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Yoga continues to grow in popularity year in and year out, and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. With so many online yoga classes available, it’s easier than ever to get the benefits of yoga practice even if you can’t get to a studio.
But why should you start doing virtual yoga, and is it safe to practice at home? Before jumping on the mat, here’s some more information on yoga as a practice, tips before you start, and our top recommended online yoga classes to try.
6 benefits of online yoga classes
If you’ve ever been to an in-person yoga class, you know it’s hard to replicate that vibe. But that hasn’t stopped millions of people from trading in their eucalyptus-infused towels for living room live streams. Instead of losing steam, yoga is now more popular than ever.
Yoga was the perfect respite for people stuck at home on lockdown during the pandemic. Since you don’t need much to practice yoga (a mat and a bottle of water are usually plenty), it was an easy, low-cost, and space-conscious way to keep active. But because of the powerful effect yoga has on stress and mood, it has also become a mental health lifeline.
And a few down dogs are a great way to work out the kinks you get from working from a sofa or dining room table all week.
Yoga studios will always be a mood, but there are some things you just can’t beat about online classes. Here are six benefits of online yoga classes:
When it comes to online classes, convenience is the number one quoted perk — and for a good reason. Depending on where you live, it can be quite a hike to get to a yoga studio. Virtual yoga classes take the benefits of studio practice and bring them to you. You can join a class in real-time or take a pre-recorded session whenever it works for you. Midnight yoga, anyone?
2. Less expensive
The more popular something gets, the more expensive it often becomes — yoga is no exception. Livestream classes are less expensive for the studio since they don’t have to accommodate a large physical space. Since the classes can be recorded and reused, it’s easier — and cheaper — for studios to provide a wide variety of online classes.
3. Builds a home wellness practice
Getting on the mat at home can be challenging if you’re used to spending a lot of time in yoga studios. However, the more you practice yoga at home, the more you see your home as part of your yoga practice. You’ll build confidence moving through poses on your own. Over time, you may get comfortable enough to put together your own sequences.
4. Adjusts to your pace
Ever signed up for hot power vinyasa and, fifteen minutes into class, wanted to run for the door? Sometimes, you just don’t feel like taking that class you booked a week ago — and that’s okay. Practicing virtual yoga lets you practice however you feel comfortable. You can take a break, pause and come back, or switch to a slightly less intense video (we won’t tell if you don’t).
5. Less intimidating
One of the biggest factors that stop newbies from starting yoga is that they’re worried that they’ll be bad at it. After all, if you were introduced to yoga in the social media age, Instagram makes it look pretty impossible. Learning yoga in the safety and relative anonymity of your living room makes it seem much less intimidating. You can turn your camera off or take an early savasana without fear of judgment.6. Practice anywhere in the world
There’s a beloved yoga studio with fresh smoothies, excellent teachers, and huge, calming practice rooms. It can be hard to get there often, though, since it’s in Bali. But with more studio classes moving online, you can pop into a community meditation, live stream yoga class, or even participate in teacher training without having to book a flight. With a data connection, there are literally millions of classes to choose from.
Recommended online yoga classes
Best for beginners and budgets: Yoga with Adriene
Best for fitness enthusiasts: Alo Moves
Best for inclusivity: The Underbelly
Best for the community feel: Miles Yoga
Best for those on the go: GLO
Our picks for the best online yoga classes
If you’re looking for a virtual yoga class, you won’t have to look far — new ones are popping up every day. With so many out there, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are a few of our favorites for every level.
Yoga With Adriene
Even pre-COVID, Adriene Mishler was the queen of online yoga — and for a good reason. Her yoga videos are short, engaging, and accessible, no matter your yoga experience. She offers free yoga via a wildly popular YouTube channel with over ten million subscribers and paid class options on her website.
Best for: beginners and budgets
Trendy and comfortable fitness brand Alo Yoga offers fitness, yoga, and meditation classes via Alo Moves. The classes range from full power yoga practices to short mindful moments and feature a diverse range of instructors. For only $20 a month, it’s a fantastic deal for anyone who likes variety in their fitness practice.
Best for: fitness enthusiasts, people familiar with basic yoga poses, those who get bored easily
Yoga is for everyone, but after scrolling through endless photos of slender people bending into pretzels, it doesn’t always feel that way. Jessamyn Stanley is the loudest advocate for body positivity in the yoga community. Her app, The Underbelly, creates a safe space for people who feel out of place with a, ahem, narrow definition of health and fitness.
