How Three D.C. Yoga Teachers Switched to Virtual Yoga

Originally published Thursday, December 3, 2020, for Reporting and News Writing class, Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies

Creative Commons-licensed photo by ndnwithaleica.

The last day yoga teacher Jessica Sandhu taught yoga in a studio was the Sunday in March before stay-at-home orders went into effect.

She had a feeling that the pandemic wasn’t going to last just a few weeks and immediately began to teach yoga online. A couple of months later, she launched her online yoga platform Be Free, Live Fully, like many DC yoga teachers she made the pivot from in-person to online.

“I am just recalling the sad day that was,” she said.

Sandhu is one of several D.C. yoga instructors who have responded to pandemic-related restrictions on their job by going online and starting new virtual classes.

At the same time, many D.C. yoga studios were not prepared to go online at the beginning of the pandemic. Studios like YogaWorks on 14thStreet, Realignment Studio in Capitol Hill, and Dailey Method which sometimes held yoga classes, recently closed.

An exception to the closing of brick-and-mortar yoga studios is Bluebird Sky Yoga. Owner, Jennie Light said they made the transition from in-person to virtual over a weekend. They explored the virtual transition on a Friday, looked at platforms, trained the staff, announced it on Sunday, and launched the virtual version on Monday.

“For us, it was really just a matter of survival and figuring out how we could pivot the business quickly without shutting down completely,” she said.

Kate Rivard, another yoga teacher who teaches at Be Free, Live Fully and Bluebird Sky Yoga said the pandemic has allowed her to focus on self-promotion as a yoga teacher. She used to teach at a handful of studios in-person before the pandemic, but now her website is her “COVID project.” She offers yoga videos for rent and also works on her social media.

Her transition online was stressful and a lot of work.

“I always say I am a yoga teacher, I am not in tech,” she said.

Building a community online is difficult to do in a virtual yoga world. Bluebird Sky Yoga has managed to do it with regular classes and its location, Brookland which is a community-oriented neighborhood. Light said her yoga students know each other’s names, hang out after class, and sometimes have kids that go to school together.

Sandhu has created her community over the years by talking to students before, after, and during class. Teaching mostly virtual classes has given her a reason to check-in with her students, follow their social media, and Zoom call them.

Once a week, at her outdoor yoga class in Georgetown’s Montrose Park, Sandhu gets to see the community she has built in person.

“I miss people, I love talking to people, and I love seeing their face, I love hearing them laugh when I say a joke,” she said.