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Story Title: Loving my students with yoga in times of Corona

Contributor Name: Birgit S. Penzenstadler
Created: May 28, 2020 at 9:32 PM

Story: What are your experiences teaching & learning in the time of coronavirus?

I was traveling from Sweden to California for a brief family & friends visit before the world got locked down. Some say we should have seen it coming – well, hindsight… And it was more important to me to be with my partner than to listen to the voices of whom I thought was joking at the time. After I left the Bay Area the morning before they declared lockdown, and left Long Beach for Palm Springs the day before LA declared lockdown, I finally returned to stay in LA with a friend for a longer time to be close to my partner but still not in the same place thanks to family circumstances. There we were, together but separated, and the same was true for my students and me – together on the same online teaching platform but separated by thousands of miles and a time gap of 9 hours. What to do?


I was teaching a course on software analysis and design in the division for software engineering at the department for computer science at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. Yeah, I know, I joke all the time that I live in Batman City just because the name rings a bell. There was no way I was getting up to teach class in the middle of the night – the announced times for the class translated to 1am to 3am California time, so I decided to record them and put them on YouTube. As with any change that happens in a class, some students like it, others don’t. The larger part seemed to enjoy the increased flexibility that came with the recordings and the ability to pause and rewind me whenever needed, but of course the decrease of accountability and immediacy was also noted. Interestingly, my students with learning disabilities really enjoyed the recorded version because they could adapt it to their own rhythm. This was the second time in my career that students with special pedagogical needs seemed to thrive better in an online environment due to the individual pacing. That might serve as a nice point to think about for students who may have standard cognitive abilities but less flexibility in their willingness to adapt to special circumstances.

We handled all questions that came up via discussion forums on the platform that had individual threads per lecture and per assignment. In addition, I had teaching assistants that were available face-to-face in weekly supervision sessions. When students asked for facetime with me, I would offer online office hours, but the majority was happy to stick to email as communication means. 


What I was really bummed about at the beginning of all this was that I had planned a pilot study for investigating the benefits of mindfulness practices in the context of computer work. Preparing for this, I had been teaching colleagues at work yoga classes for half a year, and was hoping to offer yoga and mindfulness interventions during the breaks in the middle of the two longer lecture sessions we were supposed to have every week.

While I was out running after preparing one of the early lectures, I was wondering whether my colleagues were missing the yoga classes, and then it came to me that, duh, I could record some classes and put them online – for both my colleagues as well as the students who decided to take part in the research study.

So I redesigned the study and offered the mindfulness training in a setting that might call for it even more than the original setting, because with working and learning remotely from home, there might be even more mental and emotional stress coming up in addition to less physical activity – all factors that yoga is a wonderful answer to.

The results of the study are not available yet, but the yoga classes, meditations, and breathing exercises are freely available to you on YouTube under bLove Yoga.


Challenges help us grow if we can lean into the fear that comes with facing them. It takes courage to truly love, and it takes courage to make the world a better place, from the very small acts of kindness to the big risks that come with larger leaps. The courage we need in order to grow comes with vulnerability (thanks, Brené Brown, for your fantastic research on this). 

My vulnerability this semester was putting my imperfect self out there on YouTube in yoga clothes and showing my students about how they can learn to get just a little more comfortable in their discomfort as well. That way, they can develop their resilience for pandemics as well as any resulting personal emotional, mental, and physical discomfort.

Keywords/Tags: love, selfcare, meditation, blessing in disguise, redesign, research, adaptation, resilience, mindfulness, yoga

Contributor Comments on the Story

As we are still in the middle of it, the story feels somewhat unfinished - as we have the option to update, that is a minor concern as of now :)