By Jude Chao
If you had told me a month ago that a single app would have me doing over an hour of yoga every morning and another 30 min to an hour of yoga every evening, I would have laughed, hard. In the first place, I’m not much of a mobile app person; my home screen is delightfully Spartan, and I like for it to stay that way. And in the second place, I’ve never considered myself much of a yoga person.
I’ve done yoga, it’s true. I attended classes in school and use key isolated stretches to ease up tight muscles as needed. There was even a particular series of yoga videos I had saved on Youtube that I did liked: Leah Sugerman’s Restorative Yoga for Back Pain, which uses long, slow, simple stretches to alleviate the soreness we computer workers often suffer. But a consistent daily practice with goals more lofty than just to make my back stop hurting, never even crossed my mind. .
Things changed when Leah’s videos disappeared from Youtube. As it turns out, they’d been illegally ripped from the app on which they lived. But by a stroke of luck, one of my fellow back pain-suffering friends found the videos on the Daily Yoga app. Purely to get access to those videos, I downloaded the app and signed up for the seven-day Pro trial; that’s how it began.
On day one, poking around the app’s video programs and individual sessions for beginners, I figured I’d try a beginner session out. Why not? I already had the app and I’ve always vaguely wanted to be more flexible, especially through my legs and hips. The beginner programs I found contained sessions of manageable length, between 10 and 20 minutes, so they seemed doable enough.
I did the very first session of the easiest Level 1 program I found. It had just enough challenge to give me a sense of achievement without working me so much that I longed for death. On top of that, I discovered some shocking truths about my own body. My leg and hip flexibility was actually okay, but my sides felt like old rubber bands, and my back, shoulders, and chest were as creaky as aging floorboards. So, flexibility is a thing for your upper body, too? I never even considered it.
On day two, I added a beginner’s flexibility program to the general beginner’s program I’d already favorited, doubling my total practice time. I enjoyed both sessions so much that I did some more searching and found a full-body stretching routine to complete as well.
On day three, I went all in and paid $40 for a yearlong Pro subscription, then went on Amazon and ordered myself a yoga mat, blocks, and strap set. This was after my new passion had me religiously doing three sessions in the morning and one of Leah’s back pain practices in the evening.
I’m now on day 14 of a 14-day yoga streak. According to the Daily Yoga app, I’ve completed 1141 minutes of practice. I’ve gotten into the habit of starting my day with a fairly long yoga practice, stringing together sessions from various flexibility, strength, and full body flow programs. I’ve already moved into Level 2 for some programs. My balance in certain challenging poses has improved; my movements feel more stable and confident. My sides are less stiff, my upper body is less creaky, and my legs and hips have noticeably loosened up. I’ve even gotten some friends and Instagram followers to try the app as well—the social features of the app enable us to compare our times against each other and follow each other’s progress for support, accountability and good old competition.
My life has genuinely changed. I feel calmer and more energized throughout the day; I sleep more deeply at night. I drink more water, since I usually take a few minutes in between each session to chug some and refresh myself. And I’m more aware of my body and my health overall. I, who used to believe I hated all exercise, now look forward to yoga when I wake up and again as I’m winding down for the night. The change is amazing.
The thing is, technology got me here; I don’t think I’d see as many of these benefits, as quickly, if it weren’t for this app. If I had joined a studio or signed up for classes at a gym, I’d be limited only to classes that happened to match my ability level and schedule. I’d also have to budget time to get there and back; doing yoga would be an interruption to my daily flow. Last but not least, I’d have to cope with the self-consciousness of doing unfamiliar things with my body in front of other people; I’m not a fan.
Practicing that way, I might make it in to class once or twice a week, if that.
Having a huge selection of programs available on my phone at all times completely eliminates all of those obstacles and excuses. I can fit a session or two or three into my day or night, anytime I’m free and in the mood, no transportation time involved. No one else has to see me doing it (besides my son, who is now mildly interested in trying some with me). And I can pick and choose my own programs.
The Daily Yoga app is better than simply finding videos on Youtube, too. It keeps track of my practice times and the sessions and programs I’ve completed, giving me an easy way to view my progress and my time investment. And the organization and search capabilities are stellar. I’ve found programs for alleviating menstrual pain, stimulating the digestive system and relieving constipation (TMI: these practices work alarmingly well for me), sculpting and toning the body, and even relaxing before sleep. That’s in addition to all the guided meditations and stress relieving sessions also available. There is, essentially, a yoga program for everything, and they all seem to live here.
My goals have evolved since I first downloaded this app. I’m not vaguely thinking of a bit more flexibility and some back pain relief anymore. I find myself working consciously towards greatly increased flexibility from head to toe, improved strength and balance, and a calmer mind—the ultimate goal for someone as restless and anxiety-prone as me.
But what’s the most life-changing thing of all? The other day, I stopped for a minute to watch a yoga class being taught near the beach. Instead of thinking, as I used to, that could never be me, I thought, That looks like fun. Maybe I’ll join in soon.
Have you used any yoga apps? Share your favorites in the comments below!
Photo by CATHY PHAM on Unsplash