Working out has become a daily goal of mine. It helps lift my mood while keeping my mind, body, and soul healthy. To fight viruses like Covid-19, staying active can aid our immune systems, and while all gyms and studios are still closed, there are various ways we can still workout. Lifting weights, cardio, HIIT, and going for walks are a great way to clear your head and re-energize from being stuck inside. However, my favorite is yoga, especially because I can do it at home and it requires little equipment.
Focusing on breathing, strength, and balance turns a day full of anxiety into a calm, peaceful one. One of the most important parts of yoga is that it allows you to grow as a person (mentally and physically) and to view things with a more positive mindset. To get started, all you need is a mat and towel, however, you may also add a block for assistance. Here are five of my favorite YouTube yoga videos which include a mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
Tip: Watch or skim through the videos ahead of time, so you are aware of the lessons content. This way you won’t need to be constantly looking at the screen doing your workout.
Whether you are an experienced yogi or a complete beginner, this 30-minute session with Kassandra (my favorite online teacher) is a useful workout. Focusing on strength and flexibility, the class teaches you the basics of the Vinyasa Flow. For those that don’t know this term, it’s basically the style of yoga where poses harmoniously merge together. You move from one to the other, while in tune with your breathing. It is also called “synchronized-breathing” which is key to almost every yoga class, so it’s a great place to start if you’re new.
If you have more experience, I recommend this for days where you want to focus more on grounding yourself mentally. I have come back to this one when I’m sore from a prior exercise or in need of some stress-relief. While it’s classified as “beginner,” this is still challenging and requires you to use your entire body.
The session commences with a short meditation sequence. It allows you to open your brain up to your physical self and helps you let go of anything weighing you down. Here is where the synchronized-breathing practice begins by concentrating on inhaling and exhaling.
Moving into a warm-up to prepare for the rest, the instructor shows spine stretches for fluent and dynamic movement. The flow then starts with hand-and-knee plank and lunge variations to strengthen your abdominals and glutes. Centering on formative strength and stretch, we are shown how to do basic Warrior sequences.
Concentrating on flexibility, Baby Cobra, Downward Facing Dog, Chair Pose, and Chaturanga, work together with Vinyasa. We repeat this throughout the session while moving from pose to pose. All these help align your breath while improving overall balance. The workout concludes with full-body movements, like Bridge Pose, to relax the muscles and then Savasana, also known as Corpse Pose.
This 35-minute beginner session focuses on stretching and easing into yoga. The lesson stresses that you should deal with any problems you may have in your body or your mind. It is perfect for beginners as the purpose of the class is “the practice of slowing down, noticing, stretching, and moving with ease.” I especially love this class after going on a hike or before hitting the gym.
Also, the teacher, Adriene, has a 30 Days of Yoga challenge that is inspiring and motivational to try out during the quarantine. This video covers Day 1, making it a great place to get familiar with her style, and to practice your Vinyasa breath before jumping in.
The session starts with a seated meditation to breathe deep, listen to your body, and get rid of distractions. Adriene follows up with simple spinal, neck, and back stretches to prepare your muscles. Moving into variations of Table-Top and Cat-Cow Pose, she then adds some strength exercises into the mix which will work your hips, glutes, arms, legs, and abdominals. Then, going back to the Chaturanga flow, she has you do a mixture of Downward Facing Dog, Cobra, and Plank to radiate energy throughout.
Following up with standing and stretching poses, such as Mountain, Forward Fold, and Halfway Lift, we flex and relax the back muscles. The flow is constant throughout most of the session until the end. These may seem easy, but they do quite a job of depleting all the tension from your muscles. This is especially good for us right now since we are spending a lot of time sitting on our couches or on our computers.
You may have conquered enough beginner sessions and want to challenge yourself, or maybe you’re already an intermediate level yogi. Either way, with stretch and strength in mind, this lesson is challenging yet rewarding. This intermediate 35-minute class created by the lovely Kassandra fixates on your full-body while being in tune with Vinyasa Flow. Some things that make her classes stand out are the simple instructions and the modifications advised for strenuous poses.
