These times have changed our yoga world. It doesn’t matter how experienced a yoga teacher you are, streaming live yoga classes is new to so many. And for some, this way of sharing yoga can feel quite confronting. Even for us here at Bliss Baby Yoga, where we offer online classes, live-streaming them presents a different challenge.
This is especially true for prenatal and postnatal yoga classes, which require extra care, attention and connection while supporting women at a very unique time in their lives.
When my studio closed all face-to-face classes, I did a mad scramble to learn how to continue to support women online. I had so many questions… What platform to use? Microphone? Lighting? Props? Finding out how women were physically and emotionally, and allowing them to connect with each other… These were all issues I have worked hard to resolve. So here are a few tips that may help you fine-tune your pre and postnatal classes or get you set-up and running!
Online Classes 101
There are many blogs about teaching yoga online, but here is what is working for me and other Bliss Baby Yoga teachers (and it doesn’t cost the earth). I have found Zoom to be the easiest platform to invite and sign students into class. As it isn’t connected to MindBody you will need to send out zoom invitation links personally. This isn’t such a bad thing, as the Zoom invitation email is a great opportunity to ask women if they have any specific issues or questions prior to class that you need to be aware of. You could suggest that they contact you via email or phone to discuss beforehand if they do. An explanation of the type of props they may need for class can also be included here, so they come prepared – we’ll talk more about props in a moment.
Depending on what device you are using a microphone can be useful. A stand-alone one is best as the lapel mics rustle if you demonstrate. That said, I’m doing well with just the mic on my Mac Air, and newer iPads and iPhones have good built-in-microphones. I suggest asking postnatal students to mute their own mic’s as the noise of crying or gurgling babies will come through as if it is via your own sound. If anyone has a lot of background noise in a prenatal class, you may also need to mute them individually, however, in this type of class, it can be nice to have students unmuted so you can check in to see how everyone is doing as you go along.
A tip if you usually play music – the sound quality is better without music, so you may decide not to use music at all, or to only play music in restorative poses during Savasana. You may like to send your students a Spotify playlist that they can play from their home. However, if you do this, they will all need to mute themselves. Good lighting is essential – but it doesn’t have to be a professional one. I’ve been using a painter’s lamp that has worked well.
If you have internet issues at your home – always use your phone as a personal hotspot so that there are no streaming issues. Many mobile providers are offering extra data as part of their COVID-19 response, so you may want to contact them if you think you might run low with streaming your classes. This can also be helpful to suggest to students who are having problems receiving you!
We’ve had several questions here at Bliss Baby Yoga about what props to use at home, especially since we use many in prenatal yoga. Begin with a couple of medium-sized folded blankets and a couple of firm cushions from the sofa. If students have a long pregnancy pillow or breastfeeding pillow, this will be helpful too. Ask for them to have a sturdy kitchen chair and a scarf or soft belt also to hand.
In place of blocks, I suggest a dictionary sized book plus two tin cans of the same size. The dictionary works well if you need something solid under the sacrum or hip, under the heel in a crescent pose or under the forehead in child’s pose. The tins cans (or I’ve seen some use same sized puzzle boxes) work for poses where both hands need a little lift away from the floor (eg. Ardha Hanumanasana – half splits, Prasarita Padottanasana – wide-legged forward bend or Gomukhasana).
Upturned saucepans of increasing gradients can be beneficial for Supta Baddha Konasana with a bolster or blanket on top. I’ve also had a student make her own bolster. You can find the instructions below!
Maintaining a connection and providing a supportive space for women in an online class is what will make you differ from all the other classes out there. For pregnant and postnatal mamas, they often want to hear that other women are experiencing similar concerns and experiences and that someone is guiding them personally in their experience of pregnancy.
For a better connection, you may like to start talking to women at least five minutes before class starts, so as each mum comes online you have a few moments to greet them personally and ask them how they are. It can be better, however, to ask them to share personal issues before the class, as I previously suggested, so they don’t feel they have to share these in front of everyone.
It will help if the content you’re teaching is familiar, so if you’re a newer teacher it might be a good idea to practise your class before you teach. Make sure your instructions are very clear so that students can follow without looking at the screen. Your sequencing needs to be simple, safe, detailed and remember to speak slowly. Now is not the time to try something new or overly challenging. Keep bringing mums back to the connection with her baby if they are pregnant.
Remember to keep the front side of your body to the camera as much as possible. This will often mean going from one side of your mat to the other for the second side of a pose if your mat is horizontal. It’s a little confusing from a teaching perspective but you will get the hang of it!
