There’s no question. Studio yoga classes are a fantastic healing, strengthening and community experience for so many people.
When you can get there.
When asked, I almost always suggest that those new to yoga start first with classes under the guidance and expert assists of a registered yoga teacher, where they can get grounded in the basics of good form and proper breathing techniques. It’s easy to gain confidence in a structured group setting, where the visual cues all around help to accelerate your learning. Plus, you’ll meet and practice alongside some really terrific folks who can offer encouragement and support as you grow in your practice. (Not to mention render first aid when you topple over from a random vertigo episode, but that’s another post.)
So yes, I love the in-studio experience.
But I also love the serenity and quiet solitude of my 5am practice in a darkened living room, on my mat, just minutes after rolling out of my bed and getting in a quick HIIT cardio or strength session. Or the idea of “secret” lunch hour yoga in a vacant room at the office, only seconds and steps from my workstation.
This is Yoga for the Real World. And by real world, I mean MY world.
Your world may be different. But if it’s like mine, a 6am studio class ANYWHERE is simply too late. By 6am, I need to be done with all exercise and stepping into my shower, so I can be dressed for work and on the road by 7am. Due to an interstate commute, plus family and other project obligations after work – what I call the “second shift” – an evening gym or studio class just doesn’t work for me. On any level. Besides, I am toast at the end of my day, both mentally and physically. So it’s pre-dawn fitness, or bust.
A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.
Simply put, while the studio yoga class may be considered the ideal, it’s not essential to my primary goal: growing my practice through consistency. Community is nice, but my personal yoga journey is nicer. By whatever means necessary. And today, those “means” look like this:
It’s unorthodox, and not for the yoga purist crowd. But it works for me, allowing me to blend modern technology with a time-tested practice, so that I can fit yoga into all the various nooks and crannies of my life that a traditional class can’t reach. Here’s how it works:
1. Select an audio yoga class and download it to your .mp3 player. Not many people know this, but iTunes has a ton of solid, full-length yoga classes in its *podcast* category. For free. Say you’re interested in a power yoga class. You simply plug that in to “Search” and up pops a host of recorded classes by various instructors, anywhere from 20 minutes to 90 minutes long. Or, you can go with my recommendation and pay $20 for Baron Baptiste’s The Yoga Bootcamp. Not only do you get a full 75-minute Power Yoga class along with three 20-minute mini-classes (that you can import as audio files to your computer and later sync to your .mp3 player), but also a helpful deck of 80 flashcards illustrating and explaining each yoga pose. Finally, you get a workbook with instructions on how to do your own yoga bootcamp at home, complete with eating plan and meditation tips. It’s a tremendous value for the flashcards alone, which are a great resource for anyone’s at-home practice.
2. Purchase a wireless bluetooth headset designed for sports, like the Avantree Jogger. This will run you between $38 and $50, depending on whether you opt for the regular or pro version. There are other brands and models on the market, but I can’t recommend any of them since I haven’t tested them. I went with Avantree because the Amazon ratings were best-in-class, and the product has thus far lived up to the hype. This has been a game-changer for me, for two reasons: one, it’s so comfortable and unobtrusive that I completely forget that I’m wearing it as soon as I put it on; and two, the sound quality is outstanding, with the added effect of the yoga instructor speaking directly into my ear as I move through my flow. It feels completely natural and distraction-free.
3. Consider buying and using an armband (Tuneband for iPod Nano is my fave), if your .mp3 player is of compact size. If your .mp3 player lives in a bigger device, though, no worries. I’ve experimented with the bluetooth range of the wireless headset, and although the directions advise that you keep the .mp3 device at close range on your person, I successfully tested it with a yoga video file playing on an iPad that was placed some distance away from where I was practicing. There was no loss of sound.
4. Roll out your mat, connect the headset’s bluetooth to your device, press play, and begin your practice. There you go! The peripherals melt away, and you’ve now got a yoga class between your ears.
Is this a rejection of traditional studio yoga classes? Of course not. Simply a viable workaround for those with more experience and who need other options. All I really did here was reclaim ownership of my yoga experience, adapt it to my unique life and circumstances, and use technology to create a Yoga Anytime, Anywhere system to address the following:
My life = square peg
Studio yoga classes with day, time and location set by others = round hole
Maybe your life is a round hole perfectly aligned with the terms dictated by others. Mine is not. That’s not to say it won’t realign at some point in the future, but today…it is what it is.
As a registered yoga teacher (RYT), I have a healthy appreciation and firsthand knowledge of all the benefits of traditional in-person yoga classes. But I also live in a world where many who stand to benefit from yoga can’t always make it to a studio class. Or they can’t afford it on a regular basis. (Should yoga only be accessible to those who have the ability to pay ongoing monthly studio fees?) Or they have no one to leave their kids with. Or they work full-time at a remote location and only have lunch hour free (and a vacant conference room or office) for practice. Or their preferred style of yoga class is not offered nearby.
So, if you can get to and afford yoga in traditional class settings, by all means take advantage of it. They are wonderful, and provide a unique energy, spirit and sense of community all their own.
But if you can’t…know that you have other options available. I’ll leave the last word to Baptiste Yoga founder Baron Baptiste, who in his widely-acclaimed book Journey Into Power said:
By any means necessary.