How Peloton’s Aditi Shah is teaching online meditation to millions

April 7, 2023 0 Comments

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When Aditi Shah started teaching meditation, she left nothing to chance. In the breaks between studio classes, she painstakingly added scripts word for word.

“When I say word for word, I mean word for word,” Shah says, laughing. “I felt so vulnerable sharing, I had to record everything. That way I was still conveying what I wanted to say, but I was just the vehicle — it felt a little less personal, which made it a little safer.”

Over the past decade of teaching, Shah has grown more confident in her skills and trusts her intuition more, letting go of this ritual. As her confidence skyrocketed, so did her career. Shah joined online fitness platform Peloton in 2018 to help launch yoga and meditation programs. When the pandemic effectively shut down face-to-face classes in 2020, Shah was ready to welcome the explosion of virtual health.

To date, she has taught over 1,000 online classes covering high-energy energetic vinyasas, low-stress slow-flow films, restorative yoga, Yin stretching sessions, and meditation practices, including Intro to Meditation. She believes that virtually guiding others through meditation can create unique challenges.

“I found that in some ways learning meditation online can be easier, and in other ways it can be much more difficult,” says Shah. But she continues to believe there are benefits to practicing and teaching meditation online. This is what she learned as a teacher and student.

3 difficulties and benefits of online meditation

1. After all, more people than ever before can benefit from meditation

Teaching an ancient practice with a high-tech approach can be intimidating, says Shah. But it makes the research-backed benefits of meditation, including reduced stress and improved concentration, available to an unprecedented number of people. This includes those who may not have the time or desire to attend an in-person meditation session, but who want to explore the science of mindfulness, the power of breath work, or the elements of metta (loving-kindness) meditation.

Teaching online has also encouraged her to leave behind her highly structured teaching methods and adapt practice to suit her students. Shah’s instructions are structured but not prescriptive. She invites virtual practitioners to explore their inner experiences through guided breathing, inquiry and visualization techniques, but also provides space and time for quiet reflection. Her teaching, in fact, reflects many elements of her own practice.

Through repetition, practice, and learning to trust herself, Shah made her relatively short meditation sessions, some as short as five minutes, accessible to anyone.

RELATED: 12 Ways to Sit Easier During Meditation

2. Connecting with students online can be difficult, but not impossible

“Really conveying a sense of intimacy and honesty on camera can be difficult,” says Shah. “I’ve found that the only way to do that is to be genuinely willing to be honest and vulnerable.”

Presenting yourself as a real person was scary at first. “I think meditation IS honest and compassionate reflection,” says Shah. “It’s one thing to do it to yourself; it’s another thing to share it with others. It is vulnerable and sometimes difficult to articulate.”

Being vulnerable still somehow feels like a risk, says Shah. “But it also means that maybe there is hope to connect with someone. I think that goes a long way toward creating a sense of intimacy and honesty.”

Shah says her ability to appear relaxed and authentic comes from her dedication to her own consistent meditation practice. “One of the lessons I’ve learned from the practice itself is that many—if not most—of us have many of the same experiences in common,” she says. “Even if I’m going through something and think it’s weird, there’s probably someone else out there who’s had something similar — or at least doesn’t think it’s weird.”

3. Community — online, not just IRL — is a game changer

Making these connections taught Shah the benefits of participating in an online community.

“When you meditate in person, it often happens in community, in sangha, or class. And what’s amazing about teaching online is that you have so much more access to the community because you can take classes whenever you want,” says Shah. And wherever you are in the world.

This community may look different than a personal one, but it’s just as important. Shah sees contestants befriending and tagging each other in online groups and sharing their wins on social media. Last August, Shah was able to see how much her community had expanded after being closed due to the pandemic. A growing number of Peloton members have signed up to attend her private classes.

While she sees value in both the recorded and live meditations for Peloton, the live sessions, meaning they can be attended online in real time, are especially special to her. “In a way, you’re being held accountable,” she says of the students. “If you sign up, you show up and you know you’re going to do it, and maybe that motivates you to try something new. I think it can be helpful in the same way that having a community in real life can be helpful — you can rely on a virtual community to help you show up.”

“It matters to me, too,” says Shah. “As a teacher, I am pleased to see that the community is being formed.

How online meditation helps us all, according to Aditi Shah

In many ways, her online teaching has allowed Shah to connect with aspects of the practice in a new way and offer this understanding to her students. She says that sharing meditation in a community allows her and her students to see both the practice and life from the perspective of others, fostering a greater sense of empathy, compassion and understanding.

“It allows us to tune into our own humanity as we see it reflected in others, and to recognize that we are connected through our humanity, even when we have different experiences,” she says. “I learned many of the best lessons from people who were not available to me in real life and face to face. And I don’t think that makes what they have to say any less valuable, and I don’t think it makes me feel any less appreciative or respectful of what they have to share. These teachings are also part of what I teach.”

“The world is evolving,” says Shah. “Just because we’re doing it practically doesn’t mean we’re not doing it together. It’s really about building community in a different way that maybe is accessible to all of us. I think it’s really important and special.”

About our contributor

Michelle Konstantinovsky is a freelance journalist, writer, editor from San Francisco, a graduate of the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She has written extensively on health, body image, entertainment, lifestyle, design and technology for publications such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Scientific American, Glamour, Shape, Self, WIRED, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue and many others . She also served as health and wellness editor at Fitbit, senior health writer at One Medical, and contributing editor at California Home + Design. She completed 200 hours of yoga teacher training in 2018 and is still trying to understand the physics of arm balancing. Follow her at @michellekmedia.

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