After doing this as my only stimulating activity of the day, I still felt tremendous growth in my mental and physical self. It’s a session I will continue to repeat because it’s energizing and refreshing and the perfect balance of exercise.
The tutorial starts with meditation and breathing through simple stretches. This preparation opens up all the muscles and invites your brain to let go of anxieties before starting. The purpose of the lesson is to move fluidly through strengthening poses held by interchanging counts of breath. Firing up the core, back, and legs, Kassandra begins with side planks and Warrior 3 Pose that advances with Vinyasa. She then guides us through Low-Lunge, Wide Leg Forward Fold, Half-Splits, and Standing Splits before going to our basic Chaturanga. We repeat a variation of this exercise on both legs, adding in 3-Legged Dog and Warrior/Lunge postures. Last, she calls for stretching, twisting, and elongating the muscles from the left-to-right side, and ends with Extended Side Angle Pose.
By the time your session is complete, you will have worked up a sweat, while stretching and toning your body. Hopefully, you feel more engaged with your mind, body, and soul.
Tip: When you face a move too difficult or that hurts too much, return to Chaturanga or Child’s Pose.
At 45 minutes, this is the longest session out of all five videos. It concentrates on full-body but is more focused on sculpting, strength, endurance, and flexibility. While it’s labeled as intermediate, I would say it’s more on the cusp of advanced. It teaches us how to stretch out our muscles while tuning into our breath. This is the most important step, so that you don’t hurt yourself or tear a muscle. Also, this is the perfect time for thinking of what you truly yearn to achieve through the lesson.
The toning begins by first captivating your hip flexors by doing sets of leg-lifts and Baby Wild-Thing. Still engaging in Vinyasa, Chaturanga flows into 3-Legged Dog hip openers and abdominal squeezes that act almost like crunches. Kassandra repeats this several times and transforms this same exercise into a Side-Plank position. She additionally does various leg-lift poses in Side-Plank. This is the half-way mark where I had to stop for water and regain my composure. She continues with one-legged balances and Wild-Thing that works on sculpting your glutes, thighs, and abdominals (this part especially burns). Savasana is the end reward for all the tough work you put into this class. It gives you a little relaxation before you go on with the day.
This session was not easy by any means, but remember to listen to your body first and foremost. It’s always important in yoga never to push yourself beyond the limits. You will advance in your practice more efficiently if you go at your own speed. Keep in mind, Downward Dog is the best position to go into when you get overwhelmed in any yoga lesson. I have found that as I’ve progressed with yoga, I return to viewing this lesson for an extra challenge.
The 35-minute session is one of the harder yoga lessons I have highlighted, as the entirety of it repeats twice. The first time we do it with counted breaths. Afterward, we repeat but with only one breath count between each flow of movement, known as Sun Salutation. Concentrated on balance and core strength, the instructor shows us how to dial yoga into variations of workouts we would usually do in the gym. Prepare for plenty of sweat, breathing, and necessary water breaks.
The teacher warms up with various “crunches” and abdominal segments laying down on the mat. This stretches everything out while also activating the upcoming core strength we need for the class. After Chaturanga, the guru leads us through a sequence of planks, one-legged standing Pistol Squats requiring a high-level of balance, Hurdle Push-Ups, and Wild-Things. I was shaking when I first tried this, but practice makes perfect. Alba instructs Chaturanga throughout and Vinyasa to keep us motivated for the rest of the course. After repeating a majority of this on both sides, she speeds up by teaching the Sun Salutation version of the exercise. The closing stages include Half-Moon and Standing Splits to finish our intense core-centric routine. You will want to melt into the Corpse Pose once it’s done to reflect over the progress you’ve made.
For those who think yoga isn’t as tough as your average gym workout, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how strong you can get. Take it slow, hear what your body is telling you, and free the mind from all tensions. Use it to change and grow internally and externally during these uneasy times.
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