About Carly Stong
Carly Stong is an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT®500) as well as the Educational Director of and Lead Instructor at Yoga Teacher Training Kingston. Having completed her post-secondary degrees in Kinesiology and Health Studies as well as Education, Carly offers a contemporary movement education informed by science as well as experience that is built on the pillars of accessibility and empowerment and rooted in social activism. As a passionate advocate for body positivity, Carly teaches about accessible movement and anti-oppression for yoga studios and movement instructors. Her approach to inclusion is modern and informed by a fully embodied and integrated experience. While teaching classes online or facilitating teacher trainings, her trauma-sensitive approach reframes accessibility as the default and not the exception. When she is not at home in Kingston, Ontario with her husband and young daughters, Carly fosters community and connection all over the world through her blog, workshops, classes, retreats, and yoga teacher trainings.
To get more information about the Mindful Strength 30-day Practice Progression click here
To learn more about the Mindful Strength Membership click here
About This Episode
Kathryn welcomes Carly Stong back to talk in greater depth about accessible movement. Carly highlights how accessibility in movement can become a buzzword and co-opted to attract audiences.
She shares insights on how studios can genuinely create accessible spaces through resources, education, setting clear expectations, and descriptions of what classes are like. They discuss how accessible movement has transitioned into the online world, including the barriers virtual practice eliminates and may create.
300+ Hour Teacher Training
Hey Everyone. Welcome back. Today on the podcast I am here with my friend and colleague Carly Stong. Carly and I recorded this podcast from my house. She lives just a couple of hours away from me, and it’s always so wonderful to get to hang out with Carly and have a conversation. Carly has been teaching yoga for about a decade and she really focuses on inclusion. She teaches different types of classes.
She teaches teacher training. She has taught a workshop for my teachers’ immersion before. She’s really really a wonderful resource. In this episode, you’ll hear us talking about the idea of an all-levels class. Specific classes for specific communities and why that can be helpful, as well as the idea of making things for everyone. How we can do that but also is that really possible?
I also want to let you know that Carly Stong is one of our most recent guest teachers in the Mindful Strength Membership. If you want to get a chance to actually practice with Carly, we have two classes from her coming up. If you want to get started with those classes, head over to watch.mindfulstrength.ca. Sign up for our membership and you’ll be able to practice with her class, our classes, and other guest instructors that we’ve put up so far.
Before we get into the episode, I wanted to tell everyone about our 30-day practice progression. Kyle and I recorded this 30-day progression that really is a combination of mat practice, strength training, and restorative practice every day.
You get access to one practice video. All of them are under 30 minutes. Most of the days are more on the active side, but we also have restorative days, more breath-focused days, and mobility days. This practice progression is designed to do a little something every day. It’s not a challenge where we’re building up to one thing. It’s really about developing consistency with our practice especially as we get into the fall season.
Things are getting a little bit cooler, at least where I live they are. People are moving back indoors for more of their movement practice. This 30-day sequence will help you build that resilience and that consistency. This is going to be included in the Mindful Strength Membership, which is pretty amazing. You can get signed up for a membership. If you want to just buy the 30-day practice progression and not be involved in the rest of the membership, you can also do that.
You can buy it as a single product. To learn more about all of this you can head over to our online practice platform at watch.mindfulstrength.ca. All right everyone, here is my interview with Carly Stong.
All right Carly.
Carly Stong: Hello.
Kathryn: Welcome back.
Carly Stong: Thank you. Nice to be here.
This is the third time around for us and the third time we’ve actually been in the same room when we’re recording the podcast which is always extra special. When the person is actually here, I don’t need to write down a bunch of questions and make notes. That is so different from doing these online where it’s a little bit more stressful.
Carly Stong: Yeah. It feels very conversational when you and I get together. Then I find that my voice turns into your voice. I can’t tell who’s who because I pick up your intonation and then you pick up mine and then I’m like: who asked that and who answered it?
Kathryn: We have a very loose plan to talk about a couple of different things today. Just in case the listeners are new to the podcast or they’re new to you and your work: do you want to take a couple of minutes and tell people a little bit about who you are and the type of work that you do? Maybe how that has shifted over the last year or so.
