6 Ways to Find Free and Cheap Yoga Classes

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With all the stresses of modern life, quiet, meditative movement seems like the perfect antidote. Yoga classes and instruction have a reputation for being expensive, with drop-in rates hovering around $20 and private instruction costing a bit more. But all you need -- in theory, that is -- to start practicing is a yoga mat, unrestrictive yoga clothing, and free instructional videos posted online.

Proceed cautiously, though, because a lack of proper training may lead to injuries. Beginners will benefit from attending yoga classes to gain a proper understanding of poses, alignment, and which muscle(s) to engage. Once you get the hang of it, the need for classes will diminish and you can rely on the online offerings, with an occasional cheap yoga class here and there.

Here's how to pave the road for practice at home.

COMMUNITY CLASSES

These are an excellent way to explore what yoga is all about in the relative anonymity of a group atmosphere. The classes are often free and others ask for a small donation. Warning: Community classes tend to be overcrowded, so don't count on one-on-one instruction. For more information about classes in your area, visit your local recreational department's website.

PROMOTIONS

If you live in a major city, deal sites Groupon and LivingSocial continually offer reduced rates on weekly and monthly passes. Depending on the number of studios in your area, you can keep using discount passes for quite a while. New student promotions are very common, so if a particular studio catches your fancy, inquire.

VOLUNTEER OR BARTER

Extend the savings even further by bartering or volunteering your special expertise. These opportunities are seldom advertised, so don't be shy about asking. Even if the studio isn't interested now, leave a business card.

GYM MEMBERSHIP

As a source of yoga opportunities, checking out the offerings at your gym is a no brainer. Yoga classes, along with Pilates and other fitness training are staples at full-service gyms. If there aren't any yoga classes on the schedule, scout around for an instructor who would be interested in providing on-site classes. This is a win-win-win: Instructors clock teaching hours, the fitness club markets new classes, and members (that means you) get yoga instruction.

WEB CLASSES

Whether you're novice or a seasoned pro, there are loads of cheap yoga resources to explore and enjoy on the web and on YouTube.

DoYogaWithMe.com claims to offer the widest selection of free streaming yoga videos. Classes for all levels are standard yoga fare, but this site also offers videos on individual poses, breathing exercises, anatomy, and meditations. The content is searchable, from pose position to level of difficulty to which body part is exercised. If you're going to be without Internet access, you can download your favorite videos in high definition for a small fee ($6 to $9 per video).

GaiamTV isn't free ($9.95 a month after a free 10-day trial), but the fee lets you stream more than 900 full-length yoga videos on a variety of devices, including computers, streaming media devices, tablets, and smartphones (although it's not yet available for the iPhone). Offerings include learning guides, prenatal yoga, and an extensive collection of a spiritual persuasion. New videos are added often.

MyFreeYoga.com started out as an online yoga community. It has since blossomed into a platform for members to upload their own instructional videos. This functions as free advertising for teachers, so there are a number of high-quality titles. You can search by yoga type (Hatha, beginner, weight loss) or by pose. New titles are added weekly.
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YOUTUBE CLASSES

BeFit features professional-quality streaming workout videos on YouTube, including some by well-known instructors. Jillian Michaels aficionados will revel in a 35-minute workout from her "Yoga Meltdown" DVD. Although there are ads, they aren't too intrusive.

Ekhart Yoga offers hundreds of full-length YouTube videos with a disciplined approach for all levels. The videos themselves aren't sophisticated, but the yoga instruction is informative and clear. Two new videos are uploaded weekly.

Yoga TX is relatively new, with fewer than 100 videos on YouTube. All are instructive and easy to follow, and seem quite professional.

Prenatal titles on YouTube present a type of yoga that is closely linked to the gentle flow technique. Katy Appleton teaches beginner prenatal yoga, giving clear instruction in five 11-minute increments. Lara Dutta has a 30-minute flow routine, which is easy enough for the novice. Summer Huntington has a take that is more engaged and physically stimulating.