Three cheers for online exercise classes!

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation left yoga teachers and other fitness professionals unable to teach in-person classes so many of them moved online, and you know what… I have been loving it!

These classes have some major benefits over going to a yoga studio or gym. If you’ve experienced anxiety, body image issues or low self-esteem (like me) you may find it difficult to exercise in public. I’ve challenged myself over the years and found some classes I felt comfortable with, but it was terrifying at first. There’s quite some irony in going to an exercise class to help your physical and mental health, but it only makes you more anxious!

Online classes are more accessible for people with anxiety

Joining a group of people you don’t know, in a sweaty room, when you’ve got no clue what you’re doing, is NO FUN for many people (even those who don’t usually struggle with anxiety). Online classes mean you can stay in the comfort of your living room, with your video and sound off if you wish. You can still feel part of the class, but without feeling so exposed and vulnerable.

I’ve found online yoga and dance classes were so helpful for my mental health through the scary uncertainty of the COVID-19 situation. Having a dance and a giggle brings some silly fun into my life, whilst yoga reminds me to connect with my breath and stay grounded.

Bedroom yoga!

Comfort

I’m always careful to make sure I choose leggings that are relatively clean and don’t have holes in them when I go to “real life” classes, but when I’m in a small box on the screen it’s less visible (well, I hope) and they certainly can’t smell me. Online classes also come with the ultimate relaxation – farting in downward dog and snoring in shavasana. All in your pyjamas if you wish.

Body insecurities

As much as I’d be encouraging of you all to flaunt your stuff no matter what your size, I’m aware that we’ve all grown up in a society that tells us that fat is one of the worst things you can be. Even in the middle of a pandemic, many people seem more concerned about putting on weight. I’d say if you’re putting on weight at this time, then you’re pretty darned healthy! If you come out of this fatter, who cares? I recently wrote an article for the Metro about this called ‘So What if you Get Fat During the Coronavirus Lockdown.’

I went to school during the reign of gym knickers and spent the whole of PE classes gripped with anxiety about how my thighs and stomach looked. I used to feel physically sick before Games and PE lessons because I was so anxious, and it made me really hate exercise later in life. I forced myself to go to the gym, but I again felt anxious, constantly worrying about being judged. It’s a sad fact that fat people are encouraged to work out but then laughed at when we do (even if the getting laughed at is indirectly, in the form of memes on social media for example). Weight stigma is so damaging to mental health and does not at all help fat people – it’s only making life worse for us.

It took me many years to pluck up the courage to go to yoga classes, and I’d still be anxious about going to a new one even now. It’s not easy being the biggest person in the room when you’re not feeling body confident. Online classes can help people start to enjoy exercise, shifting the focus to doing something good for themselves instead of it being about trying to look a certain way. Exercise should be fun, not a punishment. If you ever attend a class where the instructor is all ‘let’s burn those calories’ or ‘tone up those bingo wings’ then get the hell outta there. Fatphobic fitness instructors can jog on.

90’s themed Disco Aerobics

Online classes are cheaper

Most classes in my area normally cost £8 – £12 per class, whereas the ones I’ve done online are less than a fiver or free, which makes it way more accessible for people on low incomes (or no income). There are also YouTube classes that are free (one of my favourites is Yoga with Adriene) but supporting yoga teachers and fitness professionals is really important. They do an amazing job and they’ve got bills to pay, so pay them if you can!

A sense of community

Seeing all these little boxes on the screen filled with people from all different places, all moving together, creates a sense of being part of something intimate yet big. It’s nice seeing people in their own homes, there’s something quite personal and friendly about it. My lockdown highlight has been Disco Aerobics with Project HB. Funnily, I’ve never been to one of Carly’s classes in “real life” as I happened to meet her at an eating disorder event just before we went into lockdown. I instantly loved Carly’s energy and started following her (online, not literally following her – CREEPY). My first online disco aerobics class was hilarious, with Carly shouting “PUT THE BEER DOWN” at us all. I was well-behaved and stuck to the water… until the moment it finished when I poured a large glass of wine! We’re now called “disco burrowers” and, let’s face it, we’re pretty much a cult. A cult of LEGENDARY DISCO QUEENS!

Game changer

I hope online classes will continue after lockdown, as well as “real life” ones, then we have the best of both! Online classes can be attended from anywhere in the world, time dependant of course – I doubt you’d want to get up at 3am for a dance but hey, you might. Online classes make exercise more accessible for everyone – people with disabilities who might find it tricky to access an in-person class or gym, people with anxiety, people struggling with body or gender dysmorphia, people who have been through trauma, those on low incomes… and anyone who doesn’t feel safe going to a class for any other reason. ACCESSIBILITY and INCLUSION is so important. Everyone deserves to feel good about their body.

Recommendations:

Disco Aerobics with ProjectHB

Curvy Girl Yoga

Bollywood dance fitness/raving fit at home with Farrah – Facebook Live

‘Yoga on the boat’ with Hazel

YogaDad

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