Carly Stong: [00:04:47]
Mm-hmm. I think the last time I was on the podcast was about a year ago actually. My name is Carly Stong. I am a yoga and movement teacher. I teach yoga teacher trainings. I teach private classes. I teach classes mostly centered around the ideas of accessibility, anti-oppression, consent, and agency within a yoga space. When I’m teaching “regular” drop-in class those themes are always present. In the last year since I’ve been here, I closed the brick and mortar studio and moved to online, as well as I would say traveling around B.C.
Before COVID I was traveling around to other studios. I was invited to a lot of amazing trainings, including yours, to teach about accessibility. It’s been so affirming for the work that I do it. This is not just the practice that I teach, but how I live my life in an inclusive, body-positive, body natural sort of way. It has been so inspiring to see so many other trainings that are making that a priority.
Was your first introduction to yoga this really inclusive and accessible yoga?
Carly Stong: No.
Kathryn: So tell me about that.
Carly Stong: [00:06:11]
That was like probably 10 or 15 years ago and it was like: this is the practice. It was very much like there were peak poses and was “this is what you’re doing”. it was that idea of “practice and all is coming” kind of thing.
The inclusivity portion came because I was a bigger-bodied person trying to fit into that space. I wanted really badly to make it work. I found a lot of benefits to the yoga practice. Not necessarily how I was feeling because I was in a lot of pain when I think back to it. Being connected to my body, being present, moving in a space with other people, and even the ambiance of a yoga space. I really resonated with spirituality. All of those components.
The physical part I kind of figured out for myself. I really never let the shape of my body hold me back from anything. I went on and did a yoga teacher training. When I started teaching yoga, one of the things I heard often at that time was how inspiring it was to see somebody who didn’t look like, you know, the Yogi body. The tall thin like scantily clad whatever very flexible able-bodied person.
It was inspiring to people who resonated more with something down on my end of the spectrum.
They could see that person can actually teach. It was hard to hear sometimes because it was like: “oh my gosh, they can see my vulnerability” Yet in that leadership role I feel like vulnerability is kind of our power, you know? When you can be vulnerable and be seen in that. I feel like that relationship between those people seeing me made themselves rethink their own bodies.
Same with me. It made me rethink my body as well that. My space in the yoga world could be creating a voice for people who maybe felt like that that space wasn’t for them. I kind of paved out that. Over the years I think I’ve seen more and more and more and more of the movement of inclusivity. Of course, it has been co-opted by people with good intentions. I think sometimes or most of the time they try to be or claim to be inclusive.
I don’t think we talked about that in the first interview but yet it’s always so interesting. Especially for people like you who’ve been doing this for, I mean how long have you been teaching for?
Carly Stong: Almost ten years.
OK, so you’ve been doing this for a decade and I started doing strengthening and mobility and functional movement about a decade ago. I remember what it was like for me growing up in the yoga community movement coming back then. From what I could tell at least, the people I was following online and communicating with, not a lot of people were talking about all the things we’re talking about now. From my perspective: not a lot of people who were really into Ashtanga we’re also talking about cross-training and strength training. There was really that gap and I felt like: “Okay, this is really different but this is something new. Maybe people are going be open to this”.
That’s so interesting because now almost 10 years later, of course, everyone is doing all of the things and super interested in different modalities. I feel like you know you are one of the early adopters of all of these things based on your own needs. You saw that “okay, there’s this huge gap here in this community. A whole bunch of people probably don’t really feel like this practice is for them and that’s a problem”. You were seeing “oh my goodness, this is actually so helpful for me and my body”.
Carly Stong: [00:10:12]
Yeah totally. I don’t feel like it’s that dissimilar to your experience bringing strength training and integrating them into a yoga space because, you know, sometimes you feel like the fish swimming against the current. It takes time for people to find out about that and it takes time for that to grow. I feel like it was just so clearly needed. Of course, there are other things you could do. There are other things that I could do, but to make that like your kind of your niche or your specialty was important, you know?
I feel like that’s when I saw that this has the potential of being my life’s work because it’s important for so many more reasons than just having people come into the yoga space. Not unlike yourself, it empowers people. When people feel empowered, I’ve said it before on this podcast, but I’ve had people who felt brave enough to put themselves online for online dating. They met their long term partner or swam for the first time in 12 years or did home renovations because they felt confident in their own bodies enough to climb a ladder. Your life expands when you feel empowered.
