When the lockdown came in mid-March, the valley’s best yoga instructor Richard Odom, who won his third gold this year, went from teaching more than a dozen yoga classes a week to none.
That did not last long.
Despite not being able to meet his students in person, Odom swiftly resumed classes, this time via teleconference. Odom offers his call-in class free of charge, Mondays through Fridays at 12:15 p.m.
“When it was suggested to me at the beginning of the pandemic, I thought nobody would want to do that in the middle of the day,” he said. “I was wrong. It’s been an incredible success. It totally surprised me. People have been getting on from all over the states, doing it in the comfort of their own home in a very relaxed setting, no one looking over their shoulder.
“I’ve gotten good feedback. People have been asking me if I’ll keep doing it even after I restart teaching in person. They enjoy doing it. It’s become part of their life, and I think it’s helping them realize how much they can do on their own, without the expense of clubs and travel.”
Odom’s teaching style has kept him consistently popular throughout the valley and is now attracting new students from across the country.
At the beginning of June, he resumed teaching classes in person at the Wood River Community YMCA in Ketchum. Now, though, with new health concerns, his classes must meet outside and attendance is capped at 10.
“That’s been interesting,” he said. “I’ve mostly done indoor classes all my life. It’s a different challenge teaching a class outside. Your orientation gets accustomed to four walls, a ceiling and floor. Outside you only have the ground beneath you. It can throw off your equilibrium. Plus, inside I can limit sound, play soothing music or something. Outside, a truck will go by. You’ll hear children’s voices. You may here people arguing. A fly or bee may start buzzing around you.”
Coaching people through distractions is exactly what Odom does, though.
“I know the nature of your mind and it’s easily distracted by a thought floating by. Your body acts out what’s going on in your mind, so if the mind chases the thought, the body chases it, too. At the beginning of the class, your attention will start on me, but I know your mind is going to wander.”
That’s why he likes to talk people through a class, rather than just demonstrating visually. Adopting a soothing voice, Odom leads his classes with information, humor and personal stories.
“It’s about grounding your mind and body in the present moment. It’s a style I’ve cultivated, and it works well in a lot of different environments—unless you can’t stand the tone of my voice,” he joked.
Though the circumstances have changed and he is now exclusively teaching online and outside, his philosophy and his approach to yoga have remained the same.
“Some people may make a case that what I do is not yoga,” he said. “I disagree, but I understand where they’re coming from. What I do is about yoga. It will help your yoga. It will empower your yoga. Yoga is born from traditional Eastern philosophy and perspective, which I study, but I’m a Westerner. I’m not trying to discard my persona and put on a mask. I think that’s part of what people like about my approach, though. It’s East meets West.”
Regardless of what the future holds, Odom will keep teaching his classes online and in person in whatever capacity is possible. He also pointed to some opportunities brought on by lockdown.
“It’s the perfect time for people to take care of health and fitness. We have fabulous trails here. The world is one big playground for us. It’s also a perfect time to read, a perfect time to reconnect with friends and family, and with today’s technology, that’s easier than ever.
“And sleep. This is a wonderful opportunity to make sleep important in your life. We live in a culture that doesn’t respect sleep. We’re encouraged to stay up late and accomplish more, but nothing is better than a healthy good night’s sleep.”