One of my favorite things about practicing yoga is the sense of camaraderie I feel whenever I set foot in a yoga studio. So, it was with a bit of trepidation that I began practicing at home a few years ago after my family relocated from Los Angeles—a city filled with world-renowned yoga instructors—to a suburb in Orange County, where military-style bootcamps outnumber yoga studios 5:1.
With two young kids, it's often a struggle for me to carve out time to exercise, so I halfheartedly began to practice yoga at home. More often than not, I ended up walking away mid-class to make snacks, locate batteries for a broken toy, or break up a heated argument between my 5-year-old and 8-year-old.
I was intrigued when a friend introduced me to Yogaia, a Finnish website that streams live yoga classes straight into your living room. Yes, this has been done before. But what Yogaia was the first to do among live streaming yoga websites is use a two-way camera, so instructors can interact with students in real time. In other words, there would be no more playing referee for my kids during the middle of my practice without the teacher knowing it.
The Challenge: One Week of Live Streaming Yoga Classes
One of the biggest hurdles I've always faced practicing yoga at home is blocking out distractions, and the end result is I often end up cheating myself out of much-needed “me time.” Which is why I decided to devote an entire week to streaming live classes from Yogaia.
The first class I chose was Relaxing Stretch with Robyn McLaren. According to the Yogaia website, Robyn has trained in Baptiste Style Power Yoga, Yin, meditation, myofascial release, and kids yoga. I could hardly wait to get started after sending my son off to school in the morning.
The class was only 15 minutes, but since I still had to wake my daughter up and get her out the door to preschool, I decided it was better to start small. After logging on to the website, I was given the option of choosing whether or not I wanted the camera turned on or off. I selected on, since the point of my experiment was to see if interactive classes helped me become more present. But I have to admit, I love the fact that Yogaia gives you a choice—just in case I want to, say, practice in my pajamas.
After gathering my props—a block, bolster, and a strap—I settled in for some restorative stretches to help ease my chronic back pain. Then my 5-year-old daughter woke up and things got really real. About five minutes in, she started chattering non-stop while shooting paper airplanes over my head. I knew that the teacher could see us, and I was embarrassed. But, hey, so what? At least I didn't quit, I figured. Plus, I probably wasn't the only person with small children interrupting their practice at home. After doing some research, I discovered that the Yogaia instructors can see you, but they can't hear you (or whatever might be going on around you).
Next up, I decided to try Los Angeles-based instructor Kali Alexander's Neck and Shoulder Rescue and Yin Chill Pill classes. They ran back-to-back on a Tuesday night, after my kids should’ve been sound asleep. When they were both wide awake when class time rolled around and begged to join me, I decided, “Why not?” Hopefully Kali would help them get a good night's rest, too.
After logging on to the site, I clicked yes to activate the two-way camera, and Kali cheerfully greeted us onscreen. The kids giggled at being recognized, then rolled out their mats, excited for some family yoga time. As we flowed in and out of poses, the munchkins did their best to keep up, mimicking the moves onscreen. Kali corrected all of us whenever necessary, guiding us through the class with plenty of verbal cues before easing everyone into Savasana.
As the three of us lay there holding hands in Corpse Pose, I realized I was truly enjoying my home yoga practice for the first time. After Yin Chill Pill ended, my son enthusiastically raced over to the computer to give Kali a five-star review. “That was awesome!” he said. My daughter agreed, then announced she was tired and climbed into bed without any struggle. Much to my surprise, she and my son both fell asleep about five minutes later.
Finally, I tried Patricia Creola's Vinyasa Flow class. The London-based teacher is certified in Sivananda Yoga, Himalayan Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa Flow, Yin, and Yoga for Insomnia. This was the first time I really had time to devote to trying an entire Yogaia class sans kids. It felt amazing to work up a sweat during this fast-paced session, which was comparable to any class I’ve ever taken at a yoga studio in L.A.
At one point, I stepped into Triangle Pose on the wrong side, and Patricia quickly noticed my mistake and corrected me. I loved her attention to detail and thought she was a total pro at making verbal adjustments. At the end of class I felt energized, refreshed, and ready to take on the world.
The Verdict: Will I Ever Go Back to a Yoga Studio?
Although I still prefer the sense of community and quiet I get at a yoga studio, I’ll be logging on to Yogaia again. Their technology is as close as you can get to hiring a private yoga teacher at home without, well, hiring a private yoga teacher at home. Not only does the site give you access to live classes, but the annual $20 per month membership also includes a library of 400-plus recorded classes, too.
Will I give up practicing at brick-and-mortar studios for good? Probably not. But when I'm pressed for time or need a quick yoga fix at home, live streaming classes is a great way for me to take a much-needed breather from my crazy, busy life to say, “Namaste.”