Yoga Learning: In-Person vs. Online

The pandemic of the last year shifted most education online. Yoga courses too have shifted online. I have reflected for a long time now, even before this shift, on the role of in-person and online learning in yoga trainings.

Strengths of in-person learning:

1. The physical presence of people influences us, and gives non-verbal feedback as well as support and motivation.

 2. The intensive format enforces commitment and eliminates daily life distractions.

3. Being in a shared physical space allows wider multisensory learning.

In-person learning is what evolution has prepared us for; it is the most natural way of learning. Many wellbeing skills, especially related to movement, are supported best by learning in-person with feedback. We also learn teaching skills best by teaching others first in a controlled environment; this is facilitated most effectively in-person.

That said, the advantages of in-person learning can also be a weakness if we rely too much on the environment, group, or presence of the teacher to drive our learning.

Online learning cannot fully substitute for the physical presence of the group and teacher, nor can it fully replace the experience of in-person teaching practice. Absorption in the subject is certainly harder too.

But online learning also has strengths that in-person learning cannot substitute:

1. Most important: a shift toward long-term learning, with gradual and repeated engagement. We can revisit the recorded content for self-paced absorption over months instead of days. This is how traditional yoga learning took place.

2. There are outstanding teachers whose physical presence we cannot experience regularly, but we can learn from them online. It raises the quality of teachings available to us.

3. The material can be structured much more systematically than a live presentation can. This is important for lifelong learning.

4. Online learning does not have to fit all the topics to the schedule of a day as it is meant to be consumed over time. This is more realistic, closer to how students and teachers would apply the skills and information in daily life.

Online trainings can be valuable, even if in-person trainings cover the same topics—the online version can provide a reference, structure, details, access to expert teachers, follow-up over time, and the ability to revisit and revise the materials. But they are less effective if they simply duplicate in-person yoga trainings’ format online.

Online trainings should ideally be designed differently from in-person trainings, with a focus on facilitating self-learning—incorporate shorter sessions, longer time between sessions, detailed structure, systematic guidance on using the materials, and long-term follow-up. Also, some materials are more easily transferred to online learning than others, and we must plan accordingly.

 Thank you for reading!

 Dr. Ganesh Mohan