Saturday, March 4, 2017

Yoga Apps

[Prefatory Note: Based on our belief that a staff healthy in body and mind will produce better work, and be more pleasant to have around, we used to treat our staff to memberships at the Y or at yoga studios. Now, instead, for far less money, we pay for their yoga apps. Here from the WSJ is a description of the four best yoga apps]



ALTHOUGH I MAY not be able to touch my toes (still), I’m devoted enough to my yoga practice that I feel anxious if too many days elapse between classes. I aim for three to four a week, but given how busy life gets, this doesn’t always happen.
Practicing at home with an app would seem to be the ideal solution, but smartphone yoga has always just felt wrong to me. Surely, a tiny instructor in my iPhone screen would pale in comparison to the real-life teachers and their soothing voices and hands-on guidance.
But the craziness of the holidays last December finally pushed me to reconsider—and thank goodness. Smartphone-based yoga tuneups turned out to be more enjoyable than I thought. True, squinting at the screen took a little getting used to, but I discovered some unexpected perks: I could light incense or a candle of my choosing; I felt comfortable doing the hamstring-stretching squat that I can’t bear to perform surrounded by strangers; and after repeatedly gazing up at my ceiling during restful floor poses, I began to associate that familiar expanse with a calming energy. Om.
It took some trial and error. I tested 10 apps but only found four I can recommend. (All are available for Android and iPhone). Eventually, though, I realized that the criteria for choosing a yoga app are the same ones you use to pick a yoga studio. Here’s a guide to finding the best fit for you.
‘Gaia’
In addition to mystical content on universal consciousness and energy healing, Gaia offers a number of enjoyable yoga classes of varying length (I recommend “Morning Ritual” and “7 Day Bali Retreat”). While “Gaia” isn’t as easy to navigate as the other apps, this isn’t necessarily a negative; it got me to stumble upon the satisfying “Shoulder Love” class that I wouldn’t have sought out. I particularly appreciated the dazzling settings in which some of the videos are filmed. Attending a virtual class on a wooden deck overlooking a mountainside, or in a studio hovering above a placid lake, effectively transported me out of my city apartment. $10 a month, gaia.com
‘Yogis Anonymous’
Unlike other streaming apps, whose classes are filmed in various locations, the videos here are recorded in a single studio in Santa Monica, Calif. Despite the mural of the elephant-headed god Ganesha behind the instructor, the classes here are down-to-earth. You can search by practice type (vinyasa flow, hatha, yin), by instructor, or even by mood (“energetic,” “hopeful,” “crampy”). Many videos run over an hour, which is a long time to be balancing in half moon in your living room, but the app has shorter classes, too. I particularly appreciated the “pose tutorial” library of over 100 short videos to help you perfect the intricacies of each move. $15 a month, yogisanonymous.com
‘Down Dog’
Your instructors in this app are youthful yogis donning hip workout clothes (shout out to the main teacher: love the pink beaded earrings). Even the default playlist has an air of cool, featuring artists like Betty Who and Oh Wonder—both staples at my downtown NYC yoga class. Although “Down Dog” demonstrates each pose using a series of still photos instead of video, this app was my favorite. The instruction was the most akin to a real studio, with detailed pointers (“let your biceps frame your ears”). To avoid monotony, the app generates a new sequence for you to follow along with each time you launch it. Free, $4 a month upgrade for more playlists and poses, downdogapp.com
‘Yoga Studio’
Ever wonder what it’d be like to practice yoga in a futuristic utopia? It’d probably look like “Yoga Studio.” The instructor, whose flawless appearance and movements made me wonder if she were a mere animation (she isn’t), demonstrates each move against a crisp white background. The app is clearly organized and lets you create your own routines from a library of poses. Don’t let the generic ocean-wave sounds or the sometimes exceedingly placid voice-over put you off; this app is very soothing. My nightly ritual: practicing a relaxation sequence, then stumbling right into bed—an unforeseen benefit of yoga at home. $4, yogastudioapp.com

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