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Yoga in a time of isolation… in Alberta





  • Inga Norkute, Calgary
  • Michelle Thiessen, Calgary
  • Jill Sinnott, Calgary



INGA NORKUTE, Calgary AB – I think the absence of onsite classes will encourage students to develop their own home practice.  At least, as there is no teacher to watch over them, it will encourage them to explore the poses by themselves, leading them to a less dependent practice.  In fact, during the last class I taught at Calgary Iyengar Yoga before we closed, we had decided not to touch the students to make adjustments.  We also limited props to wooden bricks that could easily be cleaned.  The students told me that all this actually made them think more; they had to be more creative (as did the teachers) and it made them go into themselves more…



MICHELLE THIESSEN, Calgary AB –  Typically, I would call the Calgary Iyengar Yoga Centre (CIY) my home for practice. Nine days into self-imposed isolation, that has changed.  By the time the initial chaos of the first few days of this new reality wore off and I had gathered my loved ones, stocked and settled, I realized I had forgotten my yoga practice.  Just in time, an email popped up introducing me to virtual, online classes.  After I fumbled with the Zoom app and the self-consciousness of how to redefine my role as a participant instead of an observer, I was off! 

Since then, this transition from one physical home to another has illuminated some interesting thinking about my practice.  I have always had yoga on my lists: my list of to-dos, a list for community, and for my physical-spiritual health.  Over the last couple years of more dedicated practice, I knew it should be more than just something I crossed off my lists as ‘completed’, so I had begun collecting props for home.  Mostly, these props sat dormant and unused.  I did not need them at home because I had plenty at CIY and once I was done class, my best intentions became good enough.  Five days into virtual practice I can now see why I had laid down that groundwork – these props are the furniture of my new yoga home. 

In this ‘new’ home things are a little different, uncertain at first, then curiosity invades and my mind looks for the familiar and finds it.  Without the reliable feedback of a physical class setting I cannot look to my fellow practitioners’ bodies or wait for my teacher to cue an adjustment I have had no awareness of. Svadhyaya; self-study; I have no other option in this home.  I start to remove the mind’s layers and an intelligence born of all past practices unwinds my body; a familiar place touched on during class settings seems limitless here.  At first there is a screen, a voice, a mat, and myself.  One by one, these things disappear until I am truly home.

Practising online during our current circumstances has provided a lifeline to normalcy.  The physical movement and maintenance of strength, the mental break from worry and news headlines, connection to familiar faces and voices, and routine.  These things matter right now, more than ever; more than I knew. 

More importantly, my experience of online classes has provided a bridge between yoga as something I do, to a practice that reveals my ‘home’ inside.  I hope some things do not go back to normal after we emerge, I do not see how they can.  Now I will carry my home wherever I go.                                     



JILL SINNOTT, Calgary ABMoving with the times – Iyengar Yoga goes online  –  We need our communities more than ever right now. We also need yoga in its most literal sense, to bring union in this extraordinary time of separation and isolation. Thankfully, these extraordinary times are also highly technological times and while we are distanced from one another physically, we can, at least, join our own communities and the global community by practising together virtually.

At Calgary Iyengar Yoga we have been live-streaming classes for a short while and I would like to share our thoughts and experiences of a new way of teaching and studying Iyengar Yoga.

From a teaching perspective, the online world is certainly a challenge. It feels a little awkward at first, daunting even. An empty room with a camera is so far removed from the smiling faces of our students, who we know and love. The energy in the room is very different: as we chant, a solo voice resonates through the vacant space. As we instruct there are no observations, questions or feedback. There are no adjustments to make, no actions to correct. The interaction that we enjoy so much with our students is absent. However, we are aware of our virtual students, both regular and new. We know that they are out there, taking the time to join us from their living room and that we can bring them the healing benefits of the practice during this stressful time. It is definitely a different style of teaching: demonstrations must be crystal clear, as we navigate the best angle for the camera to capture the shape and structure of the pose. Use of props (or what to use as alternative to props) must be explained in precise detail, while being arranged tidily to ensure an uncluttered space: good visibility is so important on camera. Many new aspects to consider, all of which are wonderful opportunities to gain fresh clarity on our teaching and sharpen our skills to meet the challenge.

From a student perspective, live stream classes are very close to a studio experience for a seasoned Iyengar practitioner. Visually and verbally the class is almost identical – same teacher, same style of presentation, it is only the adjustments and interactions that are absent. Having props or other improvised props at home is obviously beneficial and as the class moves along in the comfort of your living room, the learning experience is wonderful, plus no commute necessary! For new students to the practice, many variations are given, both with and without the use of props. Everyone can benefit from the experience.

In this time of uncertainty, the ability to access experienced Iyengar teachers at the push of a button, is truly amazing. As teachers we can provide our students with an uplifting experience, while enjoying the feeling of community ourselves, as we all practise virtually together. The world is suddenly more open, engaged and united than ever. We can log in to classes all over the world, with teachers we may never have had the privilege to study with. The opportunities are endless, as Iyengar yoga moves with these changing times.



Tell us your yoga stories as we find ourselves in these surreal times… empty grocery store shelves, closed schools, working from home, sometimes futile quests for face masks and hand sanitisers (and toiler paper!), cancelled classes, life in a whole different way… In circumstances which few of us have experienced, how do we cope? How do we continue with yoga? How do we support each other and our students? Send your yoga stories to us (to and we’ll include them here.



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