Are Online Yoga Classes a Good Substitute for Going to a Studio?

It seems every week another website is offering online yoga classes.  These sites are simple …anyone can try a class for free and if satisfied, continue on for a monthly fee with immediate access to an online library of video yoga classes.  So are online yoga instructional websites a good substitute for going to a yoga studio for live instruction?

Well yes, and no.  Online yoga videos are not a substitute for doing yoga in a live class setting. That’s not to say joining a yoga class website isn’t good idea.  Just like yoga DVDs, they serve a purpose. For example, online yoga videos are a great addition to one’s core learning and practice that takes place in a yoga studio with a real, live teacher.  Think of it this way- online yoga classes compared to live studio instruction is what watching movies on DVD is to going to the movie theater.  It’s fun watching movies at home, but sometimes nothing beats going to the movie theater.

As with anything, there are pros and cons to doing yoga online…

Pros of Doing Yoga Classes Online

Expense:

For about the price of one in studio class, one can gain access to many online videos.  In fact, the online model is even a better deal than yoga DVDs. Moreover, one’s entire household can benefit from one membership.  Group sessions can be held at home quite easily by linking the computer to a TV, which is done very simply these days.

Variety:

One can gain access to a huge number of online yoga videos.  It won’t be the same routines over and over again, and maybe that can help avoid yoga ruts.  Likewise, some websites offer more than just yoga- some include meditations, instruction, Pilates and more.

Learn something new:

With variety comes learning.  Online yoga videos make it easier to learn new styles, new poses and new approaches compared to what can be  learned at a local studio. Attending one to three live classes a week can only provide so much new learning; whereas with access to hundreds or thousands of videos, the sky really is the limit.

Do a yoga session that suits immediate needs:

Once familiar with online yoga courses, one can usually find a session that fits perfectly for a particular need, including duration, style, intensity and level. For example, if someone only has 20-minutes and is tired at the end of a day, one can find a gentle 20-minute yoga routine to squeeze into the day.  If on the other hand, someone has a  free afternoon and needs a good sweat, one can look to a 90-minute intense ashtanga routine.

Cons of Doing Yoga Classes Online

It’s a self-directed practice.

It may be tempting to cut short home yoga sessions.  That temptation is not the same in a live class. At home, often savasana is cut short and sometimes one may not even get that far. When attending a class, one typically finishes the entire session, including a restful and relaxing ending with savasana pose.

Online classes are not nearly as deep of a yoga session:

Students can do hundreds of online yoga routines and DVD sessions at home, but none of them compare in quality of yoga experience as going to a live class taught by an accomplished yoga teacher.  There’s just a different sense of satisfaction.

No personalized instruction:

There is absolutely no substitute for a live teacher improving one’s alignment and technique.  Personalized attention is what can take a yoga practice to the next level and really generate the desired results. Yoga teachers don’t just know yoga … they’re trained to teach yoga which includes spotting poor postures and techniques.

One can fall into a routine:

With online yoga class memberships, sometimes people end up doing the same 4 or 5 sessions over and over. Some students are creatures of habit and once completing a few sessions comfortably might want to repeat the same few classes.  This behavior defeats the purpose of having access to a myriad of online yoga classes. When attending studio classes, students often learn something new each time, as long as the teachers take the time to incorporate something new into each session.

Lacks community/social element:

Chatting with other students before and after yoga class is fun. Some wonderful, lifelong friendships begin in class.  Such an occurrence would not happen in an at-home practice environment.

Technology tinkering can be a hassle:

Setting up an online yoga video website account can be challenging for people.  It takes time and it’s yet another website membership to manage.

Overwhelming:

Variety is great, but with variety comes so much choice.  Sometimes so much content means combing through all that content and that can become quite cumbersome.

Stifle growth and proficiency:

This con is a combination of falling into a rut and a lack of personalized yoga instruction.  Even watching yoga videos can result in establishing poor habits which won’t be corrected.  However, in a live class, bad habits are corrected (hopefully gently by a great teacher).

Costs money:

Yes, online yoga training websites are a great deal for the most part, but it’s still another expense.

There may be commitment issues:

What about people that join something and then never use the membership? It happens.  Someone joins something and then before one realizes 3, 4, 5 or more months have gone by and the membership has not been touched.  Generally with live yoga classes, unless one buys a membership, one pays for what is used.

It’s great to get out of the house:

It’s not always easy getting gear together and getting out of the house, but once out and about, it almost always feel better going somewhere and doing something. Live yoga classes are a  great way to get out of the house, meet fellow yogis and friends and do something fun and healthy.

If online yoga exercises and instruction sounds interesting- the best way to do it is as a supplement to regular weekly live sessions.