I’ve been doing yoga in studios and online consistently for over a decade…
…and I love both.
I started out doing yoga in my childhood home when I was 19. I’m not sure what made me try that yoga class through my cable company’s on-demand listings, but that’s where I fell in love with yoga and where I established a deep respect for doing guided yoga at home.
After doing yoga for a while with on-demand randomness and few DVDs (namely the Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga DVD from the mid-90s), my wife (then girlfriend) introduced me to Terry Cockburn’s vinyasa yoga class in a small room in a racquet club in Maine. Doing yoga in a room full of sweaty people blew my mind and a re-fell in love with yoga, but in a different way this time.
Since then, I’ve been a yoga nomad, bouncing from studio to studio with my moves around the country, and trying new at-home options with online yoga services like YogaDownload, PowerYoga.com, Alo Moves, and YogaGlo.
I’ve enjoyed all of these options for different reasons and, ultimately, my experience led me to start Icewater Yoga, an online yoga platform designed for athletes. By building an at-home yoga option for people like me, it was way of giving back to the experience I’ve gotten so much from.
I’ve learned a few things in my experience with yoga nomadding and online-yoga-platform-buildling, and I’d like to share them with you to help you figure out how to bring yoga into your life and find balance between all the options out there.
Let’s get started:
Benefits of Yoga in Studios
Hands down, my favorite part of going to yoga studios and what keeps me coming back is the community. There’s no way to replace that feeling of warmth that a yoga studio brings.
Going to a studio on a regular basis makes me feel like I’m part of something greater than myself. Sharing my experience with others brings a quality of togetherness and unity that goes hand-in-hand with the teachings of yoga.
People come to yoga for different reasons and oftentimes from completely different backgrounds. I’ve taken classes where I had a 60+ year-old man on my left and a twenty-something woman on my right. In studios, I’m constantly reminded that it’s the thing we’re doing together (yoga) that matters, not who’s doing it, or why.
Community is where unexpected friendships and opportunities happen. At the studio, you give your time in exchange for others’. In a way, you’re trusting the people around you to see you use your body and all of its triumphs and awkward movements.
In my experience, what’s developed is a liberated relationship with my body and its relationship with the world. You can have this too, by finding a yoga studio that you vibe with.
I don’t know about you, but I feel pretty good when I go somewhere and people know my name, and, being a person who can’t remember name to save my life, I don’t take this lightly.
For me, remembering somebody’s name means I care about them. That’s not to say that I don’t care about people whose names I’ve forgotten (sorry most people I’ve met!), but I don’t think I’ve ever remembered somebody’s name if I don’t feel a personal connection with them.
Knowing what it takes for me to remember names, when a teacher at a yoga studio knows my name, my trust in them skyrockets. The simplest remarks like “good work, Joe” bring a personal touch to the experience and lets me know that the teacher has my best interests at heart.
With this trust comes comfort, and comfort is essential if you’re going to have a consistent practice. Of course, physical effort isn’t always “comfortable”, but being comfortable with your teacher and their teaching allows you to be at-ease and at-peace, so you can get lost in your practice, regardless of the discomfort of physical demands.
Sometimes removing yourself physically from one location to another is all the motivation you need to do something.
For me, I associate the living room with chilling out. I’ve tried to do yoga in my living room for a very long time, but it just doesn’t work. (Not just because it doesn’t feel right, but I’ve also crashed down from arm balances into furniture more times than I’d like to admit.)
Going to the yoga studio is a great option simply because it’s somewhere else.
Sometimes we just need a space to be dedicated to the thing we do there. Using the spare bedroom/office/storage room/yoga room for yoga just doesn’t compare to rolling out your mat in a dedicated space for yoga.
Of course, you can (and should) dedicate a space in your home for at-home yoga, and I’ll get to that, but the yoga studio will always be there as a dedicated space for when the distractions of home are just a little too much.
My dad has a lot of sayings. Most are pretty good, but my favorite is “if you can’t get out of it, get into it.”
When you’re taking a class at a yoga studio, you’re there and even though the door is just a few steps across the room, leaving doesn’t feel like much of an option.
Not only would people (gasp!) see you leaving, but you’d also be leaving them and taking away from their experience. This may not be obvious at first, but just like everyone in a class is motivating you to continue moving and efforting, you’re doing the same for everyone else.
There’s an unseen and unspoken energy that comes with taking class at a studio that feels similar to being on a plane. We’re strapped in, with the doors locked, in the air, all going to the same place.
Of course, you could be the person who wants to leave, but do you really want to be the person who brings the plane back down to the ground?
The social pressure of the studio is a beautiful thing. You’ll find yourself trying and achieving things you never would have at home, all under the watchful eye of someone that cares about you and your well-being.
Ya, it’s pretty great. But, adding an at-home yoga option will make it even better. Here’s how:
Benefits of Yoga Online
Resources (Time and Money)
I love yoga, but it can be expensive. Most studios near me cost $20+ per class and I usually have to plan a lot of my day around actually getting myself to the studio. To be honest, the cost in terms of time and money is what’s held me back from doing more yoga in studios.
For me, online yoga has been the best solution to this problem.
In terms of financial cost, if you’re actually using your online yoga platform, the cost is almost negligible. For example, Icewater Yoga is $20 per month. If you were to do 1-2 class per week, you’d effectively be paying $2.50-$5.00 per class. Compared to most studios, this is a major cost savings (especially if you’re already paying for some other fitness priority, like a climbing gym or fitness club, or even a yoga studio).
