A lot of people have reached out to me with questions about how I started yoga and how they can start.
If you have questions please continue to reach out to me, I love it! I love talking about yoga and encouraging others in their journey. However, I found that as more people asked me, I kept typing up a very similar initial response that included lists and reviews of my favorite YouTube yogis. I would spend upwards of 30 minutes each time composing this first response, which is fine, I thoroughly enjoyed it, but what I really wanted to talk about was what drew that person to yoga, how their bodies are adapting to the practice, the spiritual journey behind it, and to give encouragement. I wanted to connect with their journey, but after spending 30 minutes typing up my initial response I was all typed out. So, I have decided to post A Newbies Guide to YouTube Yoga which will share a small portion of my story, with a big portion about my favorite YouTube yogis. My wish is that those of you that are interested will continue to reach out to me and share your stories with me, and we can focus on the journey rather than the list of my suggestions.
Yoga has become super popular in the US over the past 20 years (maybe more), and yoga classes are readily available to anyone who has the time and money to attend a studio. But yoga shouldn’t be just for those who can afford it. Yoga isn’t just a way to work out, it’s a way of living. It teaches you more than just poses, it teaches you the art of stillness and silence in the midst of a busy world. I practice yoga to still my mind and calm my spirit, to connect with God in a way that doesn’t allow my mind to dominate conversation like it tends to do during prayer time. I practice yoga to discover more about my physical body and spiritual body. I practice yoga to supplement what I learn in Celebrate Recovery (http://www.celebraterecovery.com/site-map).
What’s that? You want to try yoga, but you don’t have the time or money to attend a class? Luckily, we live in a world of technology, and there are thousands of yogis out there who want to share their love of yoga with anyone who has access to youtube. No money needed. All you need is a mat, towel, or blanket, internet access, and 20-90 minutes (it’s up to you!).
Since I have started practicing yoga, I have only attended one class. It was nice to get feedback from a certified teacher, but it’s not always necessary or available.
The first time I ever did yoga was 4 years ago when my husband, Dean, and I decided to try P90X together. I thought yoga would be a relaxing, stretching, type of thing…boy was I wrong. During our first week of P90X, Dean and I participated in our first YogaX practice. P90X yoga isn’t exactly yoga. Sure the poses are there, the movements are there, but it is missing some huge pieces: the discovery of self, the release of ego, and the marriage between spiritual body and physical body. However, at the time, I had no idea these pieces could be present in yoga, so I didn’t miss anything. The YogaX practice was difficult but I loved discovering my strength, balance, and flexibility all at the same time. I fell in love. However, I could not keep up the P90X workouts for more than a month, I returned to running every day, and as a result I forgot all about yoga for 2 years.
Fast forward 2 years to May 2013. I was starved for a workout but I didn’t feel like driving all the way to the gym or running. I decided to check out what workouts were OnDemand. It was then that yoga and I were reunited with the help of John Vitarelli.
It was during these video practices by John Vitarelli that I first experienced a true “surrender to the breath”. I experienced a peace and calm that I never experienced with YogaX. I continued to use OnDemand for my yoga practice for an entire year (upon renewing our cable subscription, Comcast realized we were getting OnDemand without actually paying for it). Without OnDemand John Vitarelli was no longer at my fingertips. And so, I ventured out into the world of youtube yoga.
I started my search with John Vitarelli, but because he is a well-known yogi and sells DVDs, he didn’t have any full practice videos out there. But with a lot of looking, a lot of testing, and a lot of yoga, I found my favorite Youtube yogis that fit my practice. Keep in mind, that there are tons of certified instructors out there for all different styles of yoga, these just happen to be the ones I connect with.
I’m not sure why I never ventured out into the real world with yoga, I have only attended one class in my whole life. Maybe it’s the money, maybe I’m insecure, maybe I don’t feel like driving…I honestly don’t know. Maybe I will look at that someday, but for now all you need to know is that all of my yoga training has been through videos.
Without further to do, here is my Newbies Guide to YouTube Yoga
- Learn the Basics
Yoga with Adrienne
Adrienne Mishler is a down to earth, semi-goofy, and fully lovable instructor. Her videos are the place to start if you have never done yoga before and a great place to return to the basics. This doesn’t mean her videos won’t challenge you if you are familiar with yoga; these videos stick to the basics, but boy oh boy do you feel the burn at every level!
Adrienne offers a variety of modifications, has easy to follow instructions, and approaches her practice with a light-hearted manner that is accepting of flaws and imperfection. Her practices typically range from 15-30 minutes and she has several 5-10 minute “How to” videos for specific poses.
One of my favorite things about Adrienne is that she includes practices for real life issues:
Lastly, Adrienne has a 30 Days of Yoga experience that offers an easy way to start practicing and it’s all free!
- Get Comfortable with Your Body and the Breath
Dagmar is a 500 E-RYT teacher, I have no idea what that means but it sounds important. Don’t let that intimidate you though, Dagmar has a soothing voice and a wonderful way of connecting her viewers to the breath. Within minutes of practicing with a Dagmar video, I feel the tension leave my body (there is just something about the way she says the word “Breathe”).
