As the UK and rest of the world deals with the threat of COVID-19, I’ve taken the decision to close down my group yoga classes. While in-person classes are a no-go, I’ve moved to online sessions for both my one-to-one clients and group classes.
Taking care of our physical and mental wellbeing is more important than ever right now and finding ways to keep our services going is essential. For other yoga teachers, fitness professionals and coaches thinking of moving online, I’ve put together I quick guide from my experience so far to help you get set up.
My live stream set-up
Live Stream vs Pre-Recorded
I’ve done pre-recorded sessions in the past, but as a replacement for in-person classes, I think live streaming is best. In small groups or one-to-ones, you’re still able to see your client and give them live feedback. Using live streaming also keeps a sense of structure – people can still have yoga in their diary to help them show up to class.
In a group session, live streaming also preserves a sense a community: you can welcome people as they join and people can interact over the chat box. With the package I use on Zoom* (more on software later) you can also record the live stream and send it to people afterwards.
A Note on Group Sessions:
During group sessions, I’ve encouraged people to have their video turned so I can keep an eye on what people are doing as best I can – this is undoubtably trickier than in a real class, but it’s better than nothing. However, I’ve found some people prefer not to have their video turned on if they’re in a group setting, which is understandable if you’re practising in your home, so I’ve not forced this.
While it’s ok to have participants videos turned on, do make sure that all participants in a group class are on mute, otherwise there is far too much sound going on and people won’t be able to hear you very well.
Space and Setting
I have a tiny flat in London, but I still managed to set up a space to film in my kitchen/living room. You might need to get a bit creative – I definitely had to do some furniture rearranging first. Get you camera out, walk around your house and see what works best. Somewhere with good lighting is going to help. Don’t worry too much about the background – you can always add some props in (like a house plant) to spruce things up a bit.
Most newish smartphones have pretty good cameras and will give a good enough picture quality. I use my Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus to film – it takes a great video and is infinitely better than the webcam on my laptop. I mount my phone using this tripod*.
While my smartphone films best, it does have a smallish screen which can make it tricky to see what’s going on. To get around this, I also tune my laptop into the live steam and position it just below my phone (out of shot), so I can see a bigger picture of what’s going on and keep an eye on live chats coming in.
When I did a test run, the sound quality from my phone wasn’t bad at all. However, I did find that in some yoga positions (like child’s pose, where my head is close to the ground) my voice did get slightly muffled. I purchased this Wireless Lavalier Microphone* which sounds great. All you do is plug the receiver into your filming advice, clip the wireless mic onto you and away you go – just check it’s compatible with the filming device you’re using.
My only issue with the mic set up was in one-to-one’s, where I need to hear their audio as well, the mic stopped sound coming out my phone (I’m guessing this is because it plugs into the headphone jack). I’ll let you know if I find a fix for this – at the moment I just use my phone’s microphone for one-to-ones and the mic in group classes.
I’ve used extra lights before whilst filming my Yoga for Back Pain series (I used this pair: RPGT Photography Softbox Studio Continuous Lighting Kit*). However, for a quick live stream set up (and without much space left in my flat!) I decided the spotlights in my living room were good enough. Do a test run and only invest in extra lighting if needed.
I’m using Zoom* to host my live sessions. The free version will let you do unlimited one-to-ones, but for group sessions you’re capped at 40 minutes. I went for the cheapest paid option (£11.99/month) which allows for unlimited group sessions (up to 100 people) and also provides cloud recording of sessions.
I like Zoom: it’s easy to use, good value and it also integrates with the booking software I use (Omnify*). Other options you could investigate are Google Hangouts or check out Vimeo if you want to try sending people pre-recorded videos (I use Vimeo for my Yoga for Back Pain series).
The most important piece of advice I can give you is to test, test, test! That way you can get any technical glitches out the way and feel confident when you start your first session.
Get your setting, camera, sound, lighting, software in place first and then start your test. If you can, get a friend to join the session online and get familiar with how things will look on screen. Explore functions like the chatbot and make sure you know how to mute people for a group session (or unmute them for a one-to-one). You can also check in with your sound and lighting and run through some moves to make sure you can see yourself well in the video.
I’d also recommend doing a test with your customer base. I set up a short tester session (no actual yoga) the day before my first live stream so that anyone unfamiliar with Zoom could get set up and be ready to go for their first session. You can also get people familiar with the chat function so they can use it during class if any technical issues come up.
For the time being, I’m keeping my prices the same as my in-person sessions - live streams are acting as a straight swap. Setting up online takes time and may mean investing in equipment. You are still providing a service and you should absolutely charge for it. That being said, if I reach the end of my planned term of classes and it looks like we’ll need to stay online for the time being, I’ll have a rethink about my timetable and pricing structure and make sure it delivers the best value to clients possible.
It’s a good idea to check in with your insurance provider about cover for teaching via video/live steam to make sure you’re still protected. At the moment, to keep things as safe as possible, I’m keeping live steaming to clients I’ve already worked with and understand their injury needs or health conditions.
Are you setting up online classes? Let me know how it’s going and share your own tips in the comments.