Privacy and pyjamas: Why doing online yoga at home is catching on

There’s no denying yoga is a very popular pastime in B.C. And why not? It helps ease stress, increases flexibility and you can wear those comfy pants practically anytime, anywhere.

But jam-packed classes, stressful commutes and an overly touchy instructor can leave any yogi silently screaming “Namaste away from me.” 

Enter the world of online yoga, the kind you can do at home in your pyjamas, whenever you want, and often for free.

There are numerous websites, YouTube classes and downloadable apps where users can personalize classes by choosing their favourite style of yoga, the difficulty and duration of the class, and which teacher they prefer, all from the comfort of home.

B.C. at the forefront 

Dr. Melissa West, 47, is a pioneer of sorts in the online yoga movement. Just over 10 years ago, she was a Toronto-based instructor who decided to film and upload yoga classes for students who couldn’t get to in-studio classes because of illness or other obligations. 

Back then, online content creators could only upload three minute clips to YouTube, but it didn’t take long before West had hit some kind of yogic zeitgeist. 

“People started reaching out to us from all around the world,” she says. “We were one of the first people on YouTube that got permission to put long-form video up.”

Melissa West and her husband Tim shoot their online videos in and around Victoria, B.C. Between YouTube and one other channel, West has over half a million subscribers. (Melissa West)

She and her husband Tim, 50, who shoots and edits all the classes, decided to turn online yoga videos into full-time work. (Beyond the free videos, they offer paid memberships for more in-depth study.)

They moved to Victoria, B.C., and use the stunning Strait of Juan de Fuca as a backdrop for some of their outdoor videos.

West says her students feel more comfortable and less self-conscious doing classes in their own private sanctuaries.

Yoga in your pjs

“I do a lot of my practice in my pjs,” said Lucille Aucoin from Cheticamp, NS. “After Savasana, I don’t have to get up and leave and deal with a commute back home.”

Rebekah Cook of Portland, Oregon says she likes using homemade props and not being stared at by other students. 

“Stopping and starting whenever I please [and] being able to make any kind of noises I want to make,” said Cook.

A recent report from Allied Market Research shows huge interest in at home yoga, with worldwide sales of yoga mats reaching $14.29 billion in 2019 and forecast to keep rising.

The report’s data showed the mats for home use held the major share, generating nearly three-fifths of the global market. 

Carey Dillen is the president of Vancouver based YYoga, which has 12 locations in B.C. and Ontario. Less than a year ago, the company got into the online world of yoga classes too, with a paid subscription service.

Dillen says the tutorials on proper alignment are particularly popular.

“Doing so in the comfort of their home can be less intimidating than a classroom environment,” she said.

Free flow classes

One of the most popular sites — it’s often recommended in ‘top 10’ lists for streaming classes — is Victoria-based DoYogaWithMe.

The site has more than 600 classes; most are free although some require a membership or one-time donation.

Founder David Procyshyn says users have more than doubled in the last five years to more than 200,000 members.

“Yoga online also suits those who are intimidated by studios or don’t feel like they fit in,” said  Procyshyn.

But will at-home classes ever eclipse the studio experience? West says we need both.

“We need human connection. We are hardwired to connect … and that’s never going away,” she said.

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