How yoga therapists work: Balancing in-person and online offerings

By Erin Ehlers

For 14 years, I owned a small yoga studio and cultivated my yoga therapy business from my long-term presence in my community. I taught small-group yoga therapy sessions and had lots of ability to see clients one-to-one. I also offered massage therapy and had plenty of overlap among yoga students, yoga therapy clients, and massage therapy clients. I closed my studio in 2021 because of the impact of the pandemic and began to offer some of this work online. Then I moved from Boston to Portland, Maine.

Now I teach several general classes in person weekly, offering my detailed and slow style that reflects some of my skills as a yoga therapist while allowing me a presence in spaces where many people find yoga.

I also run virtual yoga therapy courses annually. At first I resisted doing this work online, but I have found that some of the formats I offer—short classes, accessible chair yoga, nonphysical practices—lend themselves nicely to online material that supports clients as they develop a steady home practice. I encourage home practice so my students can explore what I’ve taught them at their own pace and hopefully deepen their experience and understanding.

Live online, in practice

For example, I have taught courses on hip and shoulder therapeutics, providing clients with online livestreams and recorded content based on their goals of reducing pain and increasing strength and mobility. I designed these courses for people who were cleared for exercise by their doctors and who already had some yoga experience. This way, I could create practices for people who could work independently with some live supervision, people for whom orthopedic concerns would make a general yoga class difficult.

A place for in-person offerings

Although I have enjoyed my online work so far, I can clearly see its limitations. Some people do well with the privacy of one-to-one work; they are more comfortable asking questions or disclosing additional information in this setting. For others, an orthopedic complaint may be just one of their concerns; these issues may arise alongside other medical and mental health diagnoses. And other people simply learn and acquire skills better in an in-person format. Perhaps for them hands-on touch is illuminating, or they need to interact with me without cameras and mics and screens in between us. When clients’ issues are complex or require specialized attention, being present in person is a better option.

I consider myself to be an educator; my teaching aims to inform and illuminate. I value understanding more than achievement and hold space for brave questions, critical thinking, and philosophical inquiry. Humor is my secret ingredient for teaching.

Erin Ehlers, LMT, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT, teaches, sees clients, and writes in Maine. Her work focuses on revealing yoga philosophy through physical practice and on merging movement science with the tradition of yoga.