The space where that begins is within the boundaries of a yoga mat. That’s magical. That’s incredible what an honor to hold space for that. My vulnerability was nonsense when you compare it to that possibility.
Mm-hmm. You mentioned a couple of minutes ago “co-opting”. Talk to us a little bit about that. What does that mean? What do you mean?
Carly Stong: The idea of co-opting, as I understand it, is when something that begins as a legitimate movement against oppression in any of its forms becomes more popular, and therefore trendy and marketable. People who might not be very familiar with, for example, body neutrality or safe spaces for bigger-bodied people, try to attract that audience or try to gain a piece of that pie. Marketing makes it seem as though this is a space where a bigger-bodied person could feel supported, could feel safe, and could find a place to practice.
The co-opting happens when they don’t have the information or resources. It’s this idea of intention versus impact. When you get to that space it was just empty words and it’s just another yoga class, like all the other yoga classes, but with a different name. I almost feel like that’s more harmful than just having like “Power Yoga for Fit People”. That’s the class you’re teaching. Mind you most of the time when I see it, I feel like it’s less intentional than that. Certainly big companies I see it as a very intentional, trying in a capitalist market trying to gain a piece of what looks like a profitable pie.
You spoke of this in your podcast with me. I forget their last name.
Carly Stong: [00:13:25]
Yes. Yes. That’s right. They were saying the same thing. You’ll go to a class, I’ve been that person in the class, and there are no props available the poses or they’re offering are not accessible. Their intention was to be accessible, but in practice, it isn’t accessible, or at least not accessible to my body.
I was going to ask you about marketing and representation. Right now a lot of people are talking about representation. Maybe on a poster that would have had five thin, white flexible cis-gender women dropping back into whatever pose. Maybe it would be helpful if like other bodies are represented on posters.
I also feel for someone to that poster and be like: “oh wow, that looks like something I could do. I feel represented. This is awesome. I’ll go there”. Then they show up and that is not the reality in front of them. That feels like it could be super harmful. I feel like right now there’s a lot of media that’s like “you need to have like people of color on your poster and larger bodies and all kinds of people in your posters and in your marketing”. Then the reality of the community is that it’s not actually diverse or inclusive.
Carly Stong: [00:15:01]
Bing bing bing bing bing. I see that a lot. I totally agree with you. I feel like that’s more harmful. Where people talk about creating classes with the goal of inclusive is to to create a class that anyone can come to, I feel like it’s a little unrealistic.
I think that you can create a class for anyone, but I don’t know you could do that class at the same time. What I think it comes down to is expectation management. If I have that poster of all these different bodies doing different variations and it was a stock photo that I got online, I feel like it’s like an empty expectation or an empty promise. You don’t actually have that. I spend a lot of my time coaching yoga teachers and yoga studio owners from the business perspective.
That’s a big thing I talked to them about: taking their stock photos away and replacing it with photos of them in their real studio, with real students that actually come. Then looking at that. Instead of just “let’s include bigger-bodied people, people of color, men, people that have tattoos, or different looking people”, look at who’s actually showing up at classes. Think “what can we do from the inside out, not the outside into grant more access to the populations that aren’t showing up”. Who’s included and who is excluded? Not just in my marketing, but everything: where I market, what the schedule is, the prices, and the list goes on and on and on and on.
Yeah, we were talking about this earlier today and you said: if you want to know if your classes are accessible, look around at who’s coming to.
Carly Stong: Yeah. If you want to know you’re truly an accessible yoga teacher, look at what their practice shows up at. I know that I’m doing my job well when I can see a whole bunch of different expressions in the physical yoga practice.
Kathryn: Yeah. OK. I’ve asked other people about this, but I want to ask you. What do you think about the idea of an all-levels class? If teachers or studios are going to have all levels classes on their schedules, what are all of the things that they should be looking at when they’re claiming a class is “all levels”.
Carly Stong: [00:17:30]
I think this is why it can be really difficult. I feel like all levels when people say that, they’re talking about all levels within this particular category of ability or all levels within this activity level. This is why I think specificity and that idea of like expectation management can be really helpful. Not just for the teacher but for the students. If you are an accessible yoga teacher, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to teach all those people all the time.
