You are busy, juggling work, night-shifts, family, social life and hobbies. There is not enough time in the day and night combined to do everything you want. Like going to a yoga class. But perhaps you do manage to sneak in a YouTube practice at home every now and then.
If that is you, this blog is for you.
Online yoga lessons are becoming increasingly popular. Famous and non-famous yoga teachers appear on YouTube, the number of online memberships for yoga channels is going through the roof, yoga classes are accessible 24/7 and anywhere in the world as long as you have internet. You would think that is a good thing. More yoga is always good, right?
My opinion? Yes and No.
Yes to YouTube Yoga
Online yoga classes certainly are wonderful for people who do not have access to yoga teachers or studios. It is greatly motivating to practice with an (online) video if the only other option is doing nothing for lack of support and guidance.
Back in 2008, I moved to a little desert town by the Red Sea in Egypt. There was no yoga school nearby. Since I really wanted to keep doing yoga, I practiced with DVD’s (not so much online yoga back then yet!). After a few months, we were gathering with a bunch of friends and doing yoga together, after-hours in the school gym with a laptop connected to a projector so we could all see the video properly.
These DVD’s kept me going for months until I discovered Ashtanga Yoga Mysore style and learned to practice without a teacher. Without those DVD’s, I probably would have abandoned yoga and my life might have turned out completely different.
So yes. If you do not have the possibility to join yoga classes or prefer the comfort of your own home to practice, please turn on your laptop and choose one of the thousands of classes on offer on the internet. Getting on that mat is what is important. If it’s an online yoga class that is going to keep you inspired and motivated, use it.
But… choose your class wisely.
And that but is in fact a lead up to my NO.
No to YouTube Yoga
Based on my experience as a teacher, the greatest disadvantage of pre-recorded classes is the lack of personal interaction and guidance. When I teach, many of my cues are prompted by what I see students doing or not doing. More often than not, I adapt my prepared sequence to the people and the energy in the room. Each body is different and each person needs to do the pose in a way that works for them. Modifications and personal adjustments are often needed, especially for beginners and people who are not fully aware of their body’s position in space.
The risk of an online class is that the student focusses on posing like the person on-screen rather than on understanding the essence of the pose. Consequently, people force themselves into a shape they are not ready for, hold positions out of alignment and end up injuring themselves.
Different bodies, different expressions of the same pose. What is good for one, could be harmful for another. We have to take into account body shape, flexibility in the joints, strengths and weaknesses of the muscles and much more.
Another risk of doing online yoga classes alone, is that you miss out on the feedback from other students. When you go to a yoga studio, you can feel from the vibe in the room whether the class is good and if the teacher knows what they are doing. When you practice with a random online video, especially as a beginner, it is much more difficult to assess the quality of the teacher.
Though it is unlikely that any of this will result in broken bones, torn ligaments or worse, sprains and repetitive strain injuries can occur due to repeated inappropriate alignment of the wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees and lower back, especially in the sacroiliac area.
In a nutshell, that is why I say NO to online yoga classes. It is risky to advise students to use random online demos without a note of caution. Simply because we cannot assume that in a video, the teacher can address all the potential issues.
But of course, it’s not all that black and white.
I can totally imagine a situation where you combine online classes with studio classes due to a busy schedule. Perhaps you live somewhere remote without a yoga teacher nearby and go to a yoga retreat once or twice a year, filling your yoga cup with online classes the rest of the time.
My advice to followers of online yoga classes would be to make sure you do your research. Read articles or books and watch videos that explain the alignment of the postures one by one, including the contra-indications and benefits. Follow tutorials, not only classes. Take your time to really understand the poses rather than to just mimic the teacher on your screen.
Here is a small selection of websites that I have found very useful to learn more about the anatomy of yoga, as a student and as a teacher:
When you do have the chance to consult with a yoga teacher, for example during a workshop, ask them for specific points to pay attention to when practicing alone. Perhaps you could even consider getting one or two private classes at home, so that the teacher can look at your personal physical structure and give you tailored recommendations for future reference.
And then, under the guidance of a reliable digital teacher, enjoy a healthy and above all safe practice, at a place of your own choice, in your own time