How Effective Is YouTube Yoga?
Here’s what the research says about online yoga practices (and how to make them work for you)
Since the beginning of January, over 1.8 million people have set out to complete a 30-day online yoga challenge posed by the most popular YouTube yoga channel — Yoga With Adriene — which boasts nearly 5 million subscribers.
Shannon Mentges, 33, is among the thousands of viewers who successfully reached day 30. The stay-at-home mom from Erie, Pennsylvania, decided to take self-care more seriously in 2019 and, so far, she says she’s been loyal to her daily practice. The convenience of being able to unroll her mat on the living room floor whenever her two toddlers are asleep and hit play on a class from her laptop has helped her keep her New Year’s resolution.
“Even though I am used to lifting heavy children, I now feel stronger in my upper body, and I have been able to walk up hills with more ease,” she says.
Research has found that yoga may help relieve pain, anxiety, and depression, as well as prevent heart disease and aid in weight loss. And now there are seemingly endless opportunities for people to practice from the comfort of their home, either through livestreamed classes or YouTube videos. But can people glean the same health benefits of yoga through virtual sessions?
Harvard Medical School researcher Jonathan Greenberg, who studies the cognitive and neural effects of yoga and mindfulness, believes home practice is crucial to achieving health benefits. “Home practice is one of the core elements of mind-body programs,” he says.
But there are hardly any studies looking at the impact of video-guided yoga by itself. “In almost all studies, there is an actual intervention class with actual instructors. Typically, videos are used as an aid,” says Greenberg.
Holger Cramer, the research director at the Department of Internal and Integrative Medicine at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, says if executed correctly, it is likely that unsupervised yoga practice will have effects comparable to an in-person yoga session, though probably to a lesser extent and with higher risks. “There is evidence for positive effects of supervised tele-yoga,” he says. “These are…