When I’m teaching, for example, in my description I say people have to be a to get from the floor to standing unassisted. We will be starting on our backs or going on hands and knees, they have to do that. Then I also teach chair yoga because if they’re not able to, I am not like “ok, goodbye, good luck”. I have the other option available.
Then within those people who can go from hands and knees to standing and so on, there are meditative classes where the expectation is very little movement. Maybe gentle movements to prepare us for sitting. Then sitting and doing a guided meditation, which is a different skill, a different interest for people, and a different ability than people who want fast-moving sweaty classes.
I think it’s very appropriate for teachers to be really specific. You could still do yoga for everybody and have gentle moderate sweaty or something like that meditative. Those four categories. Then when you say “everybody ” does that mean everybody who isn’t in a wheelchair, everybody who can go on hands and knees? I find that people think everybody in a really narrows perspective or narrow scope of the average person that comes to class. That’s different. Yoga for the average person that comes to class is different than yoga for everybody.
Yeah. When I lived in Toronto I taught with Downward Dog and taught a certain type of physically demanding, very hot class. When I was only teaching that demographic at that studio, there were a number of years where that was 100 percent of the work I was doing. I also didn’t have the skills that I have now. I started to think that like “oh yeah, anybody could do that. Everyone who shows up can do it. Of course anybody could do this”. Obviously, that’s not the case and not a very accessible way of putting the practice out there into the world.
Carly Stong: [00:20:15]
Yeah and that’s common. You see what you see, right? That’s why I say: who’s coming to your classes is a good expression of how inclusive they are. When I’m thinking of classes, I can think about like people who I know that don’t do yoga. Like my dad, could he do this? He’s an “everybody”. He’s a person, too. My grandma, my 12-year-old cousin, or whatever. Not only can they physically do it, but are they interested in what I’m teaching? Does it serve them off of the mat?
When you start to consider all of those impacts, I can’t imagine that somebody could “successfully” teach to everybody. What my dad cares about, what he needs for movements off of the mat, is a lot different than what my 16-year-old cousin needs for movement and cares about, you know?
Yoga ought to inform your life and your life ought to inform your practice. There are ways that we can be more inclusive. To be inclusive sometimes means being a little exclusive. To be inclusive for bigger bodies, for example, when I was teaching yoga for bigger body people, I was intentionally exclusive so that I could include this demographic that tends to be left out of the yoga conversation.
Right. I think people, now more than ever, are seeing these types of exclusive classes. I think there’s obviously a lot of need for this. People who don’t quite get it yet are like: “well, why do those people need their own class. That’s a good timeslot. I want to go to that”.
Carly Stong: [00:22:00]
I get that a lot: “Can I come to the bigger body classes, because that’s a good timeslot”. I have to create the boundary: “no you can’t”. I don’t have a scale at the door. You get to claim whether or not you’re a bigger body person, but a bigger-bodied person identifies with these particular struggles and requires these particular supports. If that doesn’t resonate with you, then this is not the space for you to position yourself.
That’s, again, expectation management. Part of it is this sense of safety that they’ll be practicing with people, for once, that look like them, that move like them, that’s spoken like them. I can say “lifting your belly off of your thighs” and they don’t have to feel judged or looked at or self-conscious. It just becomes a cue, just like cringing at the hips, you know?
I feel like there’s a lot of these cues and pieces of information that a lot of teachers wouldn’t think about unless that was necessarily their lived experience or they had to like specific training.
Carly Stong: Yeah. I think a big part of it is the lens that you wear, right? When I came to your training and taught about inclusively, I gave groups a specific profile to look at. Thinking about the yoga space that they practice in or that they own in this person’s lens. I think the more that we can do that, the more inclusive our spaces can be. The more you know, the more you can do better. From marketing to the location of your studio to where you’re advertising, what time your classes are, pricing, and then all the way into the practice space.
Do you have props? Do you teach people how to use props? Does everybody get a prop or just when they’re teaching it? Do you ever demonstrate? Does the teacher that you’re in the studio with ever demonstrate the most supported version of pose or are they always working towards peak flows and then lingering there?
