Interview with Gopala of Rainbow Yoga

Tips for teaching yoga online

Picture of Gopala Amir Yaffa of Rainbow Kids Yoga on Zoom

Intro: My guest today is my wonderful teacher Gopala Amir Yaffa, founder of rainbow yoga. We are talking about taking classes online and the challenges we face taking those online and connecting with our hearts rather than our hands.

Maria: Tell our audience about rainbow kids yoga. It’s just so unique and so amazing in my opinion.

Gopala: Yeah, I started rainbow yoga, rainbow kids yoga, about 15 years ago, just a couple of years after I left the ashram. I was in a Shivananda ashram for 10 years. The main idea behind it is actually nothing less than making the world a better place and world peace.
So when I was in the Shivananda Asham, this was in 1994, a beautiful lady from the United States came to stay for a couple of weeks and we had a few conversations. She told me that she is the private yoga teacher of King Hussein and the Royal family and she was on her way to Jordan to teach them all yoga there. We made a connection and she went on her way to Jordan and surprisingly, just a few short months afterward ,King Hussein attitude toward the middle East situation changed completely and Jordan and Israel made peace.
Maybe it’s a coincidence or maybe yoga has something to do with that , but for me, that was the beginning of really looking at yoga as a way for a social change and for world peace.
I continued with this vision when I left the ashram, opening the center in Israel, a yoga centre called Yoga Le Shalom, which means yoga for peace, where we did this kind of work. I worked on developing Rainbow Yoga, which is our unique style of yoga, of connecting people through yoga.
This was when we also started the Rainbow Kids Yoga and the kids’ yoga teacher trainings. What a better way to make the world a better place than teaching the next generation. I really believe in education as maybe the most important ingredient in any change that you want to see in the world, whether it’s equality, racism that we have now to the whole world.

Maria: Did you ever think that the rainbow kids yoga would be completely online? Because now it’s not just the online training that you used to have there. Anyway, it’s also the 95 hour 50 hour training, and you’ve got a four day training live and interactive coming up as well. Did you ever think those things would be online?

Gopala: Yeah, well our 200 and 300H training are also coming online.
I did think about online as a way to reach more people.
I have a good friend from a long time ago called Michael Roach he is a Buddhist manganese. He spends his whole life uploading spiritual Tibetan texts to the internet in an attempt to save them, because they were disappearing because of their Chinese conquest.
That was for me a beginning of realizing that the internet is not all bad and that we can actually do good things as well. It is a tool like any other tools, teaching online is a tool, it can be used to do great things.
The internet can be an adventurous place and a distracting place and a place where we can lose ourselves or get misinformation, but it can also be a place to spread the positivity and, and help people. This what we are about, as yoga teacher, we are here to be of service to people and this is actually a service very-very much needed right now.
I think there’s probably more stress in the world than has ever been before. People are more burned down today and we know that kids feel it even more, even if they are not showing it, so what do shouldn’t stop just because we cannot connect face to face. We can still benefits people through online. Maybe there is a different sort of quality to it and some things we can’t do, but there are many other things that we can do and ways to adjust what we do. And we can definitely reach more people by teaching online. This is for trainings, but it’s also for all of us to, to teach children and families, youth wherever they are.

The internet can be a place to spread positivity and help people. This what we are about, as yoga teacher, we are here to be of service to people.

Gopala Amir Yaffa

Maria: Will you be, be delivering any of those live and interactive trainings or will you leave it up to Leslie and Benjamin and all the beautiful trainers?

Gopala: We have two different kinds of trainings:
– Online trainings that allow for absolute flexibility; the classes are prerecorded. People can start at any time and complete at their leisure and those are fantastic. We invested so much in them to make them interactive, fun, engaging and a great learning experience; we are there to support people everyday through the online platform.
– The other set of training is those livestream trainings. The advantage in those is that they have a starting point and an ending point. Some people who are less motivated to carry themselves through a training or may not have the discipline, this may be a better option for them.

Maybe the whole certification process can happen even quicker.
Those live stream trainings have to conduct them in different time zones, for all of the people we serve worldwide, so we have Benjamin, who you know, very well presenting in the UK & European time zones and Lesley in North America. We have Himena in Spanish in Latin America and I’m going to do one here in December for the Southeast Asia and Australia and New Zealand.

The Online Yoga Teacher – Workshop

picture of children in laying on floor

Maria: What were the challenges of translating trainings and taking them online so far?

Gopala: Well, the challenge is to keep people engaged. Being on screen is a bit different than face to face. Inviting people to share experiences is a very important element, more than teaching in person; “connect before content”.

So before we deliver any content, it’s important to make a connection with your students. This is also true for teaching children any time, but especially online.
We also say connect before correct in parenting as well, so taking the time to connect to the people that are there in front of you on the screen is very important, it becomes more personal, they are engaged.
And co-creating class with students so everyone can add something to it and be creative, that also makes them feel like they are part of the class and participate more and for longer, with greater results.

“Connect before content.
Connect before correct!”

Gopala Amir Yaffa

Gopala: The other challenge is that people are learning in different ways. Some people learn through reading, some are more visual, some learn through movement, so using all of those elements to teach are extremely important.
If we just do lectures, half the group would zone out, but if we mix it with some visuals and some movement, then more people are engaged. Plus the constant support people need, to feel that they are held throughout the process, so just being there and commenting on everyone’s responses is an important part of people being successful in the training.

Maria:What other advice would you like to give to yoga teachers that are delivering their classes online? These could be adult classes as well, because a lot of us have had to do it. And we were kind of scared because there’s so much good and free content out there.
Gopala: The first advice is probably a quote from Nike: just do it!. This is important because, there is no other way to gain experience than actually teaching.
The beautiful thing about teaching online is that you don’t have to start by teaching a whole class. You can just teach a sequence teacher, some meditation, or a breathing exercise; just share something small.
Pre-record if you must, so you don’t have to be on stage at that very moment. Go from there and you can expand to do more and more.
This is the beautiful thing of sharing: What do you have to give to the world through this medium?

Gopala: then the principles are simple; all the rainbow yoga principles of:
– Connecting with each other, which we can do in many ways; sharing mirroring, which in fact activates the mirror neurons in our brain, which makes connected and helps us to create all of those bonding hormones inside of us. Mirroring people, or mirroring you in a Sundance or just in a dance.
– Co-creating again, letting the students choose how they want to travel to wherever we are going in this beautiful, magical yoga journey, or what animals they see there.
– And creativity; creating new poses, creating new sequences, dancing together.
Those are fantastic ways to engage using the screen, but also a great way to teach. We can go further, we can come closer, we, practice different exercises that involve appearing and disappearing from the screen, we can pass things from one to each other on the screen that can change and transform depends on what people have at home. The possibilities are endless if we are just creative. This is what rainbow yoga is about.

Outro: to find out more about about this interview listen to Kids Yoga Matters episode no 2.
To discover how to set up and run an online yoga studio join The Online Yoga Teacher.