With an iPod in my pocket and small white earbuds in place, I unfurl my mat on the terrace and exhale into an easy forward bend. The instruction, which I downloaded from iAmplify (iamplify.com), erases the sounds of the bustling New York streets 18 floors below and transports me to a class with Sara Ivanhoe, who teaches 3,000 miles away in Santa Monica, California.
With a portable MP3 player like Apple's iPod, you can have a private class with Ivanhoe or Shiva Rea or one of a handful of other teachers without leaving your hometown or even getting out of your pajamas. Megan Kilian, an acting student at New York's New School University, prefers the park for her portable yoga class. "It's awesome," she says.
You can download classes from Alive Yoga (aliveyoga.com), as well as iAmplify, and there are classes available as audio books at Apple's iTunes store (www.apple.com/itunes) and on Audible.com. Some classes cost as little as $2, and on iAmplify you can subscribe to new classes recorded weekly for $12 a month. It takes less than a minute via high-speed cable modem connection to transfer a 40-minute class (as an MP3 file) from iAmplify to a computer. From there, you can play it, burn it onto a CD, or move it to your iPod.
Of course, instruction on an iPod is no substitute for an experienced teacher who can inspire your practice, correct your alignment, and keep you from injury. And prerecorded classes lack the energy you find at a studio. But for grad students like Kilian, who struggle to cough up $15 for a single class, an iAmplify session like Ivanhoe's Flow Yoga, which costs $4.95, is an affordable complement to studio classes. And portable instruction is perfect for a hotel-room practice when you're traveling or for those times when you have only an hour before you run out the door.
Currently, iAmplify offers 19 classes to nonsubscribers and Alive Yoga has a few dozen, mostly from little-known teachers. My favorite find was an old Shiva Rea audio "book" called Yoga Sanctuary, available on iTunes or Audible.com.
Murray Hidary, an iAmplify cofounder, says classes from high-profile teachers are on the way. In the meantime, I'll be practicing with Shiva—and feeling smug about my investment in speakers. I wouldn't want to experiment with earphone wires while practicing vigorous vinyasa.
Jodi Mardesich is a writer and yoga teacher living in New York.