It’s hard, if not impossible, to find a yoga studio that offers classes under an hour in length. Add the commute, showing up a little early, talking a bit to teachers and peers after class, and you’ve got yourself a two-hour commitment.
On top of that, studio classes start at specific times, so hopefully your schedule aligns with the class you want to take! (And hopefully you’re feeling up to it when the class starts!)
On the other hand, with online yoga, the yoga molds to your schedule, not the other way around. Pull up your online yoga service when the time is right, choose a class with a duration that makes sense, and simply do it.
A little warning — it’s going to be tempting to skip the final resting pose when you’re doing online yoga. Ya, you’d be saving time, but are you really doing yoga if you’re allowing yourself to rush to the next thing?
My advice? Save the time you need to save, then be unrushed.
At home, you’re free, and freedom goes a long way in yoga.
Oftentimes, in class, there’s certain stuff you just want to do more of, but the class has moved on and you have to be doing something that at least resembles what everyone else is doing. (As a side note, I think it’s hilarious when people just do their own thing in a yoga class. I have a hard time holding back laughter. Not sure if that’s appropriate, but I can’t help it.)
But, at home, there’s a pause button.
Online yoga says “go ahead, press pause, try that pose a few more times, rewind and do it again.” Or, maybe you want to do the warm-up from one class, the middle of another, and then close with a third class. You’re the master of your experience when you’re at home.
Also, the fashion show of the yoga studio is completely irrelevant with online yoga. Sure, I can see how it would be nice to get decked out in yoga gear every once in a while, but is that what you want to do every time?
At home, no one cares what you’re wearing (or, if you’re wearing anything at all…not to be weird, but it’s true).
So, go for that full lion’s breath, take a deep audible sigh, wear anything or nothing. No one is there to judge you at home, a perfect opportunity forget about everything except for what’s going on inside.
Photo of Lion’s Breath Pose by Ann Pizer via VeryWellFit (Link)
Ever been bored or felt completely overwhelmed in a yoga class?
I’ve had both. Neither are fun…
This idea reminds me of the the “Flow” model presented by (no idea how to pronounce it) Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:
Once you snap out of the trance from that mesmerizing rainbow, the chart is suggesting that when we’re asked to do something that challenges us too much for our skill level, we feel anxiety. On the other end of the spectrum, when we’re not challenged and the task requires moderate to low skill, we’re bored.
Ultimately, we want to always be operating in the top right of the chart — high skill and high challenge. Now, “high challenge” and “high skill” can mean different things over time. As we get better, our skill improves and we need higher challenges to continue to feel “flow”.
The struggle of the studio yoga teacher is they have to teach to the whole room, which often leads a lowest common denominator experience. Going to a studio can sometimes feel like going to see a blockbuster movie, while online yoga is like watching that strange Russian documentary series on Netflix that you love.
With online yoga, you can constantly be playing your edge and personalize your experience entirely. You don’t have to worry about getting into some crazy pose because you have experienced students in class, nor do you have to entertain a boring sequence you’ve done a million times.
Taking this a step further, online yoga offers you the opportunity to be specific about the teacher you’re working with (not just who’s local), their specific teaching focus/style, and the overall focus of the online yoga service you choose.
For example, Icewater Yoga focuses on offering yoga classes for athletes. This means certain things: the teachers know what athletes need, they speak in a way that athletes can connect with and understand, and classes are designed to provide the maximum benefit for athletes.
Other services are focused on very skillful yoga, others more spiritual, others more general.
The beauty of the spectrum of options is choosing what’s best for you, specifically. You decide what service you subscribe to and, therefore, how you’re complimenting your in-studio yoga practice.
Did you hear that?
That’s what solitude is — an opportunity to tune out the world and focus your attention inward.
Simply being alone allows you to reflect and notice things without distraction of others or the urge to compare or compete.
For most people, alone time is rare. With online yoga, you have an excuse to separate yourself from the world, and move inward.
In the interest of keeping this section as tranquil as possible, I’ll leave it here.
Perfecting the Studio/Online Yoga Combo
There are pros and cons to everything…but when it comes to yoga, why not get the best of both worlds?
Now that you understand the benefits of online yoga and in-studio yoga, here are five tips on how to find the perfect balance between the two:
- Create a dedicated space for yoga in your home for when you do online yoga. Clean it up, keep your yoga stuff (mat, blocks, etc.) in there, and don’t use it for anything else.
- Take your time to find the right studio and online platform. Most offer new student discounts or free trials. Try a bunch and choose the combination that best suits you.
- Think about what you want to achieve with yoga. Once you’ve established this, you can determine the time split between studio and home yoga. Plus, knowing why you’re doing something seems like a good idea, in general.
- Mix and match the benefits of studio and home yoga. For example, rent a studio space for an hour and have your own online yoga session there (most studios have hourly rental rates). Or, do a private yoga session in your home with a teacher you love.
- Enjoy them. I’ve had amazing, life-changing experiences in yoga classes at studios and at home. Both are extremely valuable for what they offer, so soak up their best qualities and savor the balance they bring to one another.
I love doing yoga. Whether I’m in a studio or at home, I always seem to enjoy my experience and leave the session feeling better.
The yoga studio brings communities of people together to do this beautiful practice in harmony. There’s a sense of warmth and togetherness that comes with the studio experience that can’t be replicated at home.
Online yoga means freedom. Anywhere, any time, any teacher, any class. Through online yoga we deepen our understanding of the practice and ourselves without the distraction that comes with socialization.
On one hand we have community, on the other, solitude. We need both to stay healthy and balanced. And, I promise, with a little effort you’ll find the perfect studio-online combo, then just dive in.