Yoga, the Internet, and You

Neal Pollack reinvigorates his practice with the re-discovery of online yoga classes.

Woman meditating in front of computer

Internet yoga classes had been part of my arsenal for a while, but I used them very sparingly. I found a sequence on YouTube which was great if I was having trouble getting to sleep, augmented by a hilarious closing scene where a goose walks over the teacher during Savasana (it takes place in a public park). David Swenson’s entire primary series was on YouTube as well, though it had almost certainly been uploaded illegally and was pretty hard to practice because it was broken up into 7-10 minute chunks. After a few runs, I gave it up.

In general, though the YouTube teachers were all kind, and I appreciated the free classes, the quality was sporadic and the sessions of inconsistent length. I knocked my sacrum loose during one questionable yin class, and often ended sessions feeling incomplete. There was no filter to tell me who these people were or what kind of training they’d done.

But when, earlier this summer, I burned out on my in-person classes, I went back online. When I looked around, I found that the online yoga world had completely transformed from where it had been even two years before. The prices were beyond reasonable, and the quality had soared. I bought a subscription from an “online yoga school.” I won’t say which, because there are several good ones now and don’t want to play favorites. But from the moment I joined, my practice fired back up to a level I hadn’t seen in years.

These were top teachers, instructing at the top of their games, at all different levels. Vigorous vinyasa sat aside lots of yin classes, excellent guided meditations, and inversion tutorials. Since I started, just a few weeks ago, I’ve taken classes from a dozen different teachers, and they’ve been almost uniformly excellent. Not only that, I’m able to put my own program together. If I want to do a vigorous 30-minute flow with one teacher, and then a 20-minute yoga nidra with another, no one’s stopping me. It doesn’t matter if I’m annoyed by a class, or if I think it’s too hard. I can always stop at any time. The site even offers a full Ashtanga channel if I ever feel like applying the thumbscrews again.

Best of all, it costs less than 20 bucks a month. In most big-city yoga studios, that’s what you spend on Tuesday. There are no crowds when I practice online, no jockeying for floor space, no temptations to compare myself with anyone else. It’s just me, my mat, a few props, and a wireless headset. I put it on and it sounds like the teachers are transmitting directly to my brain. Of course, it also makes me look like Jabba the Hutt’s personal guard from Return Of The Jedi. But that’s a reasonable tradeoff, since no one’s looking at me other than my dog, who relishes the fresh opportunity to try to lick my legs.

There are a few drawbacks to my new system. I’m missing the kula,or community, that yoga provides, but I know where to find that locally if I need it. Also, because my online yoga studio is always available, sometimes I’m tempted to practice at inappropriate times. More than once I’ve been called away from a stretch to set the table for dinner. My son came in one day demanding to play Call Of Duty,which cut things short for me. Sometimes my wife will walk in and say, You’re still doing yoga?”

The answer is: Yes, I am, and I’m really enjoying myself. My practice has been reinvigorated. After years of stagnation, I feel flush with fresh energy and enthusiasm for all things yoga-related. And I can do a decent Pincha for the first time in years.