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5 Best and 5 Worst Online Poses

Teaching online can be wonderful in so many ways such as diversifying your audience, growing your reach and income, and allowing you to share what you love from the safety of your home. However, although online teaching can be a wonderful way to reach your students, it is important to remember that not all yoga poses to do online are created equal. When you are sequencing your classes and teaching students, remember that you are not physically with them to offer assistance, hands on help, or to ensure that they choose an option that is appropriate and safe for their body. It is crucial that when you are planning your classes that you keep safety in the forefront of your mind to ensure a transformative, but safe practice for your students. Here are 5 of the best and worst yoga poses to teach online. 

5 Best Poses to Teach Online

1. Sun salutations

There is a reason that these are the cornerstone of many yoga classes. Sun salutations are designed to build heat in the body, move the spine through flexion and extension, as well as activate all major muscle groups. But perhaps one of the most overlooked benefits of sun salutations is that you can modify them, and create a lot of variety within this well known flow. If you stick to slow, intention movements and offer modifications like dropping to the knees for a chaturanga or keeping the knees bent during a forward fold for tight back and hamstrings you can effectively warm up the entire body and teach students how to weave breath and movement together in a safe way. 

2. Mountain pose 

It is my personal opinion that mountain pose is one of the most important, but also most overlooked poses in yoga. Teaching your students how to create a strong, stable, and engaged mountain pose will help with not only with all standing postures, but also keep the same strength and stability in poses like plank or seated forward folds. Teaching students about the four corners of their feet and how to engage and lift up and out of the body can set them up for further success in other foundational poses as well and also give the added benefit of improving their posture.

3. Warrior poses

When you’re teaching online it is important to incorporate poses that students might already be familiar with, so they aren’t left confused and unable to follow. Warrior poses are usually ones that people have done before, but we don’t always take the time to break down and ensure alignment is correct. Use these foundational poses not just as the cornerstone of your flows, but also as a teaching moment to help them get the most out of poses that we usually move quickly through or forget to pay attention to when we are in them. 

4. Foundational foot balances

Footbalances are so important to overall health and wellbeing. As we age, or if we live a predominantly sedentary lifestyle we can lose our ability to balance on one foot which can lead to injury, slips, trips, and falls. Creating a safe space for students to build their balance is one of the greatest benefits of yoga, but when you are teaching online it is important to stick to balance poses that are foundational like tree, airplane, or even just lifting one foot at a time. Ensure that when you’re having your students balance at home that they are close to a wall, or have a sturdy structure nearby to help them balance so they don’t fall over or into something potentially dangerous at their house. 

5. Easy seated for meditation or pranayama 

Online classes are the perfect opportunity to start incorporating more meditation and pranayama into your teaching. It is safe, wildly beneficial, and also something that might be skipped over in other in person classes that focus on the physical postures. Challenge yourself to begin weaving meditation and pranayama into your online classes and educate your students on the potential benefits of focusing on these other limbs of yoga. 

5 Worst Poses to Teach Online

1. Handstand/headstand

There are many teachers that will refuse to teach handstand and headstand in a studio, let alone online. Did you ever as a kid practice your handstands in the living room and end up flat on your back and knocking over and breaking your mom’s favorite lamp in the process? I sure did. And the potential to do the same or worse as an adult is still there with these poess. The risk to your back, neck, shoulders, and wrists way outweigh the benefits of these inversions. Stick to poses like legs up the wall, ragdoll, or bridge pose to get your students going upside down without the risk of breaking their bodies or their lamps. 

2. Wheel

Another somewhat controversial pose in the yoga community due to its potential to harm your spine is wheel pose. Under close supervision of a teacher and the right build up, this pose can be a great peak pose in class, but when you are teaching online and are not able to supervise, aid, or recommend props or alternatives it is just too risky. People have a tendency to be extra bold at home when no one is watching and try something for the first time which could lead to lasting spine injury. 

3. Pigeon

You might be surprised to see this one on the list, but from my experience one of the most commonly misaligned and incorrectly taught poses is pogeon. Yes, students may want a deep hip opener, and this is a common pose around yoga classes but a slight misalignment of the front leg, or a tucking of the heel towards the groin or rolling to one hip can lead to serious low back strain and a potential meniscus injury. If you aren’t there with your student in person, stick to other alternatives that put less strain on the back and knees like a seated pigeon or supine pigeon, or another hip opening alternative.

4. Shoulder stand/Plow

This one makes the list for similar reasons as headstand and headstand. If you aren’t able to be there with your students to supervise and guide them into safe alignment here it is best to leave it out. Both shoulderstand and plow have the potential to cause lasting damage to your shoulders, neck and cervical spin as well as have the potential to fall out of the pose and land hard and into pieces of furniture. 

5. Arm balances

Have you ever witnessed, or more likely found yourself the victim of an arm balance faceplant during a yoga class? We have all done it, and when you’re exploring arm balances it is likely to happen. The trouble comes if you are trying to do arm balances in a space that might not be clutter free or safe or if you haven’t been taught the foundations of arm balances beforehand. There is just too much risk here to do a face plant, fall into something, or potentially harm yourself in another way. If you want to work on arm balances, have them instead work on foundational poses that get them used to engaging their core and shifting the weight into their hands, like a prolonged plank hold. 

Although this is just a list of 10 poses, it is important to keep in mind that safety is always the top priority for your students. Use these poses as a guide to think about what might be safe and a good idea for online teaching and what might be best if you leave it to when your students are in front of you. Thinking this way will help you explore outside of the box and find potential alternatives to peak poses or deep expressions of poses that may not be safe for all students and will ultimately make sure a better and more prepared teacher in the long run. 

Kelly Smith
Kelly is the founder of Yoga For You, and the host of the Mindful in Minutes podcast. She is an E-RYT 500, YACEP, and a location independent yoga and meditation teacher. She spends her days traveling globally offering trainings in restorative yoga, meditation, yoga nidra, writing blogs for beYogi, and recording meditations from her closet.
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