If starting a yoga practice has languished on your list of goals because you’re not sure how to start, this New Year marks an excellent time to clear the fear. The number of ways to practice online is exploding, making this ancient system of wellness more accessible than ever.

Depending on your needs and the type of yoga you’d like to practice, there is sure to be a virtual studio where you feel comfortable putting a mat down. While it’s good to take a few studio classes with a live instructor to get a feel for proper alignment, taking online classes is an excellent and affordable way to practice more frequently.

How often should I practice yoga?

Although practicing yoga even once a week offers innumerable benefits, the best impact for the mind and body comes from committing to a practice of at least three times each week, but preferably every day.

This isn’t to say you need to fit a 60-minute practice in every day, but even ten minutes spent moving and breathing will do your body good. Meditation also counts as yoga—the physical postures were originally intended to prepare the body for seated breath work.

If you’re feeling too tired to practice, try meditating for five minutes. This short time spent focusing your awareness on an inner place of quiet will help you find more peace throughout the rest of the day.

What if I’m stiff or out of shape?

Don’t worry! Yoga is for the willing, not the flexible. You can practice yoga regardless of your fitness level. Over time, you will become more flexible and strong, but you can always change the practice to fit the needs of your body.

The online platforms featured here also offer classes in more gentle forms of yoga like yin and restorative. These practices involve postures held anywhere from three to ten minutes.

Yin is designed to increase flexibility while restorative yoga is designed to help refill your energetic reserves. These slower forms of yoga are good options for those times you’re feeling tired or in pain.

Always move within a pain-free motion and go gently, especially your first few times. In yoga, students are encouraged to find their edge, which is the place of maximum effort that still contains a sense of ease. Sitting with discomfort on the mat helps yoga practitioners manage the discomfort they face in their lives. However, pain is never good. If you feel any sharp sensations, back off of the posture.

When should I practice?

It’s considered ideal to practice yoga in the morning. This is because the morning is considered a time when people feel most peaceful and relaxed, but it’s also a good idea because many times, the day gets away from us and our good intentions to practice may disappear in the chaos of life.

However, many people enjoy practicing in the evening to shake the stress off from the day. Whatever works for you is the best time to do it.

If you’d like to practice online, here is a roundup of platforms offering subscription-based classes. They all offer free trial periods, making it easy to experiment and find which one you like best.

1. Yogaglo

This is one of the more popular platforms. Beginners might like taking more physical practices with teachers like Stephanie Snyder or yin classes with Felicia Tomasko. Kia Miller is another wonderful teacher offering classes in kundalini—a meditative style of yoga that beginners will find accessible. Subscriptions cost $18 for unlimited classes although the site offers a selection of workshops available for purchase.

Yogaglo’s pros include the ease of searching for classes. The classes are all filmed in the same studio, giving a nice consistency to all the videos, which are high quality. Although the platform has relatively few teachers, each teacher offers an abundance of classes. As a con, the platform trends toward the advanced.

2. Gaiam

This platform offers not only a range of yoga classes, but also movies and documentaries about spirituality. At $9.99 a month, this platform is one of the most affordable. As a pro, it offers a wide range of teachers and the price is attractive.

As a con, the searching capability is not as streamlined as Yogaglo’s, sometimes making it difficult to find the right class. Although the range of teachers is wide, some teachers offer only a few videos. The videos are shot in different studios or sometimes outdoors, and the video quality similarly varies.

Another pro for beginners is that Gaiam offers a wide range of beginner-level classes from many different teachers and could be a great option for starting out.

3. OneoEight.tv

This is a new platform founded by yoga teacher Rachel Brathen, who gained fame on Instagram. The site is divided into four houses: move, calm, nourish, and explore, that feature yoga classes for all levels in addition to meditations, cooking classes, and videos from licensed, experienced experts on topics ranging from managing anxiety to dealing with grief.

The site costs $14 each month. Profit from the site is funneled into 109 World, Brathen’s non-profit that is dedicated to alleviating poverty, increasing access to clean water, and other social service missions around the world.

The comment section is very alive, contributing to a collegial atmosphere on the site and fostering a sense of connection.

Cons include that it’s geared toward a younger demographic, which may or may not resonate with an older person. Because the site is new, it doesn’t have the sheer number of videos as older, more established sites, but organizers are uploading more all the time.

4. Grokker.com

This health and wellness site offers a free version and a paid version, which allows members unlimited views of premium videos. The number of videos is large, however most of them are very short. However, if you’re on a budget, the free version can’t be beat.

5. YouTube.com

YouTube offers an abundance of free yoga videos. Once you find a teacher you like, it’s easy and free to subscribe to her or his channel and stay up-to-date about new videos.

Yoga by Candace and Yoga with Adriene are two of the more popular channels. Drawbacks include ads that sometimes play in the middle of class, but these teachers, especially Adriene, create a large number of sequences specially geared toward beginners, making YouTube an excellent way to start the yoga habit.

Do you plan to practice yoga in the new year?

Image by distelfliege via Flickr

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