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Finding Solace One Breath at a Time

Below I will share with you the story of how in one week I turned my home into an online yoga studio in an effort to do my part in helping the teachers of this country find solace in this time of great fear and uncertainty.

Perspectives

On March 14, 2020, I graduated from a 6-month, 200-hour yoga teacher training program. On March 15, 2020, my yoga studio closed in response to COVID-19. On March 16, 2020 several schools in the metro-Atlanta and across the country transitioned to online teaching and began what has become our new normal. I also transitioned to working from home. My day job in Atlanta is at Georgia Tech, where I lead K-12 outreach initiatives in some of the most under-resourced, yet highly connected communities. Below I will share with you the story of how in one week I turned my home into an online yoga studio in an effort to do my part in helping the teachers of this country find solace in this time of great fear and uncertainty.

March 18, 2020 – A Moment of Clarity

The moment schools decided to close their physical doors, my thoughts went to the students and teachers that live in and serve those communities. As I continued to follow the news, I noticed that the conversation, rightfully so, was focused solely on meeting the needs of the students, many of whom rely on their local school for meals, emotional connection, and physical safety. At the same time, as a former middle school teacher, I know the emotional toll teaching takes on an individual, even when you are in a high resource school system and teaching kids from privileged backgrounds. However, there are no teachers currently in that circumstance. Currently, schools in all 50 states are closed and 23 states have closed K-12 schools for the remainder of the academic year. All eyes have turned to teachers asking them: How will you continue to teach my child? In a scramble by parents and school systems to try to mitigate academic losses, many have forgotten that teachers are human. They have families of their own. They have worries of their own. They have fears of their own. As I sat in my home, watching this all play out. I knew I had to do something. That’s where Yoga for Teachers was born.

March 19, 2020 – Holding Myself Accountable

The first step in creating Yoga for Teachers was to find out what time would work best. I’m still working full-time so there were only a few options for class times: first thing in the morning, lunch or evening. To determine what time of day would best serve the needs of teachers, I posted a poll on Twitter hoping that I would get enough responses to not only select a good time, but to also show that teachers actually wanted what I was planning to offer. I was shocked by the response. I only have about 500 Twitter followers, but 130 people responded to the poll. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but to me it was confirmation. These 130 people also gave me someone to be accountable to. If all of these people voted, and I didn’t come through, what would that say about me? I said I wanted to make a difference, so I couldn’t back out now.

I moved the coffee table and television out of my living room and this became my yoga studio.
I moved the coffee table and television out of my living room and this became my yoga studio.

March 21, 2020 – Looking Official

While waiting for the poll to close, I wanted to get everything else together so I would be ready to launch immediately. At that time we didn’t know how long schools would be closed. Most districts had only committed to the middle of April. Plus, I knew there was a need right now. I immediately set up a sign up page using Mailchimp and sent it to all of my educator friends. It was a good start, but I knew I needed more. I couldn’t expect anybody to trust me to teach them yoga, especially people that don’t know me, if there wasn’t a way for them to find out more information about me, my experience, and what I was trying to offer. In other words, I had to look official. Hence the creation of my Practice Freedom Project website. In two days, using Google sites I was able to create a professional looking website that had three pages:

  • A homepage that was linked to my Mailchimp account sign up page;
  • An about page that gave people an overview of my yoga and teaching philosophy; and
  • The actual yoga for teachers page that described the classes that I would offer.

Creating these pages forced me to think about what I wanted to teach and what it had to do with teachers. There are a lot of online yoga classes out there right now. What was going to make mine special? How were my classes going to speak to the current needs of teachers? I realized that it wouldn’t be the physical practice that would relate to teachers, it would be the dharma talks at the beginning of each class. My experience as a classroom teacher would allow me to craft talks that spoke to what teachers are facing right now focused on an intention driven by what I was hearing from my friends and colleagues in K-12 education. I wrote all of this up, added in some cute pictures, and ta-da…I had a website. Now it was time to get my place ready for class.

