It’s easy to fall off the yoga practice bandwagon. There are so many things that can keep you away from the studio—staying late at work, forgetting your mat, or even feeling anxious that you’ll look silly in a class of seasoned yogis. Whatever the reason, there are tons of free online options to supplement your practice. The problem then becomes searching through the haystack of free online resources to find your perfect namaste needle.
When I started the quest for the best free online yoga resources, I set some criteria to quickly narrow my search. I wanted videos that were about an hour long to mimic the length of the studio classes I was used to. I was looking for videos that were an athletic challenge but also provided good routines for relaxation. And since I was new to my yoga practice, I wanted videos that broke down the basics of every pose.
After weeks of trying out different sources recommended by friends, yoga instructors, and good-old Google, I settled on my three favorites:
When searching for free yoga resources, the video sharing behemoth YouTube is a good place to start. But type “yoga” into YouTube’s search bar, and you get back more than eight million results. Many of these are one-off videos rather than easy-to-follow programs for beginners. There are, however, two free yoga programs that are worth checking out: Yoga for Dummies and Dr. Melissa West’s channel.
Yoga for Dummies is a six-part series of 10-minute videos. Put them together, and you’ve got a great starter yoga class that eases you into your practice. West’s channel has dozens of videos to choose from. I’d recommend starting with her beginner playlist, especially Namaste Episode 101. The 11 videos on the playlist are some of the best explanations of poses that I’ve come across. And West’s personable nature will keep you coming back.
Since YouTube really excels when it comes to one-off yoga tutorials and videos, I’d recommend trying out DoYogaWithMe or Yoga Journal (explained in more detail below), and then revisiting the video-sharing platform for one of these stellar stand-alone videos:
- 30-minute vinyasa weight-loss routine
- 60-minute power yoga for weight loss
- 30-minute yoga for sore athletes
- 17-minute flow to boost energy levels
Without question, this was my favorite free online yoga resource. The site offers an easy-to-follow, six-week beginner guide. The guide recommends two classes and one pose tutorial every week, which provides an amazing foundation for your practice. DoYogaWithMe also has a beginner's studio with dozens of curated videos for people who are new to yoga. The videos vary in length, so I never felt bored. I liked that you could check out each video’s average rating and reviews from fellow novice yogis before you dive in.
Some of my favorite videos on DoYogaWithMe:
- Beginner Basics in Flow: a challenging beginner’s class made easier by the instructor’s easy-to-follow instructions for every pose
- Burnout to Bliss: a nicely paced, hour-long beginner’s routine
- Seated Whole Body Hatha Yoga Flow: a series of gentle stretches that become quite powerful and leave long-lasting warmth and looseness in your body
The leading yoga publication’s video section is a comprehensive resource with 360-degree views to better understand the nuances of every pose. The routines are more technical, more likely to use Sanskrit terms, and more athletically challenging than the ones I came across on DoYogaWithMe. My two main gripes with Yoga Journal’s online offerings: The videos were often shorter than I’d like (I find I need about an hour to get into a meditative, head-clearing state) and didn’t include any user reviews, so I found myself clicking around aimlessly in search of videos that would be a good fit. That being said, the production quality and detailed explanation of each pose is hard to beat when it comes to free yoga resources.
Some of my favorite videos on Yoga Journal:
- Morning and Evening Sequence: Pair these two short, gentle videos to start your mornings off right and end days in a peaceful and centered place.
- Crank Up Core Strength: an athletic, dynamic routine with some arm balances that will tire you out. I think it’s best suited for someone who is already in good shape but is trying out yoga for the first time. The flow requires two blocks, which can stabilize you in poses when one hand is on the ground or help improve overall alignment. Until I got a great set of cork blocks, I used big, heavy books instead.
While it was tough to find the routine I wanted on Yoga Journal, I kept coming back to the site for its invaluable 360-degree video explanations of different poses. Learning basic postures (called asanas) quickly made me more comfortable and confident in my practice. You’ll pick them up as you go, but if you prefer to study ahead of time, you can use Yoga Journal to learn these poses:
- Mountain pose (tadasana)
- Upward salute (urdhva hastasana)
- Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
- Four-limbed staff (chaturanga dandasana)
- Upward-facing dog (urdhva mukha svanasana)
- Downward-facing dog (adho mukha svanasana)
- High lunge
The Limits of Free
While doing all of this yoga, my body felt great—until it didn’t. If you're a yoga novice practicing by yourself rather than under the guide of an in-person instructor, it can be easier to injure yourself. I was really into my new practice, but I pushed it too hard and had to learn to practice more safely.
I started feeling my left knee pop and my back ache at the base of my neck. With any new exercise, it’s normal to feel some new aches and pains while your muscles adjust. When you release tight muscles as you start doing yoga, it impacts your overall posture and muscles in unexpected places across your body, which might make you sore. Since I’m a desk worker, I wasn’t surprised that waking up neglected neck muscles was uncomfortable—they always get sore when I exercise my upper body, and the sensation was familiar.
But any sharp pain means you should slow down and come out of the pose that caused pain, says Laurence Gilliot, a long-time yoga instructor. Once I learned to better listen to my body, practicing with these free online yoga resources was a fantastic way to supplement my time at the studio.