help participants feel in their bodies the particular muscles we’re working. I try and change the angle I’m demonstrating from as well as demonstrating something other than the most complicated version of a move.
As for hands-on assistance: its always been my last resort even in person and I’m not a toucher in my yoga classes. I never used scented oils or massage in class for a variety of reasons (allergies/boundaries etc) either. The lack of hands-on to some degree is just me and my personal preference and my teaching style and that’s not new. Many scandals involving inappropriate touch that have become exposed by the media. It’s generally not used as much as it once was and we want students to learn what it is to find those positions in their own bodies and feel it themselves not be pushed into it- which can also cause potential injury.
So that’s how I do my part..and then there’s the technology:
Here are some PROs:
#1 pro of virtual= convenience/ time savings
No parking, no gas, no getting a babysitter. Big time saver. Practice any time, any where, on vacation, in the yard, at the park, in your pjs or even naked (hopefully with camera OFF),
#2 pro of virtual= access
If price was a factor before, virtual has made things far more accessible. High priced and exclusive teachers limited to one city -no longer an obstacle. Train with the best in any city or anyplace in the world. You’re not limited to your local studio or gym. You may have access to formats that weren’t available near where you live or work that you can discover. Maybe your favorite teacher moved out of the country and now you can take her class in your own bedroom
#3 pro= more control over the experience
Thought the class could use a better soundtrack? Mute the zoom volume and jack up the home stereo. Make it hotter or cooler in the room. Add candles. Dim the lights or jack up the brights. You can choose to look at others in class or not. Choose to have your image to be displayed to others or not. Use speaker view.
To cut down on comparisons and help you have your own personalized experience. Privacy might allow you to experiment with something more daring. If the instructors drives you nuts 20 minutes in, its easy to leave or turn the camera off, make some tea and wait till the end to exit- something I wouldn’t have done in a live class without being really rude.
Then there are the Cons:
#1 drawback of virtual= option overwhelm leads to commitment issues.
Too many choices can lead to overwhelm and inaction. For some of us, knowing we’ve got just one shot to take that class because that’s the only day and time that instructor is teaching it mean’s we’ll definitely be there. If that’s you, then sign up in advance for your classes and pay up front so you’ll be more committed.
#2 con of virtual= lack of quality control
Internet outages can affect service, wifi service can fail, some instructors simply hang a virtual shingle without the credentials and experience to back it up. You can develop bad form habits because it went un-noticed because you’re the size of a thumbprint on the screen. You might be more shy to try new things knowing someone isn’t there to reach out and catch you or you might go so crazy trying new things because nobody is watching that you push too far. You are in charge of your environment and if you’re in a small cluttered space it can be dangerous or impossible to do certain workouts. The options might make for a lack of continuity and lack of consistency can mean a lack of progress. (VIP membership includes coaching and program design to solve this issue.) You may not see the instructor as well or in 3D like you could in person (A solution may be to hook up to a computer or tv screen and not a mobile device for class so the teacher is bigger than a thumbprint)
#3 con- distractions
It can be challenging to plug into class mentally when there are doorbells ringing, phones and paperwork, or household pets or kids demanding attention or interrupting so make sure to pre-arrange your situation for minimal interruption or distraction.
There are differences from in-person but I think there’s more social contact in a zoom live than in a Facebook live or a IG live or in a recorded YouTube class or video. We need the social aspect as much for our emotional and mental well being as we need the physical exercise. You may prefer in-person classes to virtual but even if we go back to in-person, due to some of the benefits listed above I believe virtual fitness is here to stay.
Speaking of staying connected, why not book a class right now with a friend or family member you haven’t seen in a while and set up a time after to chat? When life is more unpredictable or stressful is when we need the mood boosting benefits of exercise most.