Since the start of the pandemic, Berlin-based vinyasa yoga teacher Chiara Fileccia has been running live, online classes from the comfort of her home. But with physical spaces back open, that means a change in format. ‘A drastic change from online classes to only in-studio classes wouldn’t be clever,’ says Chiara. ‘There will definitely be a huge amount of people coming to the studios, but also a small number of people won’t feel 100% safe to practice indoors.’ Her answer: a hybrid arrangement.
Online classes may be more practical for those continuing to work from home, but they also affect the quality of Chiara's offer. ‘With online, I don’t have any feedback from my students, so I have no idea whether they’re understanding what I’m trying to demonstrate,’ she says. ‘I also don’t know what individual level they are at.’ Then there are issues with safety: Chiara has no way of knowing if her students are practicing the poses correctly and can’t be there to help if one of them has an injury. ‘There’s also no sense of community with online classes – which is what a lot of people come for. Usually, I’m able to be there for my students physically and mentally. I’m able to chat with them before and after class, and answer their questions. None of this works in the online world.’
For Chiara, running online-only classes also isn’t ‘economically sustainable’. While teaching from home reduces her costs in terms of studio space and transport, she can’t charge as much for an online class as she can for in-person tuition. And it’s been harder to gain interest for her online classes than her in-person ones. ‘Another issue is that I’d find it too physically draining to offer lots of online classes per week plus in-person ones. When you’re not present with people that are practicing in the studio, you have to demonstrate the poses all the way through the session. You can’t leave your mat and walk around and approach students as you usually would.’
Chiara is using direct customer feedback to guide her. At the moment, it’s necessary to offer an online option, especially while people continue to work from home. But long term, she imagines customers will prefer to practice in a studio where they can get one-on-one support and attention. ‘I don’t think people are ready to step completely into the online world. Yoga is a holistic experience: you enter the studio and you have the incense, the music, the lighting and a community of people around you. You can’t replicate that online.’