A yoga teacher forced to spend nearly a year teaching classes in the cramped confines of her houseboat home has seen her company’s video sessions attract students from around the world.
People in the US, Australia, New Zealand and across Europe tuned in to follow Harriet McAtee, who broadcasts from her floating residence on the River Thames in Oxford, and her colleagues.
The 30-year-old Australian initially saw her earnings plummet as the coronavirus pandemic plunged the country into its first lockdown last year, but she quickly adapted by moving her work online.
She took over the yoga teacher training business from a charity in April and has since seen it capture the attention of yoga enthusiasts thousands of miles away.
She added: ‘I led a class at the end of last year and there was a student in Australia who was up at 3.30am.
Preparing for an online class involves regularly rearranging the furniture aboard his cramped 72-foot-long boat, while yoga poses are adapted to fit in the limited space.
Ms McAtee explained: ‘The narrowboat is 6ft wide and I am 6ft tall. When I extend my arms, I can touch the wall and the window. So I can’t fully extend my arms.
“The ceiling is 6’3 so I can’t lift my arms above my head. So there’s a bit of cinematic magic that happens when I broadcast on Zoom so that my whole body is in the frame.
“So it’s tight, but I’ve adapted and don’t care when I’m teaching on Zoom.
“I think my students really like me living and teaching on a narrow boat, it’s a bit different.”
She pointed out that their approach to yoga is based on “a little bit of everything” and that their focus on inclusivity allows them to work with pregnant women, people with mental health issues or people who might find the difficult traditional yoga.
Ms McAtee said: “It’s a time when everyone is stuck at home and it’s nice to feel like you’re doing something and connecting with people, there’s a real sense of community. , which I think people really need.”
When life does return to normal one day, she said she can’t wait to be in the same room with the students again.
Online learning is “different”, she admits, although it still brings “a lot of benefits”, with things like touching, singing or hearing the breath not being the same on Zoom.
The pandemic and accompanying restrictions have been “really difficult” for yoga teachers, Ms McAtee said, with studios closing.
The first lockdown saw her own income halve overnight, and she admitted it was ‘quite stressful’ getting her business up and running online.
“When it’s the darkest days of lockdown and motivation is low, I look back on the amazing community of people I work with and it’s always inspiring,” she said.
Life under lockdown on her narrow boat, a former floating restaurant, has been “difficult” at times, but Ms McAtee has been able to spend time with a bubble of support.
Busy towpaths at a previous anchorage have made social distancing ‘difficult’, and she misses her ‘incredible collection of friends’ and interactions with her students.
But she added: “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere but on my boat during lockdown. It’s such a beautiful way to live, it’s such a good lifestyle.
“Yeah, it can get a little cold in the winter, and the mud is boring, but being able to look out the window at the river and nature is quite incomparable.”