Best for: every body, those who want yoga with a side of self-affirmation
A very talented yoga teacher based in New York, Miles Borrero offers both livestream classes on a schedule and a library of pre-recorded, on-demand practices. Yogis can drop in for a single session or choose your subscription to a full range of classes. If you opt to take a live Zoom class, you can turn your camera on to get real-time feedback and a community feel in your own home. Miles also often sings to his classes, accompanied by the harmonium (and sometimes a guest teacher).
Best for: those who miss the yoga community and that in-studio experience
If you’re looking for an online yoga class you can take when you want, wherever you are, Glo is hard to beat. It’s super affordable and optimized to show up beautifully on any device. There’s a variety of yoga, Pilates, and meditation classes available, as well as live streaming options, and you can download classes to your device to take with you anywhere.
Best for: those who want flexibility (no pun intended) in their online yoga practice
The reason yoga is always trending
For a practice that’s been around for thousands of years, yoga is growing fast in popularity. How is it possible that people are still discovering new things to love about an ages-old practice?
The fact is, as much as yoga is a fitness practice, it’s also a spiritual one. People who practice yoga feel the difference in both their physical and mental fitness. And even though yoga hasn’t changed much over the last few centuries, life certainly has. For many, juggling the responsibilities of work and family has just gotten more and more stressful. The pressures seem to just be piling on from generation to generation. One study found that adults today are under more stress than they were in the nineties.
Because it’s affordable, requires very little space or equipment, and has such devotion-inspiring mind-body benefits, it’s not likely to become less popular anytime soon. People that practice yoga often quote the following benefits:
- Mind-body connection
Yoga is known as a “mind-body practice,” which means that movements are done intentionally and connected to the breath. Over time, practicing yoga deepens your body awareness, also known as kinesthesia.
- Builds strength
Whether you’re holding poses for a long time or flowing through them, yoga is effective at increasing your strength. Rather than strengthening the large muscle groups associated with powerful movements, yoga develops the stabilizing muscles and builds endurance.
- Increased flexibility
There’s a reason yogis have a reputation for being flexible. Yoga helps to lengthen muscles, improving overall flexibility as well as muscle tone. It also helps to unknot fascia, the connective tissue that can impede movement.
- Decreased likelihood of injury
If you are practicing yoga as a complement to a strength training regimen or sport, you’ll find yourself much less likely to experience related injuries. However, even if yoga is your primary movement practice, the improved strength, flexibility, and awareness help with daily aches and pains as well.
- Breath awareness
As a mind-body practice, all styles of yoga are centered around the breath. As mindfulness expert Ananda Leeke says, “Your breath is your best friend.” Becoming aware of your breath is a powerful way to clue into your emotions as well as your physical well-being.
- Develop resilience
Yoga has a powerful effect on your ability to sit with difficult feelings — both internal and external. Sitting in sometimes challenging asanas teaches you to build stress tolerance both on and off the mat.
Read this before your first online yoga class
Yoga’s got a rep for being touchy-feely, but practicing yoga can be quite challenging. There’s no substitute for the guidance of a trained professional. The biggest drawback of practicing virtual yoga is increased risk of injury.
When starting a fitness practice from home, it’s more important than ever to be respectful of your limits and start slowly. As I often say when teaching yoga classes, “Discomfort is okay, but pain never is.” If something feels off, back away from the move, and do something else.
Treat your at-home yoga practice with the same respect and seriousness that you would in the studio. Be careful, don’t take unnecessary risks, and drink plenty of water. Having the right gear on hand can also make your practice safer and more effective. If you’re planning to start practicing yoga at home, you should consider investing in the following:
- A really good yoga mat
- A strap
- Yoga blocks (get two)
- A tripod (much easier than trying to see your phone during class)
- A solid data connection
Some other nice-to-haves are a yoga blanket, bolsters, and eye pillow, an easily moveable webcam, and some fitness clothes (because you can’t wear your work yoga pants to yoga class).
One positive aspect of so much of our lives moving remote is that the barriers to trying something new have dropped, not just in fitness and meditation. In addition to the wealth of generous instructors and practitioners sharing their talents virtually, new apps, devices, and class styles can make trying something new interesting and accessible. You can even find online communities to support your journey. Once you start building a habit, take it off the screen once in a while and seek out an in-person community of practice. The social connection and camaraderie can provide an extra shot of motivation.
If you’re looking to start a virtual yoga practice, there’s no better time than now. It’s never been easier to find the right class, teacher, and style to suit your needs and your budget. Taking online yoga classes is a great way to bring the benefits of yoga practice off the mat, out of the studio, and into your life.
BetterUp Staff Writer