Founder and Yoga & Meditation teacher at Snugg Yoga, Helen, shares her experience of Covid-19 and offers tips on branching out and using your skills in supporting those in need during lockdown 3.0.
I have always practiced yoga in its various forms, but it wasn’t until I started caring for my mum, Luci, who was terminally ill with cancer that I was inspired to use it as an aid to help people. I would always go through various yoga, meditation and Qi Gong techniques which would help soothe her and the benefits were incredible.
When COVID-19 hit I quickly realised how anxious and upset a lot of my students were feeling in isolation, so I started to offer classes online – something which was completely new to me, having only taught in studios and outside spaces. For the first six months I decided that rather than charge for certain classes I would ask for a donation to go to a nominated charity each week, I saw the incredible work those in the NHS were doing and I needed to help in my own way.
I used these classes to show support to a number of charities including Macmillan Cancer Support, When You Wish Upon a Star, Pandas Foundation UK, and Refugee Roots to provide fun fundraising classes and it was at this point that I started to realise how much charities needed our support (it is devastating but not surprising that the charity sector has taken a real hit this past year).
The fitness industry has shown incredible adaptations. Most have moved online, or, under the strict but necessary restrictions on group and inside classes, are teaching one-to-ones in muddy ice cold parks throughout winter (or in my case both) and it has been a lot more challenging for various charities to work around the new limitations.
It goes without saying that if the charities are struggling then so are their service users. It was really important to me to keep this charity support going, selecting three important charities, Framework, Imara and the Nottingham Women’s Centre and dedicating the rest of 2021 to supporting them as well as running my business.
As well as this Snugg Yoga has been providing free one-to-one sessions to asylum-seekers, 24-hour-carers and refugees, many of whom have found isolation particularly difficult given their circumstances. My mum was always my hero and it is as a legacy to her that I have chosen to continue to use yoga to work with these specialist groups and important charities.
Here Helen shares her tips based on her own experience of teaching this past year:
Support your community
Many people want to help others during the pandemic and struggle to know how to do this safely and effectively. Reaching out to local charities to share your skills not only enables you to show your support and help people, but it’s also a great way to get your name out there and meet people.
I had the benefit of having a good grasp of technology and, whilst it took some getting used to, started to enjoy giving regular online classes to anything from 1 to 40 people online. You could be the world’s best teacher but if the online session is jarring then people will switch off. Remember this doesn’t have to be highly polished, people are a lot more understanding, and seeing your kids toys or the books on your bookshelf just add an extra dimension to your visuals and can actually serve to comfort your participants and familiarise them with you.
Don’t be scared of a bit of cold weather
One of the biggest surprises I have learned about being driven to teach one-to-one yoga outside is that there is a whole bunch of people who actually get a buzz off exercising in unpredictable weather – as long as the teacher is enthusiastic. I have taught rain mac yoga, snow-ga and got really muddy! Just be mindful that you will need to take extra safety precautions, making sure to socially distance (people sometimes forget so a marker is helpful) and adjust your risk assessments, insurance, ParQs and T&Cs, making sure that the participants are well enough to train outside in bad weather.
Seek out support groups on social media
Various social media platforms have a lot of great groups where you can ask fellow teachers and trainers all kinds of questions. I am in a yoga teacher group and people ask all sorts from; what microphones work best, to tips on practices for people who need specialist care, to class recommendations.
Find a specialist subject and don’t teach what you don’t know
There are so many great CPD courses out there and it is important to know what you can and shouldn’t teach before getting the relevant training. I learnt a lot with my perinatal course and being a mum and a yoga teacher was surprised by what I still needed to learn. As well as physical risks with insufficient training there is also terminology that can offend and trigger so make sure you have all the relevant training for any specialist groups. I am really excited to be starting my yoga for cancer training and there are so many great courses out there. In terms of cost, if it seems too good to be true it probably is – but don’t overpay either – do your research and ask around. You can never stop learning!
Find your USP
There is a lot of competition out there and you can’t be all things to all people. From the start I decided that Snugg Yoga was going to be about making people feel good, safe and cosy, so I bring all kinds of elements of that into my yoga offering. As well as rejuvenating yoga I like to offer a sense of community. This can mean supporting independents and charities in my newsletters to serving hot tea using home grown ingredients and home baking (when we are not in lockdown) to just letting people know they are heard. I have had the privilege to meet many yoga teachers all with their own unique offering, from in depth kundalini to high impact power yoga. Everyone has something great to give.
Try and stay happy but don’t give yourself a hard time if you can’t
In the fitness and wellness profession, people look to you to be a beacon of feel-good positive energy and whilst it’s great to be sunny and happy, don’t give yourself a hard time if life gets you down – it happens to us all. Make sure that you have someone understanding to talk to and take the time to take care of yourself as well as your participants and students.
There is definitely light at the end of this long tunnel and I for one cannot wait to teach classes in real life again.