I think there’s a lot of room for more accessibility, for sure. There are these big principles that you could apply to any class. Part of that is being really honest about what you can do for whom.
Right. Yeah. When you said “there’s a lot more room for more accessibility” it’s like the real kind of accessibility.
Carly Stong: Yeah. From the inside out.
Kathryn: Yeah. The teacher is actually starting to understand the needs of more people and how to help them learn this practice.
Carly Stong: [00:24:48]
I think, as the teacher, letting go of our expectation of why we’re teaching this pose or what it’s good for or what it feels like, and thinking more of the agency is in the person who’s practicing. I said to you earlier, I think it’s a Jules Mitchell quote, but I am not 100 percent sure. She said: “my job is to introduce a stimulus and that’s it that’s it”. Hold space. I’ll add that. It’s my job to introduce the stimulus and hold space.
It’s not my job to tell people what they’re feeling or what to expect to feel or how this pose could change and adapt and grow. It’s literally just like here’s a pose. Notice what you notice. I’m bringing people into their bodies and then they can make choices.
Carly Stong: [00:25:43]
It’s not very often in the world that word we’re given a space where we’re in complete control in that way. It’s held space and it’s a safe space, ideally. There is no expectation. That goes all the way down to when I’m planning a class. I don’t have an expectation that I’m going to be doing anything. I’m just introducing the stimulus and holding space for whatever comes up.
I want to take a moment in the middle of this episode to tell you about the Mindful Strength Membership. When you join the membership, you get access to weekly live and recorded classes. There’s always something new. Classes and workshops for the guest teachers; a Q&A at the end of our live classes, and a diverse collection of styles: from resistance bands to classes with weights, workouts, yoga classes, and restorative movement.
To learn more about the Mindful Strength Membership and to join us go to mindfulstrength.ca and click membership. All right everyone. Back to the show.
I think from the participants’ point of view unless they’ve thought about these things a lot or they’ve learned the practice with a teacher who has these types of views, it can be challenging for them; to be like: “but what am I supposed to do? What should I be feeling? Is this OK? Is this right? Is this safe? Is this right?”.
You’re just like “I mean, I can help you. If you’re having a hard time with this movement, I can totally help you figure out a way that you could maybe do that, in a way that works better”. At the same time, it’s a real departure from the way that we’re used to looking at movement…
Carly Stong: [00:27:41]
…and teacher-student dynamics.
Kathryn: Hundred percent.
Carly Stong: [00:27:43]
Totally. You’re a great example. I remember “is it supposed to be like this? Is it supposed to be like that?” and you’re like “well does it hurt? No? Great! Keep trying that and see what happens”. Sometimes I hear that with teacher trainees all the time: “well, what are we teaching?”. We’re teaching people how to live their lives. We’re teaching people to have a voice to make choices that they get to be in control. We’re teaching them empowerment, is what we’re teaching.
It’s definitely a big departure from that traditional student-teacher, or rather guru student lineage style teaching. That brings up for me, earlier you were talking about 10 years ago and the practice looks very different. Carol Horton talks about that in a lot of her training or her teachings, about like the big three. In 2004, I think, we lost the third of the big three. Yoga’s really right for this.
Whether it is what’s happening in our culture, as well as being a macrocosm for what’s happening in the yoga space, right? Yoga in this huge sort of the change in dynamic, in intention, and in a lot of things. Part of that is the integration of other movement practices. Part of that is the integration of this idea that you actually get to decide what’s best for yourself. That can be scary or new or different.
I think it’s such an important skill. It’s so much more important than your “alignment”.
Yeah. The things you’re talking about sound to me like the principles of yoga. The bigger picture yoga, not just this ultra appropriated western version that we’ve kind of made up.
Carly Stong: Yeah, that looks really pretty in a picture.
Kathryn: Yeah. That has included some people; a small number of people.
Carly Stong: Yeah, absolutely it does. To me it does.
Kathryn: Mm-hmm mm-hmm. I know a lot of yoga teachers and so we’ve been talking about like teaching online.
Carly Stong: Yeah.
Kathryn: One thing I’ve heard, and I noticed this in myself, I’m taking online classes all the time. A lot of people who share these similar views are really excited about the prospects of online classes because in some ways it gives people even more of like a safer space to work in. People don’t feel like anyone’s watching them necessarily or they can just turn it off or they can do this or they could do that.
