Live classes bring human connection in isolation

By Rebecca Mugridge

Gyms, sports clubs and ballet studios across Australia are closed due to Coronavirus, but there are teachers determined to help maintain people’s physical and mental health through live-streamed classes.

Jodi BarreYoga ballet and barre pilates instructor Jodi Coman is looking to outside-the-box methods to help students maintain their fitness and reduce stress levels.

As a former ballerina, Jodi said staying active and fit was really important for mental and physical health.

“People need to keep moving, they need to breathe and know everything is going to be okay,” she said.

“Being a fitness instructor… I don’t want people sitting on the couch and just feeling awful, if they can get up and still do their normal routine or get a workout in, they will be so much happier.”

Around the world online and live classes are now helping people and athletes to stay fit, active and connected.

Hashtags and challenges are also popping up all over Instagram and Tiktok.

The #InHouseChallenge and the #StayAtHomeChallenge are two popular hashtags connecting people to fitness challenges.

Basketballers have also been enjoying free online training with classes like the US based @shootin_school.

Ballerinas now have access to training with the likes of Tiler Peck, the New York City Ballet Principal Ballerina, Brisbane’s Claudia Dean, a former Artist of The Royal Ballet and Katherina Markowskaja, the former Principal with the Dresden Semperoper Ballet.

For people like Adriana Shea, live classes like the ones she does with Jodi have given her interaction with people she otherwise wouldn’t have.

“With my illness I am high risk [for Coronavirus] so I just don’t see people,” she said.

“I can go for a walk and I can take the dog for a walk and that’s it.

“To see those happy faces everyday [in the class] means a lot.

Adriana had major surgery in 2018 and couldn’t move for three months, which meant she put on weight and had to start exercising on her doctor’s advice.

She found Jodi’s classes and became a regular attendee so was relieved when the live sessions were added.

“I also have Crohn’s disease and at the time [after my surgery] it wasn’t very well controlled, so I was quite unwell,” she said.

“Some people might feel awkward at first about a live class but you can always turn your camera off.

“It’s actually lots of laughing and even sometimes a little bit of swearing, it’s fun.”

She said it can be a much-needed reprieve in times of stress.

“One of my dogs passed away last week so I just didn’t feel like doing anything and when I went back I [realised] this is good for my mind, I should have been doing this,” she said.

Adriana said you don’t need to be an expert ballerina or even have a ballet barre.

“I just use a chair [for a ballet barre] and I actually have the Twilight Breaking Dawn book as my yoga block,” she said.

Jodi Coman brings beautiful ballet lines to online fitness. Picture supplied

Jodi said she has chosen live classes as a platform because of the connection it provides.

“Online videos are a great option, but they don’t really keep you accountable, which can mean people don’t get the benefits they would from an in-person class,” she said.

“I’m not doing online classes.

“I’m actually doing online streaming, so I’m right there.

“I can see you and you can see me.

“There is nowhere to hide.”

Jodi said the benefit of live streaming was the real-time corrections and human interaction.

“With a live I can help attendees adjust posture and exercise correctly and push through sets and stretches like a normal class or training session,” she said.

“And, because it is live, it’s all about connecting with people, so they still have that in-class experience.

“I can see them, and we can talk, it helps people feel less isolated.”

Catriona Cornelius is an international attendee who said she was delighted with the new sessions.

“I jumped at the chance to do a live class from Hong Kong after trying one in person on the Sunshine Coast while in Australia,” she said.

“I love that it is a live because I can even see my mother in Australia doing her moves, we try to do the same class so it’s motivating to each other.”

Catriona said her daughters now join in too as they are learning from home, making it a three-generation family catch up over a fitness class, despite the distance separating them.

Jodi said anxiety due to isolation and change was stressful, especially for athletic people who usually train at a high level.

“Many people have lost upcoming important events, performances and competitions so staying active but also calm through Coronavirus is so important,” Jodi said.

Many Sunshine Coast dance schools are also moving to live stream and online class combinations, keeping the sport alive and hundreds of dancers in training.

Thanks to the internet, athletes and non-athletes alike now have access to a wide range of options.

From Australian Acro to a Misty Copeland Ballet Masterclass to cheerleading with All Star Cheer and Dance.

You can find a Hiit workout with Get Hiit from Caloundra or an aerobics class for all levels with Premier Gymnastics.

For a lot of people Coronavirus has meant an abrupt loss of human connection and interaction.

Putting the important fitness element aside, online and live classes are also one way people can bring a little bit of that connection back into their lives.

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