The Best Online Yoga Classes
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Whether you’re into fast-paced, dynamic yoga or gentler, restorative styles, yoga offers benefits ranging from stress relief to long-term improvements in focus, mindfulness, and wellbeing. When most Americans are under stay-at-home orders and our typical activities for stress management or leisure have been significantly impacted, yoga can be a way to claim some space for ourselves, emotionally and mentally.
Yoga studios are among the many businesses that have temporarily shuttered because of the coronavirus pandemic. Still, whether you’re hoping to continue your practice or want to take your first class, there are several fantastic online alternatives.
How to choose the best online yoga
Online yoga platforms have become steadily more popular in recent years. However, since social distancing has been implemented, there has been a surge of interest, says Kerry Maiorca, Chair of the Board of Directors for Yoga Alliance and the founder of Bloom Yoga Studio. “The biggest benefit of online yoga is that it’s very accessible,” she says. “The actual experience of an online class, and the way it allows you to connect with your breath to find that peace and calm, is very much like the in-person experience – especially with a skilled and qualified teacher who knows how to make it feel really personalized and empowering.”
To find the best online yoga for you, here’s what to check out:
Your current yoga studio
First things first: If you were attending a studio previously, it’s a good idea to see if the studio – or your teacher – is offering online classes, says Maiorca. “It’s essential to support your local independent studios because you want them to be around when studio classes are able to operate again,” she says. Plus, if you already have a connection to a teacher, chances are you’ll have a better class, online or offline.
For those who are new to yoga, platforms that have lots of classes in the slower styles of yoga are a good place to start. “I’d suggest newcomers look for Hatha or gentle yoga classes,” says Maiorca. You might also look for Yin yoga classes. Many platforms also offer courses designed for beginners to start a regular yoga practice, with classes that break down fundamental poses and online challenges for yogis to get on the mat every day.
Those who are more experienced may want to complement a favorite type of yoga with a different pace of class. For example, if you have a fast-paced Vinyasa habit, you might want to choose a platform with plenty of restorative classes. Classes that drill down into specific poses or a region of the body, such as hip flexors or the hamstrings, are also a great way to balance out your weekly yoga and deepen your understanding of your practice, says Maiorca.
In a yoga studio, booking classes has the benefit of ensuring you have to be somewhere at a certain time. “This accountability encourages you to get on your mat,” says Kino MacGregor, founder of Miami Life Center and the online yoga channel Omstars. Live-stream classes are one way to do it online, but so can setting a regular time for an on-demand class.
Your home practice is likely to have more distractions than the yoga studio, with kids, chores, and work alerts clamoring for attention. So pick a yoga app or website that is engaging and straightforward to navigate to make showing up as easy and enjoyable as possible.
Nearly all platforms offer a free trial period, which is important for you to see if you enjoy the range of classes on offer – and even more important if you enjoy the teaching styles. “Do a class or two and focus on how you feel in your body and mind, not only after the class but generally,” advises MacGregor.
Being confined to your home can feel isolating, but it can also be a chance to start new habits you might not have had time for before. “Treat this time as a voluntary retreat,” says MacGregor. “When you sign on to do an online yoga class, there are other people sharing your journey – and feeling that you’re part of this community can combat the aloneness in quarantine.”
Best all-around online yoga: Glo
Glo has plenty to offer beginners as well as those with some experience doing yoga. The class offerings include fast-moving and slower styles – including Vinyasa Flow, Hatha, Yin, and Restorative – as well as classes that focus on recovery from other sports, led meditation, and a short, excellent partner yoga series on assisted stretching and massage.
Those who aren’t familiar with yoga’s various styles will find it easy to choose appropriate classes based on their descriptions, as well as the intuitive search function that helps narrow down the thousands of available videos. Along with plenty of beginners’ classes, collections categorized by themes like Sweat or Immune Boost are an easy way to choose a class based on how you feel. With minimal backgrounds and teachers who have a great camera manner, online classes are enjoyable and engaging. Most classes are included in the membership, but Glo also offers several paid-for courses that count towards teacher certification programs.
Glo is available through your web browser, Android and iOS, Apple TV and Apple Watch, with Chromecast coming soon
Price: $18/month with a 15-day free trial (note: if you sign up via the app, the fee is $22.99 per month or $199.99 for the year, and the free trial period is only 7 days)
Best online yoga for experienced yogis: Omstars
Omstars offers a rich and varied selection of classes that address all aspects of the yogic lifestyle. You can, of course, continue your practice, but also complement it with pose workshops and take tutorials on topics such as yoga philosophy, Ayurvedic, and plant-based cooking.