The external pressure is always there on some level, even if you have a super-inclusive teacher. There’s always a little bit of kind of wondering what other people might be thinking. A lot of that is gone with online classes. I’m wondering if you also have this idea? What do you think about online teaching and the accessibility of it all?
I think it introduces more accessible components in some ways and is less accessible in others. Who has access to the computer? Who has access to space to practice? Who has access to props? Yeah, you can like MacGyver your props. Oftentimes in a class, they’re like: “OK you need a strap and two blocks and your bolster” and there’s not a lot of discussion about if you don’t have those. What could you use?
Yeah. Who has access to that is a big part of it for sure.
I know that a big part of why people come to the practice is the community and that can be really hard. Not impossible because right now at this time it’s the best we have, right? Gathering and seeing faces before you practice compared to in a studio space maybe is different. If that’s all you have, it’s a big difference. Right? It makes a big difference. There are certainly ways we can make our practice accessible online. Some of those are the same as what we see in the studio space, and some of those are different.
I can give you some examples. When you’re demoing or when the person that you’re practicing with is demoing, they ought to be showing different options. Sometimes it’d be really nice if they’re landing in the final version for a few breaths and say “you could do this, you could do this, you could do this” and then they’re landing in like the most supported version.
I specifically choose the term options instead of variations. I feel like when we say “variations” it’s this idea that there is a pose and if you can’t do that pose, here are the other variations of that. Variations, to me, would be endless. Introducing those options in a non-hierarchical way, so something like “you could try this, maybe like this, maybe like this”.
As a student, you can certainly turn off your camera. It’s really nice because you could have like headphones in so it becomes more like private. You don’t have to feel seen within the space that you’re in. You don’t need a lot of space. I feel like that’s a hindrance to some people. They don’t have a practice space.
You really need a mat at the end of the bed or even just space at the end of your bed. It’s like all you need to practice. That’s part of the beauty is you have it with you all the time. For teachers, having like closed captioning is really important. If you’re posting to Instagram and so on, using image descriptions is really important because people who are visually impaired can still experience Instagram or Facebook. Their image descriptions would be read out loud by like a program. If it’s kind of a blurry picture and they can’t quite make it out, it will be clear what’s in the picture.
Can you tell us about it? I don’t know how to do that.
Carly Stong: No problem. Captioning your videos, you can do it yourself, or there are apps you can download. You can hire somebody to do it. It just depends on which platform you’re on. Sometimes it’s done automatically. That’s clearer. Image descriptions are if you’re posting something a still image and then you say like “I’m sitting with Kathryn and recording for her podcast”. Then you do this square rocket thing and there’s an image description “currently is sitting” or “you see a long farm table”. If you couldn’t see it, how would I describe it to these people right now?
“Carly’s book is open to her notes, her yellow notebook is open to her notes with her green pencil in the middle. A long dark wood table with Kathryn at the other end and her microphone set up”. You are as specific as possible in terms of what their facial expressions are saying, the colors that are there, and things that might not translate if somebody was visually impaired.
I see people doing this a lot, but I didn’t know that the phone would then read that out.
Carly Stong: They have like screen readers. They have a program they can either put on top so the screen reader reads it aloud for them. They have the caption and then the image description just sort of finishes the picture.
Kathryn: Cool. OK.
Carly Stong: [00:34:59]
Yeah. Then being mindful not to use flashing lights. We see sometimes people out their window and cars are passing by or something like that. That can be disruptive for some people. There was another one I was going to say: oh when you use hashtags like #mindfulstrength, you would do capital M, capital S in the hashtag if its two words. Then it can be read and it’s not just like mindful strength and it makes no sense. It’s like mindful strength. Hashtag mindful strength.
Kathryn: Okay. Okay.
Carly Stong: Image descriptions.
Kathryn: Right, image descriptions. Amazing. Then you’re also talking about closed captioning in classes.
Carly Stong: [00:35:43]
Yes. If you’re recording the classes on Zoom, for example, that’s a built-in feature you can use. You can upload something called Fireflies or something. You could do it on YouTube. They have automatic closed-captioning. Facebook even has it. You just have to look a little bit and you can find them.
