Back to the Gym with Yoga Instructor Teerawat Nantiyakul

The fifth wave of covid has wreaked havoc on Hong Kong as a whole. The city has seen a record number of daily cases and some of the toughest restrictions in the world. Like many industries, the fitness world has been hit hard. From closing gyms to closing gyms completely, some have had to adapt and change their approach to training their clients.

With gyms reopening on April 21, 2022, we caught up with trainers across the city to see how they handled the lockdown, how they continued to manage each client’s progress, and more.

Yogi Teerawat Nantiyakul

Teerawat Nantiyakul, yoga instructor at XYZ and Asaya Wellness, shares her secret to getting back into the gym routine.

How would you describe your gym to someone looking to get in shape?

Functional, minimalist and zen. My space is focused on yoga and mobility with a nature atmosphere. This is where my clients are invited to slow down, detach from the city and give time to explore their body and mind. That’s why I use visuals and sound to help clients get into the optimal mood and intent for the practice.

What was the biggest difficulty you had during the lockdown and how did you cope?

Commitment and quality of the class – it’s a triple problem.

First, see everyone on screen! I moved all my courses online. Engaging with 1-2 clients is fine during private sessions, however, group classes are a whole other game. I had between 15 and 50 students, so I couldn’t see everyone simultaneously during practice, let alone give verbal adjustments. Luckily, I have an empty wall in my apartment, so I managed to hook my teaching setup up to a projector – hah! Problem solved.

The second challenge was video and sound quality because who likes working out when the sound is terrible, or pixelated video? It took me a few lessons to get the camera angle and wireless mic in place to pick up all my movements, voice and handpan playing (during savasana).

Most importantly, I used some key teaching techniques to keep clients engaged – putting on my creative teacher hat, almost like I was a live TV host. Yoga cues should be cleaner than in-person classes, so clients don’t hurt themselves and know exactly what you want them to try, especially during vinyasa classes! Imagine teaching a flow – you can’t stop, can you? It’s less about ‘delivering’ and ‘instructing’, more about ‘sharing’ and ‘engaging’ to keep customers inspired. It’s a constant process of predicting, interacting, getting feedback to check in with everyone, like simple thumbs up or thumbs down, pattern detection and thinking on the spot. I have clients connecting from Canada, USA, Morocco, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and of course Hong Kong so I had to keep the fun of create the online community of practice.

Yogi Teerawat Nantiyakul

How have you changed your clients’ workouts?

Privates are individualized for personal goals/needs, of course. Group yoga classes are rotated to practice new themes all other classes, Baby Bends, Happy Hips, Arm Balancing and Ladder Flow. This way my clients have time to recover. It was hilarious (and rewarding) to receive a dozen messages after each class about everyone’s pain. The pain went away after a while because everyone got stronger, so I was proud to see that change over the past few months.

How do you motivate your clients to train?

Challenge them with a new skill or pose that complements their practice. The cool thing about yoga is that there are over 8000 asanas, and you can always come up with your own fun variations depending on need and purpose. I believe in allowing people to discover the possibilities of their individual bodies to open their minds. It has proven effective for me and my clients so far.

Throwing (dad’s) yoga jokes and sharing true stories every once in a while during practice also makes it authentic. As instructors, we have to find that balance between being technical and being human. If we can move seamlessly between the two parties while educating our customers, we’re golden. It’s about maintaining honest communication and growing together. Like anything worthwhile; it is a process.

What new programs can we expect from you now that gyms and yoga studios are reopening on April 21?

Inversions (all things upside down – handstands, elbows, etc.), Arm Balancing and Backbend workshops with lots of anatomy and geek science. It’s less about achieving form or pose than knowing how to progress safely, get stronger, change our nervous system and mindset of practice. To combine it all into one moving meditation, Ladder Flow ties it all together in a fun and challenging vinyasa. I’ve been working on new transitions that I can’t wait to release and share.

What are your best secrets for developing a yoga habit?

I have two that I live and practice with. First, choose complex moves to challenge your brain. Your brain and body hit a rapid plateau if you keep training repetitively because it’s smart and efficient. It adapts. So let your body and mind solve the problems by exploring and having fun. Your fitness journey will also be more sustainable and attainable.

Second, add pranayama/breathwork and meditation to your training. Think of it as your daily check-in hour to cultivate the right mindset while upgrading/oiling/cleaning the vehicle most important to you. You will be more aware of your well-being and you will feel good. It’s the best choice I made years ago, and I don’t know how I lived without practicing it. Level up big.