Yoga and the internet

What role does the Internet have for someone following the path of yoga? Critics would say that it creates an alluring unreal world we can lose ourselves in; it can suck up large amounts of time for little real benefit; it can lead to sitting statically with poor posture; when battling the uncooperative computer, our analytical brain is fired up to assert our will over it - quite the opposite of the yoga path.

From personal experience, I can confirm that all of above are possible. One possible path is to ignore the Internet entirely, and I can respect that. However the Internet has many positives too. It allows instant communication around the world, and there is a fantastic wealth of valuable information available. For many of us it is more practical to take what benefits we can from the Internet whilst being aware of the pitfalls - the rest of this article describes some of the ways the Internet can enhance your yoga experience.

Finding information online

Learning more about yoga is easier than ever thanks to all the yoga resources on the Internet. Bear in mind that the quality of information on these sites can be quite mixed, so you need to be critical about what you see, and not necessarily rely on the first place you find. You can find a lot through Google search - here are some examples:

  • yoga poses: names, instructions, benefits, pictures, videos, and even entire classes.
  • yoga philosophy: texts, translations, and interpretations.
  • organisations, publications and online shops.
  • yoga classes, events, holidays and retreats.
  • blogs, stories, advice, and reviews from yoga practitioners around the world.

When looking for classes, you will tend to find mostly the yoga studios through Google. Independent teachers such as many Yoga Scotland members are quite low profile. However they can all be found on the Yoga Scotland website listings of teachers and classes.

Your online presence

For many people the idea of publishing their own material on the internet is daunting, but In fact it’s really easy to make a start. A key question is to think about what you might like to achieve: to advertise your yoga classes, share your personal yoga path, exchange information with other yoga people, or write your own material to help others.

Depending on that, you might be best with a website, or perhaps something else. The rest of this article talks about the main options, and how they can work for you. The material is presented in the context of yoga, but mostly would apply equally well to another business, organisation or hobby.

Directory Websites

A directory website is a site created by another organisation where you can post a listing, a bit like a Yellow Pages. Some are general to any trade, others are specific to a particular area such as yoga. For yoga teachers, these are an excellent way to start raising your profile, and get awareness of your classes.

Most offer a basic listing for free, so it is a great way to get started. To find the right listing for you, decide what your audience are likely to search for; do your own search for that, and the site you find most easily is likely to be the best place to be. Keep track of where you listed so that you can update it if anything changes.

With directory websites you have no control over how your listing appears - typically you can present a few facts, but not write any more detail to make it personal. Ideally you will want to have other presences too.

Facebook

Facebook and other ‘Social Media’ tools are places where you register as a member, and then you have a space to place little snippets of news and information, pictures, and links to what you like. You can make friends with people and chat. Facebook is good if you are trying to connect with people who already use Facebook, and you are prepared to put the effort in keep it up to date.

On the negative side, however, people who don’t use Facebook can’t see your page. A second disadvantage is that new posts automatically push old ones out of view, so it’s hard to present important information that doesn’t change often (like your regular venue or class schedule). Finally, Facebook is free to use, but in exchange you have to have advertising appear on your page, over which you have no control - some people might be uncomfortable about that.

Free Blogging sites

A blog is a special kind of website that is simply a series of articles. It is similar to Facebook, but it is easier to develop longer thoughts or ideas, and can be seen by anyone. There are several good free blogging sites, like Wordpress, Tumblr or Blogger. With any of them you can be started and blogging very quickly, without any technical knowledge at all.

The disadvantage to free blog sites is that they are limited as to what else you can do, and again, they are oriented towards recent and ‘newsy’ content, so things like class schedules can get a bit lost. However if you are unsure of what kind of online presence you want, a blog is a great way to test the waters without too much commitment.

An example of a personal blog using a free blogging site is: http://my-yoga-blog.blogspot.co.uk/

DIY website builders

DIY Website Builders are companies that offer a complete out-of-the-box working website. You start by choosing a ‘theme’ and a colour scheme, then you can add pages, with words and images. This means it’s pretty flexible, for example you can have your class schedule, some information about you, plus regular updates about your classes or Yoga in general.

If your needs are simple, you have the time, and a willingness to solve any problems yourself, a DIY website builder is a great way to start out. There’s little financial risk, as they almost all have a free starter package. Beware as some of Website Builders are awful! Here are a few quite good ones; it is worth doing a bit of research as they each have their strengths and weaknesses.

Google Sites - Google’s free website service offers a limited set of templates and options, but is really easy to use. There isn’t any catch - it does exactly what it says. However, like similar free web services, it can be really slow, and it is hard to transfer your information once you decide you have outgrown it.

WIX is a commercial website provider which offers a basic set of features for free. There are lots of clever pre-built templates (including a yoga class site), which work well on phones and tablets too. There is a monthly fee to add features or to avoid advertising appearing on your site. 

Drupal Gardens is a free building service using a very popular piece of software. Drupal Gardens offers a huge amount of choice which lets you build a really customised site, but that does make it more technically complex and potentially bewildering. Drupal Gardens charges a monthly hosting fee once your website reaches a certain size or for extra features.

An example of a yoga website using Google Sites is http://www.scottishschoolofyogatherapy.co.uk/

Professionally built website

A professional website designer can create a website exactly the way you want it, helping fill in the gaps where you aren’t sure. Once the site is running, you can login to update or add to the site, with minimal technical knowledge needed, and someone on hand to help if you get stuck.

A good professional website is more flexible, better looking, and easier to use even on smartphones. A good developer will solve problems you didn’t even think of, like improving your ranking in Google search and ensuring your website content is safe even if you make a mistake.

Of course the downside is the cost. However modern software is powerful, so a designer can get results fast, meaning the costs might be less than you expect - starting from around £600. If your website is supporting your livelihood, you are short of time, or nervous about computers, then it’s well worth considering.

The cost can be brought down by sharing a website with other yoga teachers or others offering complementary services. There are other advantages to sharing a website, like sharing the burden of keeping it up to date. With more information, your site is more visible presence online than each of you would be individually.

An example of a shared website is http://www.edinburghyogaclass.com.

It’s vital to find a good designer. Big agencies are often too expensive for small businesses. Many of the budget offerings are very limited and not even as good as the DIY builders. To evaluate a company, ask to see examples of other websites they have done, and check how much time the developer will spend talking to you whilst developing your site. Watch out for hidden costs, such as a high monthly fee to run the website. Get in touch - a good designer will be happy to have a chat with no obligation.

An example of a professionally built yoga website is http://www.yogawithbijam.co.uk.

Conclusion

There is so much information out there - the Internet helped me start practising at home with online yoga class videos, and I used it to find some great Yoga teachers and retreats. However don’t let it take over your practice time!

Don’t be afraid to take the plunge and make a presence online. When I started working as a Thai massage therapist, I wrote a basic DIY website with some info and my contact details. It helped me to get better known in Edinburgh, and for clients to find out about me. As my business grew, I switched to a professionally built site, and it’s much better to look at, to use, and to read. I found that the idea of having a blog is a lot more exciting than actually writing it week-by-week, and I wasn’t very interested in using Facebook, so I don’t.

Everyone’s interests are different, so my last piece of advice is to find a way to get online that suits you and you feel comfortable with, and that way is always the best way.