Expectation management is just huge. I always include a little bit of an opening protocol telling people: “I’m going to mute the lines. You can meet unmute yourself. If you leave your camera on, I’m going to assume that you’re okay with me like saying out loud ‘great job Kathryn!’ or ‘what happens if you bend your knee a little more’ or something like that other people can hear. If that makes you feel anxious or too seen or what have you, then you’d turn the video off”.
It is really lovely for that. It makes it very clear to be able to tell people to be able to share what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not. I like that as a participant. If I turn my video off it turns, it off for me, too. Sometimes people get distracted just by looking at themselves.
Kathryn: Mm-hmm mm-hmm.
Carly Stong: [00:36:50]
Then being mindful about expert blind spots. I think like you were saying, as you practice and you’re like “well, this is just like the normal person can do all these things” and you forget that your body is now showing an expectation, right? If you’re demoing and you’re the only one in the room, what you can do becomes like an expectation of what it should be or look like.
Being very clear: “I like to do this. I feel this. When I do this in my body, it feels like this, or some people say it feels like that”. You can still talk about feelings or intentions or what have you, but it becomes a kind of an option as opposed to like a destination. Maybe you feel like this or maybe you feel like this or maybe you feel nothing at all. These are the things that you can carry over like in-person classes when they when they’re happening again.
Kathryn: Yeah, it just good skills.
Carly Stong: [00:37:46]
Exactly. Yeah. I’m trying to think if there’s anything else.
The other part where I think that expectation can come in is at the end of a class. People are intending for rest to happen, so they’re coming to savasana lying flat on the ground just like this. They like to show corpse pose or savasana, which can be for the average person very uncomfortable. It’s not often that we come to lie flat like that. Remembering that rest can look different for everyone. If the intention is rest, I always just tell people to come in a pose they’re comfortable sleeping in; laying the expectation that here are some tools you can use.
The intention here is that we’re working towards like concentration and mindfulness: “If you’re already skilled in that, you know, use whatever tool you have. Here is something I use, like counting your exhales or what have you. Then I’m going to stop talking for a few minutes and let you try to practice that on your own. We’re just going to lay here together until you hear my voice again”.
Then it’s silent and you’re bringing them out of the practice. It’s that whole idea again of expectation management, so people know what it is that they’re going into. Lately, I’ve started reminding people this is their practice space. If it was meaningful to them in the yoga studio to have music playing, then turn on some music. If they love essential oils, use essentials because that’s another place it can be more accessible. In the studio space, for example, we were not using any essential oils.
Some people really love them. It’s your house. Turn on Florence and the Machine if you want for savasana. It’s your practice space. You’re on mute. It’s not going to bother anybody. Sit on your lazy boy for savasana. Find your most favorite spot on the comfy couch. There are many many ways that the practices become way more accessible, besides the fact that sometimes they’re accessible at any time because they’re recorded.
You don’t have to commute anywhere. You could take a class with your favorite person. Like I was telling you, I had somebody last week from B.C. and at the same time somebody from Nova Scotia. That would not happen without online. There’s so much opportunity to create more accessibility. With inclusion naturally comes exclusion. We have to still be mindful of who is left out of this new online world. How could we reach those people?
So great. Amazing. I feel like there’s so much good stuff in here.
Last thing. There are different styles of teaching online. I have a certain style when I teach online, typically Kyle and I are in the class together. We’re both demonstrating. We’re doing the class. We’re doing the movements in the class the whole time. It’s a one-way stream on our platform. I wasn’t looking at people’s cameras even when I was teaching on Zoom. I didn’t want to see it necessarily. That’s my style.
I feel like I’m putting out the best class I possibly can. People are picking it up on the other end. I don’t feel like in order for myself to be effective I need to see them or stuff like that. However, different teachers obviously have really different ideas about all of that. I’m wondering if you would share how you like to teach your classes online.
Carly Stong: [00:41:23]
Yeah, I totally know what you mean.
I think part of it comes down to like your learning style, like visual, auditory kinesthetic, and the learning style of the people that you’re teaching. If you’re teaching and nobody’s looking up the camera, then you know they’re auditory learners, you know? What else are they coming to class for? People who come to class to move their bodies in a really specific way for a really specific intention, and feel capable and feel strong, that’s kind of like a practice that they can do without you having to look at them.
