WESTERLY — Kristen Ullrich sat alone in her Westerly studio Wednesday morning, balanced herself on a mat, looked into the camera and urged her students to inhale, exhale, and breathe.
Miles away in Mystic, at the very same time, Priscilla Humphrey positioned herself on a clean white mat, stared into her camera and calmly encouraged her students to breathe, center and settle in for a class in gentle yoga.
Back in Westerly, Ashley DeLauro was busy updating her website at SoulFitSisters and getting ready to post a recipe for "Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies," or what she also calls "COVID-19 Made Me Do This."
In another part of town, longtime Zumba, Silver Sneakers and "Stretch & Go" instructor Gerry McVeigh, of Westerly, wearing comfy-looking workout gear, positioned herself before a camera and gave instructions about stretching to an invisible audience.
Simultaneously at the Ocean Community YMCA, members received an invitation to log on to YMCA 360 and enroll in one of the free virtual classes being offered by the national YMCA.
With gyms, fitness centers, yoga studios and pools shut tight due to the coronavirus pandemic, fitness instructors and yoga teachers are experimenting with every available technology in order to meet their clients' needs and help them maintain their workouts.
Ullrich, who owns BarreCoast, a fitness studio in Westerly, uses Facebook Live to teach her vinyasa flow class. Humphrey, who has been teaching yoga for more than 20 years, uses the video communications app Zoom to teach her students. DeLauro, an online women's fitness coach, uses her website, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to get her message out.
The Ocean Community YMCA, which serves thousands of members at its branches in Westerly, Mystic and Richmond, connected with the national YMCA in order to offer on-demand videos for group exercise classes and sports classes. McVeigh, who has taught classes at the Ocean Community YMCA's Westerly branch for roughly 30 years, said not long after the Y closed its doors, she and her fellow instructors decided to continue to teach classes using Facebook and Zoom.
"With so many people all stressed out," said Humphrey, who teaches a number of online classes from her home studio and has students showing up not only from Connecticut and Rhode Island but from Maine, Colorado, Florida and even Italy. "I wanted to offer something to people ... some grounding ... and meditation."
"It's a good way to start the day," she added. "Instead of getting up and jumping right into the news."
While Humphrey does not charge for her yoga classes, she does accept donations.
"Donations are appreciated," Humphrey notes on her Facebook page. "However, if you are experiencing financial hardship at this time, please receive these classes as a gift or make a very small donation."
"I'm trying to find the positive," said DeLauro, who said she even uses the old-fashioned telephone to connect with her "sisterhood" of all-female clients for her "SureFit" program. "There are so many ways for people to just show up for themselves ... but we need support and we all lean on one another."
Once members join her "tribe," said DeLauro, for $29.99 a month, they receive access to workout videos, challenges, recipes and "Mindset Modules" tips for how to practice "self-love and end self-sabotage for good."
Ullrich, who has five employees and 25 teachers, and a close-knit BarreCoast community, said the coronavirus epidemic sort of "forced us" to explore new options for teaching and for staying connected. Facebook Live has allowed for a simple transition, she said.
Ullrich, who charges $20 for a 30-day membership, said BarreCoast LIVE classes are videos — 48 classes to date — that have been archived and can be found at the online Facebook group BarreCoast Virtual Classes.
"I want to continue to serve our clients and keep our community together," she said.
Jared Coon, owner of Westerly Crossfit, a gym with roughly 100 members, said while he had to close his gym weeks ago, he is managing to stay positive.
The day before the mandated closing, said Coon, a weightlifter who holds a number of American records, he called his members and offered them the chance to come to his High Street gym and borrow equipment so they could do workouts at home.
Members borrowed kettle bells and barbells, he said, and many of his coaches started posting workouts via Facebook Live.
"We may not be able to get into the gym but we can still get some fitness in, guys. We would LOVE to get some dms from you all to be able to share with each other while we get through this time of change," read one post. "Send us pictures, videos, whatever you have! Can’t wait to be together again. #needtosquatlower #6feetapart #fitnessfun #sundayfunday #westerlycrossfit."
Coon said his gym "is more about community than anything else."
"That's what the whole point of what Crossfit is," he added, "worldwide and here in Westerly."
For business, said Coon, who is not charging members while the gym is closed, "it couldn't be worse," but for his community, it's working.
Derek Vacca of Westerly, who owns Precision Fitness on High Street, said he closed up his gym a few weeks ago when the governor's mandates were announced and has had to take a bit of a hiatus.
He's concerned, he said, about keeping his business afloat during such an insecure time that has no clear end in sight.
Vacca, who posts his workouts for his clients online, has a team of trainers, many of whom are posting workouts on Instagram and Facebook, and holding classes via Zoom.
But for his gym, which he describes as "very hands-on," and which specializes in training athletes, there really is no substitute for face-to-face workouts.
In addition to contacting the Small Business Association, to see how other small gyms and fitness centers are coping during these coronavirus days, Vacca said he's getting in another form of exercise.
"I'm playing a lot of golf these days," said Vacca with a laugh. "I'm hitting a lot of balls and doing a lot of walking."