There aren’t many free Dagmar videos out there, I’m guessing she is pretty well known, and it is pretty clear why. Dagmar’s videos are geared toward an intermediate practice, however, with that being said, this specific practice was the first youtube practice I ever tried, and although I struggled through it, I enjoyed it immensely. It is also a favorite of my mom’s (she has been practicing less than year, and although she has a natural ability to pick up yoga, she isn’t completely familiar with the terminology, but was able to follow along with Dagmar’s descriptions). After I became familiar with the terminology I was able to follow along with Dagmar’s practices without needing to look at the screen at all, which really helped me maintain alignment during movements.
Dagmar’s practices typically range from 40-50 minutes and she also has very good “How to” videos that break down the proper alignment for specific poses:
Dagmar includes headstands and arm balances in her practices, which can be difficult for a beginner. But don’t let that keep you from experiencing the beauty and peace of her practice, she usually gives a modification and if she doesn’t, just replace any poses you aren’t ready for with a child’s pose. It took me 1.5 years to finally get my headstand, and that headstand did not include an ability to raise my legs up all the way.
- Find a Practice You Enjoy
Shareen Woodford has a variety of intermediate videos that include vinyasa flow, hatha flow, and ashtanga practices. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry about it, just try them all out and find what you like. Shareen’s practices are often filmed outside without a personal mic, so they can be hard to hear sometimes, and I find myself constantly checking the screen to make sure I am following along correctly. However, I find myself constantly coming back to her practices because of the way she flows through them. I feel like I’m doing a dance and as a retired Irish Dancer, I love anything that resembles a dance. Her flows can move a little fast, so if you are a beginner you might want to hold off on these videos until you get used to the terminology and the movements.
One of my favorite things about Shareen is her constant reminder to respect your body and your limits.
- Learn Your Limits and How to Challenge Yourself in a Healthy Way
Efit30 Yoga Vine with Donna
If you are looking for a challenge this is where you want to go. Donna incorporates difficult arm balances and exciting transitions into her vinyasa flow practice. Donna’s instructions are clear and easy to follow if you know the terminology and the basics. Her practices range anywhere from 30-90 minutes. She also has a killer accent!
It took me two years of trying her videos before I could make it through a practice without needing to take a resting child’s pose every 10 minutes or even stopping the video halfway through and taking shavasana right then and there. Don’t get down on yourself if you can’t do it, do what you can and allow yourself room to grow. It takes time to learn when your body has reached it a limit. Honor your body and remember that your limits change daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. If you respect and honor your body you will protect yourself from injury while growing physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
- Learn New Poses and Have Fun!
Lesley Fightmaster https://www.youtube.com/user/lesleyfightmaster
Lesley Fightmaster is also a RYT-E 500 yoga instructor. She probably has the largest number of full length yoga practice videos on youtube. Lesley caters to intermediate and advanced students. Don’t be fooled by her “beginner” titled videos, they require knowledge of poses and terminology that a beginner may not possess quite yet. Lesley’s flow moves quite fast, and I find myself constantly looking at the screen because I don’t understand her instruction. But that is not to say that Lesley’s practices aren’t worth the effort, they so are!
Lesley is committed to providing free yoga practices for everyone! And she certainly does a fabulous job providing! Lesley offers creative and dynamic vinyasa flow practices for intermediate to advanced students. She has full practices specific to warming up the body for headstand, handstand, crow, firefly, you name it! Lesley incorporates a variety of arm balances and challenging transitions that keep me coming back for more. I thoroughly enjoy the journey of trying to learn something new, falling flat on my face (literally), and after months of practice, achieving an expression of the pose that feels beautiful to me.
I also love that Lesley does not edit out her mistakes. Every now and then she wobbles, drops a pose, or forgets a movement, because she is human. I love that she accepts her humanness and just keeps going, it encourages me to accept my humanness and enjoy the journey!
- Look it Up and Get Inspired
Kino MacGregor https://www.youtube.com/user/KinoYoga/featured
Rachel Brathen- Yogagirl https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCExTOE3jupt24BrWnisURYw
I originally had this as two seperate steps but I couldn’t choose which yogi to put with each step. Both Kino and Rachel offer heaps of inspiration, encouragement, and how to’s. Both these beautiful woman are very well known and have books, videos, products, you name it. But what I love about both of them is the transparency they offer on their Instagram and facebook accounts as well as their youtube accounts.
Typically, when I need inspiration I check out Rachel’s 1-2 minute practice clips to get my creative juices flowing.
When I want to learn proper alignment and technique I check out Kino’s How to clips:
But it was Rachel’s Handstand 101 that got me into my first handstand
And it was Kino’s Demo Video that inspired me to continue practicing arm balances with my feeble Irish dancer arms.
Yoga is a beautiful journey to consider. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you and that’s ok. I have found so much peace, stillness, and love of self through my journey, and most importantly I have heard God and felt his presence in my life during my practice (But I’ll have to write about that another time).
Wow, that was super lengthy, but I hope this helps! And please, please, please tell me how it goes! If you know me personally or if you don’t, it doesn’t matter, feel free to contact me, I want to help! Also feel free to follow me on Instagram @lizzyeast