For example, if they’re coming in class for that idea of community and connection, it’s a lot harder. I’ve taken classes where they leave things unmuted so that people can chat the way they would in a normal yoga class. Classes where the teacher sits right to the screen so they can see. They pull people up and pin them to the screen and say “hey take a look at what so-and-so is doing and isn’t that amazing” and “great job, Carly” or whatever. Calls out specific people.
It just comes down to 1. expectation management because that’s like the word of the day. The way that you do it has, to be the way you always do it. Somebody is gonna love it and somebody is going to hate it. That’s what you stick to. Oh yeah, and 2. is what the people coming to class resonate with. Either your ideal client or the people who are actually coming or maybe those two things overlap in a perfect world: what do they resonate with?
Over the course of these last few months, I’ve perfected for me and my people. I’m at one end of the room and my recording computers at the other end. It’s big-screen me, so I can always see what they can see for my eyeballs. Then right beside me, I have a smaller laptop that I’ve got a second Zoom account I sign into. I can show a participant’s view, so I can always see what everyone else is doing.
At the beginning of class, I tell people to turn off their monitors if they don’t want to be seen in that way. I’m mute everybody except for me because it’s a little bit of chaos without. There’s a sense of safety too because you can’t always control who’s in your space right now. If your dog barks at the sound of my voice, everybody’s gonna hear it. If your phone rings or someone comes on they’re like “Mom what do you doing?”, you know?
It feels safer to me as a participant to have my thing muted. That’s why I just mute all things and then tell people they can write it in the chat privately to me if they have questions. They can unmute themselves or they leave themselves open for my verbal feedback. That’s the other reason I have the computer beside me because if people type the chat I can see it.
I feel like for introverted people having that chat option is a big deal and the option to turn themselves off. I was listening to a really interesting podcast that talked about the connection in the workplace over Zoom. What’s missing is you don’t have context and connections. For example, if somebody comes to my classes and then they turn off and log out right away, I think “oh my gosh they must have hated my class or whatever”.
If I know that the context is that right after my class they have to jump on to another call, I see it differently.
I go on a little early. There were a few things that that podcast were gems. One of them is: I go on a little early, like five minutes or 10 minutes at the most, and anyone who’s there early we can chat. One of the things that have really been nice to feel is this sense of connection. I’ve asked people to show me their space. Where do you practice? Who else is in your home? What time is it where you are?
Less so about like: “well what do you feel like practicing today” and more so about “who are you? Where are you? What’s happening in your world?”. It’s forged a real sense of connection to the people that are practicing together. I feel like you know them a little bit more, the way you would if we were coming to classes together. That’s been really nice to have this idea as opposed to just like turning on practicing and turning off.
For me, a big part of the yoga practice is about connection. A huge thought topic for myself or has been a challenge for myself the last few months is like: “how can I build connection and keep the connection in this world where we’re not physically connected?”. That can go a long way.
Awesome. If people want to get in touch with you or come to one of your classes online or something like that, where do they go to find that info?
Carly Stong: [00:46:21]
Yes. I’m starting an online teacher training in September but I do them all the time if this is airing after September. Carlystrong.com C A R L Y S T O N G. Stong, not strong dot com. Then Carly Stong on Instagram or Facebook as well. I’m very on the line.
Kathryn: You are here today and you are gonna film two classes for our membership.
Carly Stong: Yeah, so they catch me on the Mindful Strength Movement Membership.
Kathryn: Yay. Amazing.
Carly Stong: Yep. I am going to do chair yoga and I am going to do yoga for bigger body people.
Carly Stong: I’m really looking forward to it.
Kathryn: Yeah me too. All right.
Carly Stong: Thanks so much for having me. I love talking about this stuff.
Kathryn: My pleasure. Thanks for coming back.
Carly Stong: See you.
That’s our show. Thank you everyone so much for listening. If you are listening on Apple Podcasts and you’re loving the Mindful Strength Podcast, please consider leaving us a review. All of the reviews really really help. If you want to learn more about my work, my membership, my teachers’ course, or my new free course called Mindful Strength Foundations, you can head over to mindfulstrength.ca.