When everything changes overnight, there isn’t time for surveys or focus groups. Associations have to move quickly from “What do we do?” to “Here’s the plan.” One association’s rapid response helped its members with a daunting—and counterintuitive—migration online.
Yoga is an ancient practice, but there are no exceptions in a new normal that is no longer new—or normal. Even ancient practices need to adapt when the whole world suddenly changes. The Yoga Alliance has 100,000 members—comprising both yoga schools and teachers, representing 150 countries—who suddenly found themselves, like many people all over the world, having to come up with a plan to move their businesses online because of COVID-19.
Yoga Alliance’s Catherine Marquette, vice president of marketing and communications, said that until several weeks ago, yoga was primarily taught in person, but the global pandemic upended the entire industry. But, as Dean West, FASAE, author of a study on the economic impact of COVID-19, told Associations Now recently, “You can’t look at a crisis only as a threat. You have to consider it as an opportunity to create energy toward strategic change.”
The Yoga Alliance did just that. Marquette described the first days of responding to the repercussions caused by COVID-19 as “chaotic” but also “incredibly rewarding.” Within two weeks, the Yoga Alliance had transformed its business to support members as they transition to a virtual world of yoga teaching. Among the resources the organization developed:
- A COVID-19 resource site for members to stay up to date on a wide range of topics, including business, financial, and community information. The site also includes a legislative section with briefs explaining provisions in the CARES Act and other emergency bills and initiatives relevant to yoga professionals.
- The Yoga Alliance Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, designed to help yoga professionals around the globe who have been hardest hit by the pandemic. The fund is open to all yoga professionals—members and nonmembers—who are not able to pay basic bills.
- A best practices guide to reopening and recovering [PDF] to help yoga professionals as they prepare—when possible—to reopen their businesses.
- A COVID-19 membership update page to address member concerns about how the pandemic could affect aspects of their professions.
Virtual events have been a huge part of the response. In the past four weeks, the Yoga Alliance has hosted more than 40 virtual events, and Marquette said attendance has been double or triple the usual numbers. “Becoming a virtual events team almost overnight is one of the ways in which we’ve really stepped up our game in terms of serving members,” she said.
The virtual continuing education events run the gamut from exploring payment systems to insurance liability considerations and more. Marquette said 40 to 50 percent of the virtual events have been about moving a yoga business online and have analyzed the pros and cons of using different online platforms like Zoom, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook Live to teach yoga classes.
It’s a stressful time, and many people are looking for the benefits of practicing yoga right now. “We have a lot of science and biomedical research online that’s proving yoga’s ability to mitigate stress, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and to help immune function,” Marquette said. The Yoga Alliance updated its membership directory so anyone, including members of the general public, can find qualified teachers offering online yoga.
Marquette praised the organization’s members for showing up for work even though they have the same fears and uncertainties as everyone else. She said the urgency to help members is even stronger now because more and more people are turning to yoga during this troubling time. She said, “They need that strength, peace, and stress relief that can come from it.”