How I made my at-home yoga practice better than any studio
It's no stretch to say my in-house flow is a winner.
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As a certified yoga instructor and all-around flow enthusiast, my practice is a large part of my life. And although studios are reopening, I’m planning to continue my practice from home. Don't get me wrong: I feel comfortable going to studios, and a part of me misses the communal element of breathing and moving in unison. But when I was forced to practice at home for more than a year, I learned that I prefer the convenience of doing yoga in my living room. I feel more comfortable exploring new yoga styles and challenging myself with unfamiliar poses—hello, Side Crow—in the privacy of own my space, too. To help stay inspired, I’ve been using virtual yoga options and a little bit of creativity.
Why practice yoga online?
After working from home, I realized there is a lot of convenience in doing things from my own living space. It’s easier to make lunch, take a quick walk, or even squeeze in a midday shower without messing with my workflow, which I’d never be able to do in an office. Same goes with yoga—the perks of doing it at home are enough to make it become my standard.
I took my first virtual class through the Glo platform at the start of the pandemic right as I had finished my yoga teacher training. It felt a bit awkward and disconnected compared to in-person classes, but I liked the convenience and number of class options to select from. Now that I’m used to practicing with my teachers over Zoom from my room in Columbus, Ohio and through online platforms, I love that I can practice any time of day and with teachers who are located all over the world.
How can you perfect your at-home yoga setup?
Having the power to start class at any time of day means I can work a yoga class into my schedule, especially on busier days when I wouldn't have time to commute across town to and from classes. But pure convenience isn't the only thing I like about my home practice. Just like you may have learned to outfit your workspace for an efficient and sustainable workday, you can ready your surroundings for a focused yoga flow.
I use my laptop to tune into classes, but you can also use a tablet, smartphone, or cast it from any of those devices to a smart TV. At first, I couldn’t figure out a comfortable place for my laptop; I’d have to look up or back awkwardly during poses to see the screen. I’ve settled for placing my laptop on top of a folding chair or a few yoga blocks in front of my mat—you can use books if you don’t have blocks. If you use a phone or tablet, you can prop it up using an extendable holder so you don’t have to keep craning your neck to see the screen.
It’s also vital to have a good yoga mat. I own (and love) Reviewed’s all-time favorite mat, the Lululemon Reversible 5mm. It's been my go-to for years: The grip of the surface is extra-sticky and the mat itself doesn’t ripple beneath my hands or feet while transitioning between poses. It’s also reversible, which is useful on days when I want the padded side up for a bit more cushion during restorative practice.
I like to keep my props in a basket next to my yoga mat so everything is in one place and ready to go when I tune into class. Even if a class doesn’t require props, I'll use cork blocks and a meditation cushion to find alignment and comfort in poses. I also replicate some of the studio experiences I sometimes miss with items that make me feel grounded, especially scents from candles, incense, or essential oils.
What are your options for online yoga practice?
Right now, I'm mainly using Sky Ting TV, the virtual platform offered by Sky Ting Yoga based in New York City, and Commune Yoga, a studio based in Seattle, Washington that offers live and on-demand classes for $45 a month. Prices for Sky Ting range on a sliding scale between $20 and $30 a month or $200 or $300 a year, but Sky Ting gave me a temporary membership to test for this article.
These studios, which have established virtual platforms, offer a blend of live and pre-recorded classes. I will join live classes if they are taught by my favorite teachers or have a fun theme, but mostly, I like to search for prerecorded classes because I can start and end them when needed. There also tends to be a wider variety of class times and styles that are prerecorded in online libraries.
Sky Ting TV offers more than 200 classes with dozens of teachers and class styles ranging from vinyasa to Pilates to Katonah (a mix of Hatha and Taoist theory) to mobility to meditations. I particularly loved taking the astrology-themed classes and mini-flows focused on certain areas of the body like hips and lower back relief. It offers both pre-recorded and live classes—I like the prerecorded option because I know exactly how long they are and can find a style or theme that I like. The live classes are announced each week with a rotating selection of teachers and are taken over Zoom. You can also retake a class if you really like it, which is always nice. The Sky Ting TV classes don’t disappear from what I can tell, so you can do the same flows or rewind to earlier classes without limits.
My other primary platform, Commune Online, is a bit different than other online libraries: Three new sessions are added a day, but each class is only available for 48 hours. This means only about nine full-length daily classes are available at a time, and while this limits choice, I think it helps incentivize you to practice classes that seem appealing and it minimizes scrolling and decision paralysis. In addition to daily classes, Commune has a few practice paths (a short class between 15-20 minutes, compared with 30- or 60-minute-long standard classes), foundations videos that break down poses, and mobility quickies if you’re looking for a flow to target specific body parts. All in all, Commune Online has around 75 classes of various lengths on demand.
Many smaller studios without specifically designated virtual platforms offer options to tune into classes, which is a great way to support local (and maybe not-so-local) yoga businesses. In these classes, participants sign up in advance on a platform like Mindbody and join via video chat or Zoom, usually as an in-person class takes place at the same time. I love practicing live with teachers like Josie Schweitzer in Columbus, Ohio, Kyle Miller in Santa Monica, California, and Sheri Delaney in Bedford, New York because they make me smile and sweat.
These classes are fantastic if you like feedback on your form and are comfortable with leaving your webcam on (though you can also choose to have your webcam off and just follow along). They're also a good option for anyone who wants to drop into a class here and there without committing to a program, as most drop-in classes for live studios cost about $10 each. That said, I’ve noticed live classes—specifically those in which some students are in person and some are joining virtually—aren’t as focused on virtual students and the cuing tends to be sub-par. After all, it kind of makes sense that teachers would tend to cue based on the students they see in front of them, so their instructions may not be as relevant or well-suited to your practice because you’re on a small screen. Live classes also have the potential for connection and log-in problems. However, they might be the best way to keep yourself accountable, especially if you have your camera on and know your teacher can see you and speak to you.
If you want to get more macro, yoga apps abound with classes you can take live or on-demand. After a lot of testing, Reviewed's favorite is Alo Moves, which offers a wide variety of workouts and customized classes. Peloton and CorePower on Demand are also beloved by many at-home yogis.
Of course, the most accessible variety of pre-recorded classes exist on YouTube, with channels like Yoga with Adriene—one of the most popular options with more than 10 million subscribers—and Yoga by Candace, another popular channel with more than 300,000 subscribers. And, if you're curious about a specific app, platform, or studio, check to see if it has a YouTube channel. Alo Moves, CorePower, and Sky Ting offer some free videos on their YouTube channels, which can help you get a sense of the classes without committing to a membership.
Is practicing from home right for you?
You know your body, your space, and your preferences best, but there's a good chance that you may fall in love with practicing from home as I have. There's flexibility in time and props, freedom in trying new poses without observers, and virtually unlimited live and on-demand options. Sure, it might take a few tries to find an instructor you like and trust, but you can certainly find something that fits your yoga needs online.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.