Since the 1970s yoga has gone from a niche activity to a mainstream exercise that's often recommended for flexibility, stress reduction and even overall strength and fitness. It's usually practiced at a gym or yoga studio, where you may pay $10, $15 or even $20 for just one class. When you're crunched for time or can't fit a trip to the studio into your schedule, or are short on cash for an individual lesson, yoga videos can save the day. They offer a private, highly affordable, flexible option for keeping up with your yoga skills -- or for developing them.
There's a yoga DVD for every style of yoga and every skill level. You can find yoga titles for beginners, advanced practitioners, pregnant women and everyone in between. Some of the most common styles include Vinyasa, Ashtanga and Anusara yoga. In Vinyasa, poses flow together in one fluid movement with a focus on breathing. Ashtanga is a highly athletic style of yoga that follows a series of poses; it's also the basis for power yoga, which focuses on building strength and generating heat. Also featured in many yoga videos, Anusara takes a spiritual approach and includes flowing poses. Still other DVDs combine yoga with other fitness routines such as Pilates, kickboxing or dance.
Just as yoga methods can vary, so can instructors' expertise and style. Some instructors include lots of chanting and meditation, while others downplay such spirituality. Previewing a yoga video online can help you ensure that an instructor's style will mesh with your own. While the majority of instructors are certified within a certain school of yoga, plenty of personal trainers lead videos without certification. Either way, the best yoga titles will feature a knowledgeable teacher who can give insightful guidance on correct form and breathing techniques.
Yoga DVDs for beginners take things slow. Some yoga videos use complicated terms or move quickly between poses without detailed, step-by-step instructions. DVDs aimed at beginners move slowly and include plenty of comprehensive instruction. The instructor demonstrates modifications, which are easier variations of challenging poses. These programs may encourage the use of equipment such as yoga blocks or straps to help with form, flexibility and stability. There is little to watch out for here, though the pace of beginners' DVDs may be too slow for those used to a faster, more intense workout.
Prenatal yoga DVDs provide a gentle workout for expectant mothers. Pregnancy is exciting, but it's also filled with aches and pains, anxiety and even insomnia. Prenatal yoga DVDs aim to ease some of those symptoms by providing gentle stretching, breathing exercises and meditation. Some prenatal yoga DVDs may also include poses meant to increase strength and flexibility during labor. Many show modifications that help women tailor their workout to each stage of their pregnancy. On the downside, women who worked out regularly before pregnancy often complain that prenatal yoga DVDs don't allow them to work up a sweat. Others cringe at the earth-mother style of some of the programs, saying they sometimes find the instructors or music cheesy.
Online yoga sites are an inexpensive alternative to classes at a yoga studio. The last few years have seen an explosion of subscription-based yoga websites. For about $10 to $20 a month, users gain unlimited access to classes in all yoga styles taught by a wide variety of instructors. Indeed, online yoga can help beginners explore different types of yoga to discover what they like best. They also let more experienced students find classes with greater difficulty or a specific focus, even down to soothing a sore back or unwinding after work. But the production value of yoga sites' videos may not be up to par with that of DVDs, and some caution that the sites can be overwhelming for beginners.
ConsumerSearch has analyzed expert and customer reviews to evaluate instruction, production and ease of use for popular yoga videos. The results are our picks for the best yoga videos on the market.