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Yoga in the Time of COVID-19: How USC Student Tiana Hannemann is Sharing Her Practice

In the time of social distancing, one of many concerns people have voiced is how they will stay active while gyms and workout studios have closed for the foreseeable future. Studios often become like second homes for the people who routinely attend classes.  

USC sophomore Tiana Hannenmann had similar concerns. A CorePower Yoga instructor, Tiana and her dad, Max, were left without a studio or students to go to after CorePower laid off all their staff in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.  

“It [teaching yoga] was a way that we could connect with others throughout our week,” Tiana said. “We were like, ‘how can we continue teaching?” The two decided to turn to Instagram to live stream their classes and in just under a month have gained a following of avid yogis from all across the globe. 

Max had already garnered a following at the Corepower in Honolulu, so it was no surprise that people tuned into their classes. However, it was the widespread response from people all over the world that was the true shocker. “I had no idea it would get to an international level,” Tiana said. Their classes have reached people inside and outside the United States, from South Africa to Germany. 

They made the choice to use Instagram because the interface is user-friendly and something people are already accustomed to. However, it also allows for real-time interaction between student and instructor. “In a normal class, if someone were to talk I would think that’s rude. But because it’s such an interactive platform, they can ask questions and cheer on each other without feeling like they are interrupting class.” 

This interaction is exactly what makes Tiana and Max’s class so special. In a time of social isolation it’s easy to feel unmotivated and well, isolated. The classes reach over 100 viewers on their live stream but the participation goes further than those that tune in live. Tiana saves the workouts on her IGTV page and posts them to their YouTube channel Max and Tiana, allowing people who live in different time zones to tune in. “Not only is it just that 100 people are viewing the video, but they’re doing it in groups,” Tiana shared. “It’s a hundred but so much more. It’s super mind-blowing to me. I can’t even imagine having a room big enough to fit this many people.”

And while motivating ourselves to work out can be difficult, Tiana’s classes provide more than just a workout for the body. Each class opens with a theme or something to think about while practicing. “I think our classes are not only bringing fitness into people’s lives and more physical activity, but are also bringing mental clarity.” 

In addition to providing necessary mental fortitude, these classes have given people a positive light in otherwise very dark times. “I know the typical yoga is very ‘alright namaste, let’s be quiet,’” Tiana shared. “But I think people have a lot of pent up energy right now. They need positivity, they need to laugh, and they need to feel happy.” 

And while these classes are helping people who are cooped up in their homes retain a sense of sanity, Tiana has also used this platform as a way to give back to her own community. “We aren’t doing this for a living so I would never ask for donation-based classes,” Tiana explained. “But I did a class that said the number of views I get is the monetary value I’ll donate to my local COVID relief fund.” Not only did Tiana raise the money from the people that attended her classes, but she also inspired other people who weren’t even residents of Hawaii to donate to the fund. “I didn’t realize the gift I could keep on giving. I knew I could continue working at CorePower and touch people’s lives there. I thought losing CorePower was going to take away some of my identity.” 

As for the future of these classes, Tiana said that “until this is over we are committed to continuing to put out the videos.” She shared that her dad says “there really is no light at the end of the tunnel yet.” That may be true, but even with a dark and unforeseeable road ahead, Tiana and Max are able to provide the light and glimmer of optimism for many people throughout their days. 

Tiana and Max hold classes live on Instagram (@tianahannemann) Tuesday and Thursday at 5:00pm HST and Saturday and Sunday at 9:00am HST.

Maia Kirkpatrick is a student at the University of Southern California majoring in Cinema and Media studies. You can keep up with her art school alter ego "Piper" on her instagram @maiakirkpatrick.
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