Long before the Covid-19 pandemic led to preventive measures that normalized social distancing, the doctors in my family were already encouraging me to pause from teaching yoga in order to avoid close physical contact with students. Of course, I resisted until March 14—the day my 4th grandchild was born. Back then (it feels like years ago!), it was hard to imagine how this disease could spread so easily from one person to another. I thought the absence of a cure or vaccine would forever prevent me, and other yoga instructors like me, from leading group classes as we have always done. Then, I remembered one of Baron Baptiste’s key tenets for teaching yoga: “Come to your teaching with a ‘we-are-connected’ mindset.”
Above all, always focus on developing that sense of connection with your students.
Indeed, Yoga is first and foremost about connection. When we practice yoga, we are not only connected to the physical and spiritual aspects of our humanness; we are also connected to the energy created by those we practice with, those with whom we share the same physical space.
Each time I’m in a yoga class as a student, and each time I teach a class, lead a workshop, or facilitate a retreat, I lean into that connection with others. I feed on the energy stemming from every person on a mat, and that energy creates a profound, communally transformative experience.
With the Covid-19 pandemic and mandatory social distancing, I kept wondering whether I would ever feel that connection again, and whether it would be possible to lead a yoga class from a deep place of connection. If anyone had told me that I could still experience that feeling of connectedness that Baron Baptiste talks about, I would not have believed it. I was convinced that we had to wait for the end of social distancing before having real yoga classes again, where through breath and movement, we could be in communion with others.
Thankfully, my students encouraged me to teach online. I resisted at first, as it felt awkward and unnatural to me, but I decided to give it a try anyway. To my great surprise, I quickly moved from frustration to gratefulness. I let go of my reluctance and fed once more on what was overflowing from my computer screen: the sheer joy of seeing each other, the grins, the banter, the virtual hugs… I was overwhelmed by the warm feeling of connection that emanated from these moments before class. Even as I muted everyone to lessen the background noise and focus on teaching, I felt connected. What is more, I felt connected with the added dimension of seeing my students in their element, in their worlds, in their homes—places I could not see when they came to class as usual! Connection took on a whole other meaning. Students allowed me into the intimacy of their worlds, showing up with their bodies, their emotions and the stories they were bearing at that very moment. In the middle of this pandemic, they showed up authentically from where they were, because what is going on, ‘this thing’ that is unfolding in front of our eyes, in our midst every day, is so big, so all-encompassing that there is no other choice but to show up as one is.
Energy, connection! I saw it, I felt it. The energy of their words, but mostly of their gaze, their movement, their down-dog, their up-dog… I experience that deep, beautiful, resilient energy, that Shakti, in the striving that was intensified by what we are all living, much like the warmth we feel from a deep conversation with a loved one who is miles away. I met them where they were, and taught them from a place that acknowledges, honors, and celebrates our connection as human beings, as community members, as beloved family, as members of one human race.