Instead of walking down to the Rains Center at Pomona College for her 9 a.m. yoga class this semester, Rhea Gandhi CM ’24 rolls out a yoga mat in her childhood bedroom and strategically positions her laptop to follow a virtual yoga routine.
Gandhi isn’t the only 5C student working out from home — she’s one of the 1,271 students taking a physical education class online this semester, according to data from 5C undergraduate class portals.
With closed campuses, coaches and instructors who normally lead workouts in gymnasiums and on tracks have had to jump through unprecedented hurdles to make sure students keep moving this semester.
Classes from judo to aerobics have been reworked for online learning, addressing problems of equipment availability and adapting to the needs of the students. Now, nearly midway into the semester, physical education classes are adapting to initial setbacks and keeping students active in an unprecedented semester.
Yoga instructor Marisa Gamans said she started building her virtual yoga-pilates class from the ground up over the summer.
“I wanted to keep it balanced and thorough to keep it interesting, fun and a little lighter. I started from scratch, and because I don’t get to see [students] in person, I wanted to offer a range of movements,” she said. “This class had to be very specific due to lack of equipment … We changed it up so the courses would have minimal props.”
The twice-weekly class is a direct result of the pandemic, Gamans said. With no way for students to access pilates reformers, her advanced pilates classes were canceled. However, Gamans still encourages enrollment in introductory classes. Virtually, they’re more accessible and “safer,” Gamans said, requiring minimal equipment and offering a socially distanced source of exercise.
Gandhi said her class hasn’t been without difficulties.
“One thing that I find challenging is being able to see the instructors well on Zoom. It can sometimes be difficult to move around, especially for yoga, and I often feel that I may be doing the poses wrong,” she said. “But it still keeps me motivated and is something I look forward to in the week.”
JoAnne Ferguson, the Pomona-Pitzer women’s softball coach and instructor, misses seeing her students in person and having the ability to read how her athletes are feeling.
“One challenge with teaching PE virtually has been not knowing how hard to push the class physically — since I’m actively leading and participating in the class,” Ferguson said via email. “When I teach in person, I’m able to see the normal visual cues that help me decide when to push the students harder or when to ease up. Another challenge is that I miss being around the students — and their energy.”
Online teaching has made physical education more accessible, Gamans said.
“One silver lining that I have noticed is that it is easier for students to access a class like my own and easier to be more vulnerable,” she said. “Zoom allows students to try something out for the first time without that pressure [of others watching].”