Yoga's Paytm Moment

The pandemic has changed the future of yoga forever

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It was perhaps the last day of spring and I was on the way back from teaching a yoga class enjoying the pleasant evening breeze and a slight, sweet, post-yoga ache, when news of the lockdown rocked the yoga world—all gyms and yoga studios would be closed with immediate effect till further notice. My yoga company had just entered into a partnership with Fab India to provide yoga classes at all their cafe locations pan-India, and we as a fledgling company were so excited with the opportunity and had invested a substantial amount of PR and marketing dollars into this new venture.

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With the pandemic growing at viral rates, I wondered what we as a company would do, and how we would survive. We supported yoga teachers, our students had come to rely on us in that unique way that yoga-students typically do, and our boot-strapped yoga start- up had been brought to a halt. What now?

Thankfully, I had been an early Zoom adopter due to a corporate yoga app that I had worked on (previously Zoom had been used mostly in the techie world) and I started teaching yoga classes on Zoom very early on in the lockdown. What followed was enthralling and I hypothesize will change the course of yoga forever.

Fast forward 100 days and my daily free yoga class to keep my students happy and healthy had blossomed into 6 daily classes with 12 teachers and a team of 10 interns, a veritable online yoga studio with live classes with a daily attendance of close to 100 students a day from 13 different countries. Our offerings had grown with the demands of our customers and we now offered private classes, kid’s classes, seniors’ classes, talks on nutrition, fasting programs and even an online book club. From operating on WhatsApp groups, we moved to a dynamic online booking system to meet the huge demand coming our way and along the way managed to host 2 major online events including the Being Yoga festival to raise money for COVID- 19 relief work, which had over 1 million views and a really fun 12 hour live “yogathon” on International Yoga Day 2020.

In a recent webinar, Zoom CEO declared that online yoga classes were one of the Zoom use cases that he was most delighted about. As a yoga teacher and a founder of an online live yoga studio which has grown into a healthy, profitable studio with a 500  per cent revenue growth every month, I can certainly relate to Mr. Yuan. Online yoga classes have given every single teacher on this planet to connect to students without the burden of having a physical space. Billions of practitioners around the world are realizing the joy of a #yogathome experience, where one gets the discipline of a class, the direction of a teacher, the sense of community, and the benefits of a practice– all of this while saving on commute time as well as money, as yoga teachers can offer cheaper classes as they themselves save on commuting time and infrastructure.

The pandemic has changed the future of yoga forever. What Covid-19 has done for yoga is what demonetization did to online wallets like Paytm. People of all ages, who would never have imagined going online for yoga, or who logged on for lack of any other option, have very quickly realized how an online experience may in fact be superior to an offline one in a multitude of ways. So, roll out your own mat, at the comfort of your own home, and log on, because online yoga is the here to stay.