We’ve all gone online – for work, for Yoga, and there are even online teacher training courses.
Some things can we be effective on zoom – but can we really get a message across, can we really learn and understand from each other in a video conference?
Where it’s mostly one-way: probably yes. See this article, written by a Susan Bloom, a professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. It underlines that understanding and learning can be effective on zoom, if the content lends itself to a one-way flow of factual information from the teacher to the student.
OK, so it can be functional for work presentations and classroom lectures. It can even work for Yoga classes with some adjustments. If we step away from video conferencing, and stream from a genuine streaming platform, using good filming techniques and audio/visual equipment, then an online class can offer quite a personal and rewarding experience. Yogafurie has embraced this to create an online Yoga platform based on streaming
technology, and we let zoom go.
Can video conferencing work for Yoga and Hot Yoga Teacher Training? Our instinct is: no. There are so many courses popping up: we just had to check out the evidence to see if we were right. We found out cool and useful things. We’re sticking to teacher training in person in Bristol, and the rest of this blog explains why.
Talking is our principle way of communicating. But we are instinctively checking facial expressions and body language as well. Research shows that we correlate what’s being said with what we can see, in order to be sure that we believe and understand what we’re being told. We struggle when we can’t validate the verbal information against the nonverbal cues. Albert Mehrabian demonstrated that, when we can’t do this instinctive cross check, just 7% of the information we can take it will come from the words we’re hearing.
There is also more recent research indicating that smell plays a role. At one level, this is obvious – no one would eat in a restaurant that had an odour of rotten food. But it’s also much more subtle: even at distance, low levels of natural, human smells play a part in how we assign unconscious social value to the people we talk to. This is happening regardless of the deodorants etc that we wear.
When we work on video conference, we lose pretty much all the nonverbal communication, apart from some two-dimensional facial expressions. Our instinctive mechanisms must simply short-circuit: they evolved to work face-to-face. We can often tell when people are being honest when we speak to them in person for instance. The result is that we can’t assign social value, and unconsciously, we may struggle to tell whether we believe the words or not.
Psychologists have continued to study human communication. One useful model for understanding its effectiveness is the 3 C’s of Nonverbal Communication: context, clusters, and congruence.
Context refers to the communication environment and the historical relationship between the people involved.
We naturally – and unconsciously – look for clusters of nonverbal cues. Someone might smile with their mouth, but if there’s no brightness in the eyes and open-ness in the body, we think they were faking it.
Congruence is how well the words and nonverbal gestures match. We’ve all been there: an event has been planned with friends or family, and when the day comes, we just don’t feel like going. Suddenly it rains, and we get a call to say it’s been cancelled. It’s important to conceal the jubilation in our voice when we hear the news!
In a group learning situation such as Yoga and Hot Yoga Teacher Training, it’s not only following the cues of the speaker, but the side glances, eye rolls, shrugs between students that underpin direction and nuance, and give tenor to the event. I’ve seen this countless times in Yogafurie Teacher Training sessions: we have a difficult concept to get across, and the group get hold of it and run with it. They learn a great deal from each other – if they can interact freely and use all the tools of human interaction. On a computer screen, all that cross-person interaction is lost.
For these reasons, Yogafurie Academy in Bristol took the decision not to move Yoga and Hot Yoga Teacher Training online. We believe that Yoga Teacher Training has to take place in person, here in Bristol, in order to offer quality and help you to be the best teacher you can be. This is how we assure quality and value-for-money: we keep it personal.
Going back to online Yoga classes generally: it’s also clear from the discussion above why an online Yoga class can work, if it’s streamed rather than zoomed. The context is correct: the student has made a choice to “tune in” at that time to a recognised Yoga authority figure. The clustering won’t be confusing: the teacher is talking to the world in general, not to a specific person. And the resulting experience will be congruent. But this is a very different scenario to teacher training, where there can complex ideas to unravel and then practice with.