If you are teaching a mother and baby class, the great thing is that a baby crying won’t affect the others if all are on mute. This means less concern for mums too. If you sing any songs in your mother and baby class, you can still do so and they will sing along at home. Because they are on mute you won’t have to worry about any time delay. You might find that you need to practise the whole class along with the students so that they can check visually if they are doing the right thing.
It’s important to offer several options for each pose, where appropriate, since you can’t always see who might be struggling with a pose. If I can, I teach in the Zoom “gallery” mode so that I can see students are “with me”. I adjust the mat and the video slightly when I move from the initial seated poses to the standing sequence and back again just so that I can be as close to the laptop as possible.
Allow time for students to adjust props – since the style of prop is new, it may take them a little longer to adjust and find a comfortable position.
Pranayama and Relaxation
These practices are more important now than ever before. Start and end with a breathing practice to help ground women and soothe anxiety. The Bliss Baby Yoga “Falling Out Breath” can be particularly nourishing in letting go of fears. Guided relaxations are very powerful now too. They can be helpful to guide mothers within and create a deeper connection with their baby. If you use music here, turn the music down when you speak so students can hear you. I usually sit closer to the computer or mic to improve the sound quality during a guided relaxation.
Since mums are at home, you can give them the option to stay in Savasana indefinitely – there is nowhere they need to go and even more so if the baby is asleep!
Mother’s Virtual Sharing Circle
Offer mothers the option to stay online after class to share their “story” for now. Before beginning, I suggest they turn their view on to “gallery”, obviously unmute themselves, and then invite each mother in turn to share their weeks of pregnancy (or baby’s age) and what might be happening for them now, in every sense. Each woman should be given the time to be heard fully as she would be in a woman’s circle. Rather than providing answers, I offer this as a safe space for each woman to be acknowledged. Once everyone has shared, I then invite those that have any further questions to stay online once everyone has left, this way you can address any immediate concerns. You might also offer short private sessions if you feel there is the interest.
I think this last part of class is the most important so that mothers have the opportunity to connect with each other and feel heard.
When it comes to teaching online, keeping it clear and simple is the most important thing to remember. Remind yourself what these precious mamas need at this time. They may be coming from a place of anxiety, vulnerability, fear and isolation. Our job as yoga teachers is to help them let go of these emotions, to step into a place of self-trust and to deepen their connection with their babies. To help keep their bodies strong and in the best shape they can be, physically and emotionally to birth and care for their babies. It’s a big space to hold, but our own personal practice of yoga has prepared us for this.
Make your own bolster
via Leanne McLean (Meditation Teacher and Naturopath)
Make a “pass the parcel” based originally on the size of a rolled-up yoga mat, using old towels as inner layers, then cot/baby blankets and a fleece blanket to give some nice padding towards the end. Roll it fairly tight and use wool to tie up each layer like a parcel. When happy with the size, make sure the bolster is well wrapped & tied with wool. Then make a final cover using a thin cotton floor mat/rug and stitch it into place (again using wool). The open end is closed using thick wool as a simple drawstring.
It is very cylindrical in shape to begin but will flatten with use whilst still maintaining great firmness.
If you are passionate about nurturing women during pregnancy and postnatally, and offering holistic yoga classes with safe, appropriate and nourishing practices designed specifically for pregnant women and new mothers, you may be interested in our Bliss Baby Yoga Online Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga Teacher Training course. We also offer Online Extension Modules to enhance and further your learning in this area, covering topics including Prenatal & Postnatal Anatomy and Physiology, Pelvic Floor Anatomy and Physiology for Women’s Health and Perinatal Nutrition & Ayurveda,
Nadine O’Mara is an experienced prenatal and postnatal yoga teacher, doula, and our Bliss Baby Yoga Co-Director and Online Course Content Manager, who also runs her own business, Conscious Birth. Nadine shares her wealth of knowledge through contributing and editing content for our Bliss Baby Yoga online courses and social media, including being a co-facilitator of our Online Level 2 Fertility Yoga Teacher Training course. Nadine provides doula support, birth education and yoga for women and their partners in and around Bellingen on NSW’s mid north coast, as well as offering self care and restorative yoga workshops.
Illustrations by Sophie Duncan www.deerdaisy.com
Further Reading related to this topic:
- Grounding Visualisation for Pregnancy with Anna Watts
- Prenatal Yoga for Anxiety (including Sequence) by Shannan O’Neill
- The path of surrender: a key to a ‘good’ birth by Beth Ivy Buxton
- Extended Exhalation Breath with Lauren Tober (VIDEO)
- The Sādhanā of Motherhood: tips for integrating yoga into daily life by Nadine O’Mara
- Chanting, Mantra and Mudra for Pregnancy and Birth by Jennifer Allen