Sterling Heights

Metro Detroit's yoga community finds breathing space online during COVID-19

At a time when social anxiety is high, closing the doors of her yoga studio—a place dedicated to helping people cope with stress—was difficult for owner Jill Rocker. 

“The yoga studio is often an escape and safe haven to take pause and reset from the outside world,” says Rocker, who has closed her Sterling Heights and Rochester UpDog Yoga locations during COVID-19 shutdowns. 

But it hasn’t stopped Rocker from trying to reach patrons. She has started “yoga from home” classes, where clients can view virtual livestreaming classes from instructors at scheduled times, or later through recorded sessions. Classes run for free for the studio's unlimited members or $20 per month, and private streaming sessions start at $25 for a custom class.

“While online efforts at this point can never make up for the lost revenue of in-person classes at our physical locations, the community response has been great so far,” says Rocker.  

UpDog Yoga instructor Stephanie Merecki now runs classes from home.

“Nothing can replace the energy of an in-studio experience with a live instructor and the camaraderie of other yogis practicing next to you on your mat, however, the virtual world is a welcome alternative for now.”

Brittni Longer is finding ways to connect with new yoga participants online.Oakland County-based yoga instructor Brittni Longer agrees virtual classes are a second-best option, but she too is still looking to make connections. 

“There is a vibrancy, an electricity when participating in and teaching group classes,” the B-Yoga instructor says. “Everyone's energy is intermingling and is part of the yoga experience. To have that no longer be an option with the current circumstances feels like there is a missing element.” 

Longer has started conducting Facebook Live videos for students to participate in a class, has posted videos to YouTube, and this week implemented GoTo Meeting live yoga classes.

“This allows for a more class-like atmosphere where the energy can flow and connect between students and teacher,” Longer says. “With everyone's cameras and microphones active we can all see and interact much like being in-person. It is a completely new realm for many, including myself, and we are all evolving along the way.”

While some of Longer’s regular participants aren’t comfortable with the online format, she’s seen an increase in others who are new to yoga join in. It’s something Longer believes will help during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Yoga provides serenity and calm to the mind, body, and soul especially in times of heightened emotional states,” says Longer. “Finding calm within the storm allows us to move, act, and react from a place of love and connection rather than of fear and worry.”

Ashley Goldberg, founder of Birmingham’s children-focused Born Yoga, has started offering donation-based classes via Zoom. She has even hosted a “Yoga with Your Doll” session encouraging children to bring their favorite toy to the virtual class. A portion of donations from her classes will go to Gleaners Food Bank, says Goldberg.

Goldberg chose to host the donation-based classes to reach as many families as possible. “I knew that this was going to be a hard time financially, for so many families,” says Goldberg.

An online version of a yoga class, set up here for Born Yoga, requires some creativity.

“The response has been amazing,” she says. “We have had anywhere from 35 to 150 families joining in daily per class. It has been so heart warming and humbling and I feel honored to know we are reaching so many people.”

Goldberg sees the potential for yoga to help people remain calm in this time when things are uncertain.

“Even more importantly, we are a children's yoga studio so we are offering families the opportunity to bond in a fun and unique way that not only uses movement and activity but also creates a calm and peaceful space.”

Ashley Goldberg is running her Born Yoga studio classes online for children and families.

Read more articles by Kate Roff.

Kate Roff is a freelance writer and editor, currently based out of Detroit. Contact her at kate@wanderoff.com.au
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