Centennial resident Shawna Fujiki has been teaching yoga online since the beginning of the pandemic.

By Kathryn Stocks

Shawna Fujiki has been a yoga teacher for 13 years and most of those years were spent  teaching in-person classes at a yoga studio in Ajax. But when COVID hit, the studio closed and she branched out to create her own yoga teaching business called The Yoga Yard.

In spring and summer, Shawna had been teaching outdoor yoga classes occasionally in her backyard here in Centennial, but COVID made her set up a class schedule. She also started teaching yoga online twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

Shawna records each class and sends the link to participants so they can do the class later at their leisure. Over the last couple of years, she has taught approximately 125 online yoga classes and she participates in other online classes as a student.

Centennial News asked Shawna about the pros and cons of teaching yoga virtually. “The convenience level is off the charts not having to leave your home to go to a yoga studio,” she said. “All you need is a little space and a yoga mat.”

Another advantage is the sense of community connection participants feel when taking an online class with others. It has helped to prevent loneliness during lockdowns, and can feel like spending time with a friend, she said.

The online classes give those who are shy or might not otherwise attend an in-person class an opportunity to start doing yoga. “They can practice with their camera turned on or off – whichever they prefer,” Shawna said. “Doing it online gives you that safe space.” 

At-home students “feel more comfortable modifying and working with where their own body is,” she said, “whereas in a class you are more likely to do exactly what the teacher says even if it doesn’t feel right.”

Creating and customizing their own cozy practice space at home can increase participants’ enjoyment by controlling the temperature of the room and playing the music they prefer. Participants are muted so the sound can’t be heard by others. Practicing outside is also possible when the weather’s nice, and yogis can bond with their pets. 

A final advantage for Shawna is that an unlimited number of students can fit into an online classroom.

The cons list for her is much shorter. “Body safety is the main issue, especially for those who are newer to yoga and are still learning the postures and techniques. It can be difficult for the teacher to see the student’s body to ensure they’re positioning themselves safely and correctly,” she said.

Another disadvantage can be distractions such as children, pets, the phone and dust bunnies on the floor. It also lacks the same level of connection you feel with others when practicing in real life. Some people just can’t get into it online, Shawna said.

“The last con is that it’s really easy to shut your camera off and slack off. Or even end your class early when there’s no one to hold you accountable,” she said.

So with mostly pros and not too many cons, what will happen to Shawna’s online yoga classes when this pandemic ends? ”I think I’ll continue with it,” she said. “A lot of people have shifted to an online life.”