As the owner of a small yoga studio, I panicked when the pandemic sent us into indefinite closure. But I’m very grateful that yoga translates well to an online format. And also, that yoga is one of the most helpful practices we can do at home during this prolonged period. It not only helps keep our physical body feeling great but can also help us deal with the anxiety, uncertainty, and chaos of our collective new normal.
However, Zoom fatigue is a real thing. Nearly everyone I know is living on Zoom nowadays, whether for work or for leisure. All-day Zoom meetings transition into Zoom workouts, followed by Zoom socializing with friends and family. Even my seven-year-old niece takes art lessons over Zoom. Call me old-fashioned, but that surprises me!
And now, aside from the difficulty in keeping people in front of a screen, there is the challenge of the summer months, when many yoga studios often struggle financially as people spend more time outside.
How, in the months ahead, can we as yoga teachers and studio owners keep our virtual yoga classes fresh enough to maintain student interest? For one thing, you don’t really have to rethink what you offer—whatever you teach in person you can pretty much teach virtually. That said, I’m going to share five ways you can spice up your online yoga classes.
1. Advertise enticing class themes.
Most yoga studios offer classes by levels, and students generally use those levels to navigate through the various options. That allows students to land where they belong.
However, scheduling by levels is predictable and gets old quickly. A good way to showcase your Zoom classes during the pandemic is to add a variety of themes to your offerings. When I had to close my physical studio four months ago, I knew that getting my students to join me online would be challenging. A significant percentage of them aren’t active on social media and I knew that just putting out a schedule wouldn’t be enough. I needed something more exciting. Not to mention that the whole fitness and yoga world went online overnight and competition that was previously local suddenly became global.
So I began adding a theme to every class. For example, my “Highway to Headstand” class focused on teaching those students ready for the pose how to get into it safely and optimally. Another example is my level one “Best Yoga Flexibility Poses.”
Every Monday morning I release on our Facebook and Instagram feeds a calendar of themes for the week’s classes. This helps generate curiosity, interest, and even some buzz. Giving students a preview of the coming week’s class attractions has not only increased social media engagement, but also made online bookings skyrocket.
If you’re a teacher or studio owner, here’s a checklist of what you can do to implement themes:
• Create a spreadsheet with a list of all of your classes for that month.
• Work through each level, planning a theme for each class.
• Every Monday morning, post online about the upcoming day—or, if possible, the entire week.
• Consider putting up a schedule with the various levels and their corresponding themes. If you really want to get fancy, you can post mini-sequence videos based on each of the themes.
• At the end of each class, remind your students of the next day’s theme and briefly explain why it would be great for them to attend.
Doing this will keep things fresh and interesting. Students will show up inspired to try the new classes. Just make sure to give your offerings intriguing titles—for example, instead of just “Beginners’ Yoga,” try something like “10 Poses Every Beginner Must Know.”
2. Teach an online mini-series or workshop.
As if online distractions weren’t enough of a challenge, depending on where you live, you may see a big drop in summer enrollment. It happens here in Seattle—people crave the outdoor sun and warmth, and yoga studios empty out for three months each year.
Offering something different and special, such as a mini-series or workshops, can be a way to counteract this decline in numbers. Depending on how much time and effort you’re willing to invest, you can keep them relatively low-key or get downright extravagant.
How to navigate these possibilities:
• A mini-series could consist of two or four parts. You could use these sessions to work up to a peak pose, or have them follow a theme. For example, “Hop Into Handstand” could easily be made into a short series of classes. Or you can target a group of beginners with something along the lines of “The Only Poses You’ll Ever Need to Know.”
• The key is to maintain continuity for students by allowing each session to lead to the next. You’ll be able to charge a higher price for a series, and in return, you can offer to send participants a recording afterward to help them practice on their own. Those unable to attend live could also pay for access just to the video. Just remember to charge a premium price for any recorded content that you give away.
• Workshops are special one-time classes that are typically longer in duration than regular group sessions. They are perfect for exploring a few topics that are integral to yoga but aren’t always incorporated into a regular class. For example, workshops are great for offering an introduction to pranayama, meditation, or yoga philosophy and lifestyle. Just make sure to pick something you’re qualified to present and in which you have a genuine interest.
3. Bring in guest teachers.
To spice up your Zoom classes, try bringing in a guest teacher occasionally, particularly someone who is an expert in their field. They could teach a workshop, mini-series, or a masterclass. The upside to bringing in a guest teacher is that you’ll keep things fresh in your own Zoom room. But you’ll also get visibility on their platform and potentially attract new students as a result.
You could bring in guest teachers every month or two, depending on what works best for your studio model.
4. Offer promos—without being cheesy.
It’s a great idea to put out some promotions every now and then to attract more students to your offerings. Here are some fun ways to do that:
• Bring a Friend on Friday—The friend gets a free or discounted pass.
• Drop your email here—and get a free or discounted yoga class pass emailed to you (use the question box on Instagram Stories).
• Sign up for our newsletter—and get 25 percent off your next purchase.
• Fun Family Yoga for Labor Day (or some other holiday)—Sign up now and get 10 percent off.
• Friday Happy Hour—After yoga, grab your favorite beverage and connect with your yoga community for some Zoom socializing.
These are just a few ideas to spark your creativity. Make a list of ideas that could work well at your studio. As studio owners, sometimes we get tired of promoting ourselves—and, like so many other things, it’s a lot harder during the pandemic. But challenging our creativity will help us move forward and reach even more people who can benefit from our classes.
5. Host yoga challenges.
There are a number of different ways you can run these challenges, depending on how involved you want to be. Here are a couple:
• Run a 14- or 21-day class attendance challenge. Of course, you’ll need to teach classes every day for the duration of the challenge. Offer some kind of prize or recognition for completion and give the winner(s) a shoutout at the end.
• Another simpler activity would be to run an asana challenge on social media. The setup for this is far less involved. First, decide the length of your challenge. Then, each day post a picture of a new pose and share it on social media. Get people to take photos of themselves doing each of the poses and encourage them to tag their friends, which will make it more fun (whoever posts the most pictures wins). Social media yoga challenges will generate online interest and may or may not lead directly to increased revenue. But they can be a great way to promote awareness of, and engagement with, your studio.
These are just a few of the ways I’ve found to be successful in spicing up Zoom classes. You too can do it. Start slowly, see how it goes, and keep experimenting with different ways to keep things fresh for your students—and for yourself. And remember, all of these ideas will work well, even when studios open up again. Enjoy!