A yoga instructor forced to spend nearly a year running classes from the tight confines of her narrowboat home has seen her business’s video sessions attract students from around the world.
People in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and across Europe have 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 income 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 a charity’s yoga teacher training business in April and has since seen it grab the attention of yoga enthusiasts thousands of miles away.
“We can sometimes be in a session and we’ve got nearly every time zone covered… I never thought that would happen,” Ms McAtee said.
She added: “I ran a class end of last year and there was a student in Australia who was getting up at 3.30 in the morning.”
Getting ready for an online class involves regular rearranging of furniture on board her 72ft-long narrowboat, while yoga poses are adapted to accommodate the limited space.
Ms McAtee explained: “The narrowboat is 6ft wide and I am 6ft tall. When I extend my arms out I can touch the wall and the window. So I can’t extend my arms fully.
“The ceiling is 6’3 so I can’t lift my arms up above my head. So there’s a little bit of movie magic that happens when I’m broadcasting on Zoom to get my whole body in the frame.
“So it’s tight, but I’ve adapted and I make light of it when I’m teaching on Zoom.
“I think my students really like that I live and teach on a narrowboat, it’s a bit different.”
Originally from Brisbane, Ms McAtee has lived in the UK for five years, and leads Nourish Yoga Training’s team of six who deliver classes for students and teachers to an average of 10 people a day.
She emphasised their approach to yoga draws on “a bit of everything” and their focus on inclusivity allows them to work with pregnant women, those with mental health conditions or people who might find mainstream yoga challenging.
Ms McAtee said: “This is a time when everybody 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 one day returns to normal she said she looks forward to being in the same room as students again.
Online learning is “different” she admits, even though it still brings “lots of benefits”, with things like touching, chanting or hearing breath not the same over Zoom.
The pandemic and its accompanying restrictions have been “really tough” for yoga teachers, Ms McAtee said, with studios closing.
The first lockdown saw her own income halve overnight, with her admitting it was “pretty stressful” to get her business up and running online.
Praising her team, she said the “heartwarming response” from students had “inspired” her.
“When it’s been the deepest darkest days of lockdown and motivation has been low, I touch back into how incredible the community of people that I get to work with is and that’s always a source of inspiration,” she said.
Life under lockdown on her narrowboat, a former floating restaurant, has at times been “tough”, but Ms McAtee has been able to spend time with a support bubble.
Busy towpaths at a previous mooring made social-distancing “challenging”, and she misses her “amazing collection of friends” and interacting with her students.
But she added: “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else other than my boat during lockdown. It’s such a great way to live, it’s such a good lifestyle.
“Yeah, it can be a bit cold in winter, and the mud is annoying, but to be able to look out my window onto the river and into nature is pretty incomparable.”