Once upon a time, on-screen yoga offerings amounted to the simple work of a pioneering TV yoga teacher named Lilias Folan. Folan, on Cincinnati public television and ultimately PBS nationwide, taught then-obscure poses like Downward Dog to an audience of 1970s housewives who were apparently into fringe mind-body pursuits.
Nearly a half-century later, yoga is mainstream because, among many other things, it’s widely accepted for maintaining or regaining bodily health. Aging athletes who choose the right classes or poses can find relief for increasingly tight hips, legs, shoulders… the list goes on. More elastic and elongated muscles mean fewer muscle knots and kinks, potentially less chance for injury, and better posture.
Your 21st-century challenge is finding the on-screen yoga that works best. Today “Lilias Yoga and You” (she’s still teaching) is only one of countless online offerings. Among other choices are yogaglo, doyogawithme, yogatoday, myyogaworks, fightmasteryoga, and, as you might expect, yogadownload. I myself am a yogaglo.com subscriber—largely because the site offers classes designed for cyclists and runners.
But plenty of criteria, from skill level to how much time you can spare for a session, should shape your decisions. Julie Wood, senior director of education and content development at Santa Monica-based YogaWorks and myyogaworks.com, offers some guidance for finding the online studio sessions that you’ll want to frequent.
Underestimate your abilities. If you have limited or no yoga experience, it’s easy to be humbled, or injured, in a challenging online class. Aim low—start with relatively relaxed, beginner- or easy intermediate-level sessions. “There’s no one around to correct your form,” says Wood. “Advancing slowly is one way to ensure that you’re not going to do something wrong or crazy.”
Consider paying for it. Resist the idea that, just because it’s the Internet and free yoga is available, you’re a fool for buying online yoga. Wood’s myyogaworks, for example, runs $15 per month for unlimited online classes. Attending a single, in-studio class can easily cost you over $20. “It’s a little harder to determine what’s good when it’s free,” says Wood. “It may not always be the case, but there could be higher quality behind the paywall.”
Some yoga is better than none. “In my 20s it wouldn’t occur to me to skimp on my two-hour practice,” says Wood, who’s now 47 and a working mom. “But these days I find that it’s not about the length of class so much as it’s about consistency.” Myyogaworks.com offers 90-minute classes. However, the most popular online offerings, says Wood, are a half-hour. “If I can do a bunch of short ones,” she adds, “I get benefits.”
Be sport-specific. Look around for yoga sequences designed to complement your sport(s). Online yoga classes exist specifically for runners, cyclists, basketball players, surfers, and skiers. You can join a meditation session focused on pre-game preparation. “Chances are there’s a program laid out just for you,” says Wood.
You can always rewind. With online yoga sessions, what you lose in teacher face time you gain in class controllability. Unclear on where your hips should face in triangle pose? Pause the video and take your time. “Replay, replay, and replay it,” says Wood. “You’re never at the will of the teacher to move onto the next pose.”