March 22, 2020: Creating My Virtual Yoga Studio

I live in a relatively small place. It’s only about 950 ft². Fortunately, it’s an open loft, which means I have open space. I moved the coffee table and television out of my living room and this became my yoga studio. It was perfect…initially. I wanted to show the beautiful skyline view out of my windows, and during the first week of class the sun didn’t rise until class was ending. However, as the sun is rising earlier and earlier each day, and the bright light behind my head has become an issue during my class. I have recently switched my location within my living room so that a white wall is behind me and the light comes in from the side. Overall, selecting this space in my place is the least disruptive to my life. It allows me a space that can stay set up for an indefinite period of time as opposed to other areas of my home, which I would’ve had to take down and put back up every single day. This way, no matter how long self-quarantine lasts, I can maintain the location of my home studio.

March 23, 2020: Getting Ready for Filming

The part that I was most nervous and anxious about was the actual filming and streaming of my classes. I wanted to make sure the video and audio quality were as high as possible, but I didn’t want to invest money in buying equipment when I wasn’t really sure if this was going to take off. So I thought about what I actually had access to. I have two MacBook Airs (one work, one personal), one iPad (personal), one iPad Pro (work), and one iPhone 6s (personal). I know, I definitely have more than my fair share of technology. I originally planned to use my personal laptop but quickly realized it was too old and slow to be of any real use. After some research, I found that the video quality would be best if I used the iPad Pro. Luckily my job gives me access to an iPad holder and mini-tripod so I borrowed them. I also borrowed a great handheld microphone, the H2n and another mini-tripod for that. I now had everything I needed for great video and audio, but how would I connect the microphone to the iPad? More internet research led me to the Apple Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter that worked perfectly in connecting my H2n microphone to my iPad. Finally, because of the time of day, 7:30 a.m., I knew that the light wouldn’t be the brightest so I moved a floor desk lamp behind my iPad as a spotlight on my practice area. On Tuesday, I reviewed my set up one more time.  Camera…check! Microphone…check!  Lighting…check! It was now time to launch my first class.

I wanted to make sure the video and audio quality were as high as possible, but I didn’t want to invest money in buying equipment when I wasn’t really sure if this was going to take off.
I wanted to make sure the video and audio quality were as high as possible, but I didn’t want to invest money in buying equipment when I wasn’t really sure if this was going to take off.

March 25, 2020: Class #1

I initially had about 65 people sign up for Yoga for Teachers, and on Wednesday morning, I woke up bright and early. Would anyone actually come? Would I have done all of this for nothing? I had six people. It was a success! It may not sound like a lot, but I was happy to just have one. I was happy that what I had put all of this effort into was finally happening and that people actually wanted to be a part of it. Everyone thanked me. Someone posted that the class made her cry. It was confirmation that I was stepping into my purpose. Even if I never grew beyond six people, I had created a space where those six people, for 45 minutes, twice a week, could just be.

Now What?

I’ve now been leading Yoga for Teachers for two months, have 125 subscribers and have expanded my offerings to include Let Go @ Lunch, 30 minute yoga and meditation breaks at noon each Tuesday and Thursday and Sunday Soul Service, a Sunday afternoon flow class focused on spiritual connection.  My work is still focused on teachers, and I hope the variety of times will allow me to serve more of them. I also hope my story will motivate the next person to use their gifts to help others during this crisis and beyond. Reading this, it may appear that this endeavor came together seamlessly and easily, but trust me it did not. It was a lot of trial and error. A lot of failure before I got to something that I am satisfied with…for now.


Coronavirus and School Closures. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/map-coronavirus-and-school-closures.html.

By day, I lead K-12 educational outreach programs at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, working in some of the most under-resourced and love-filled communities of our city. I also have 10+ years experience in mathematics education both as a classroom teacher and pre-service and in-service educator. In addition, I am a Yoga Alliance registered yoga teacher (RYT-200). I completed my training at Sacred Chill {West} under the guidance of Octavia Raheem and Meryl Arnett. I teach to help people reconnect with their hearts. The strength, vulnerability and compassion you feel on the mat can, and should, transfer off the mat and into your classroom.

: www.practicefreedomproject.org

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