There are more than 3,000 classes across several disciplines, including energetic styles like Ashtanga, Dharma, and Jivamukti, as well as Restorative, Yin, and meditation. Videos range from short practices of under 20 minutes to classes up to 90 minutes, which led by one of over 100 teachers. Dedicated practitioners will appreciate the workshops on the finer details of fundamental poses as well as challenging ones like deep twists and backbends. Short video introductions to teachers who lead multi-class series help create a sense of engagement.
There are live-streamed classes every day and starting on May 2, a five-week beginners’ course designed for aspiring yogis to start a regular practice. Omstars also offers paid-for advanced instruction classes that count towards teacher certification programs.
Omstars is only available through your web browser.
Price: $14.99/month or $149.99/year, with a 14-day free trial
Best online yoga for a quick fix: Down Dog
If you don’t often have the time for a regular one-hour practice, the Down Dog app will help you squeeze in practices as short as eight minutes. Instead of choosing a class, you pick a yoga style (such as Ashtanga, Restorative, Hatha, Yin or Chair Yoga), your level, and desired practice length (anywhere from eight to 55 minutes), and the app generates a custom sequence so you won’t be doing the same thing each time.
You can also set the sequence to focus on one of 20 aspects, like your core, shoulders, or overall flexibility. Videos are shot against a minimal background, aiding concentration, while a voiceover commentary offers good direction, including where to pay attention to bodily sensation. Music accompanies each sequence, with a simple slider for adjusting the volume of music against the teacher’s voice. For more experienced yogis, arm balances and deep twists are part of Advanced level sequences. All sequences can be downloaded for offline – and distraction-free – practice.
Down Dog is primarily an app for Android and iOS but is also available through your web browser.
Price: Free until May 1 in light of the coronavirus pandemic (and until July 1 for students and teachers). $7.99/month or $49.99/year
Best online yoga for beginners: Yoga Studio
Yoga Studio divides its 100+ classes into easy-to-navigate categories. For instance, Essentials teaches you pose fundamentals, and Focused has practices with an emphasis on one specific area, like flexibility or to improve sleep, for example. Videos are shot against a distraction-free white background, with one or two people doing the poses accompanied by relaxing music and a soothing voiceover providing direction on how to enter poses and what sensations you should be feeling. Ten classes led by world-renowned yoga teacher Rodney Yee offer plenty of beginner-friendly instruction. For a quick fix, there are ten-minute sessions and yoga stretches that can be done at a desk. And if you have some favorite poses, you can link them into your own DIY sequence. Once downloaded, classes can be scheduled into the in-app calendar, which will alert you when it’s time to get on the mat.
Yoga Studio is only available on Android and iOS, and Apple TV – no web browser option.
Price: $9.99/month or $69.99/year with a 7-day free trial
Best online yoga for the family: Yoga with Adriene
Offering many short practies with fun names like “Cozy Flow” and “Yoga for Inner Space Travel,” Yoga with Adriene with is a great place for kids and beginners, as well as for more experienced yogis. You’ll find sessions from about twenty minutes up to an hour, and a good range of pace from stronger Vinyasa-style practices to restorative sessions, many of which aim to relieve anxiety, stress, or sadness. Classes like “Yoga for Vulnerability” and “Meditation for Mental Grounding” emphasize the importance of support for oneself alongside more physically centered classes such as stretches for runners. The more than 600 videos are all hosted by yoga teacher and popular YouTube host Adrienne Mishler and filmed against calming backdrops. Mishler offers accessible, helpful direction on entering poses, including how they may link to emotional wellness.
There are also paid-for downloadable courses such as prenatal yoga, plus 30-day yoga challenges if you want the extra motivation to practice.
Yoga with Adriene is available through your web browser and you can stream many videos through the Yoga with Adriene YouTube channel on your mobile devices and TV app.
Price: Many of the videos are free, 30 Days of Yoga Series are “Pay What Feels Good,” and downloadable courses start at $19.99
Getting started with Online Yoga
Before you start an online yoga class, get your setup conducive to taking this time out for yourself. “Create as much of a sanctuary as possible, whether that’s lighting a candle, changing the lighting, or cleaning the room,” says MacGregor. You’ll want to let the family know you’re not to be disturbed – and don’t forget to put your phone on “do not disturb” too.
You might want to investigate whether you can stream video from your device to a larger screen. Most importantly, make sure your phone or laptop has enough charge - and a reliable WiFi connection.
[Image credit: Glo, Omstars, Down Dog, Yoga Studio, Yoga with Adriene]
Natasha Stokes is technology journalist and Ashtanga practitioner of five years who writes about new tech and its impact on daily life. Her work is also published at NBC News, BBC Worldwide, and the South China Morning Post.