Face to Face Yoga vs Online Virtual Yoga
Before training to become a yoga teacher I regularly used online yoga courses and yoga dvd's to supplement my adhoc attendance at local classes. I squeezed them in to my busy life and felt self righteous as I had 'done' my practice. Since training and becoming a teacher myself I totally get why this was faulty thinking and false economy both on my time, pocket and my wellbeing. Here are some of the reasons why investing in some regular 1-2-1 sessions with a well trained teacher to supplement a weekly class and online classes are really beneficial:
We are all physically, mentally and emotionally unique. Our life experience, body shape, personality, fitness levels, flexibility, muscle make up and body proportions differ in each individual. For example Dandasana (staff pose) is a simple seated posture but done correctly is effective at strengthening many muscles. I personally have a long body, shorter arms and shorter legs so my hands can not be placed flat on the mat beside me without my shoulders rounding. To overcome this I use a shallow block either side. This gets me into the correct alignment. Runners can have very strong muscles in their legs but a weaker core which can lead to back issues. They may be physically fit but their yoga practice will need some adjustments to ensure they have the right balance of postures to improve their core and keep length in their hamstrings and quads. Someone with longer legs and a shorter torso will find boat pose more challenging than some one with shorter legs due to the effect of gravity and simple mechanics. If you try and copy poses that your body proportions or flexibility won't allow you can risk an injury and it damages your confidence. Your teacher gets to know you and ensures you get the best out of your practice. They can explain which poses may be more challenging for you and what modifications or props may be needed to prevent injury.
Yoga poses or asana's can be classed as stimulating or calming. For example a backbend is stimulating and a forward bend is calming. If you are stressed or anxious an imbalanced yoga routine can leave you feeling more stressed and 'wired'. A correctly balanced routine with good breathing techniques leaves you feeling refreshed and energised. If you have an important presentation or a long drive an overly calming session may leave you without enough focus but a more stimulating practice will leave you feeling alert and energised. A good instructor will ensure a balanced yoga class and will be happy to discuss any particular concerns or needs you have.
Different poses open up joints and in a balanced routine these poses are counteracted by a joint closing pose. An imbalance in poses can leave you vulnerable to injury if joints are over worked and left in an open position . This also applies to the energy of the yoga posture which can be upwards or downwards. During your menstrual flow poses with a downward energy flow works with your body bit poses with an upwards and inwards energy have the opposite effect. Pregnancy is another time when you need to understand the importance of the poses effect on joints and understand the energy flow requirements during your different trimesters. Your teacher ensures that the routine is right for you and your needs and is safe to practice.
Old or new injuries and health conditions often require yoga pose modifications or props to ensure you practice safely. For example inversions or highly stimulating poses are not recommended for people with high blood pressure without modifications. The right yoga practice can help lower blood pressure but only under the guidance of your teacher and with written consent of your GP/Medical specialist. Back injuries can be made worse with the wrong poses but with a tailored routine can help to strengthen the core supporting muscles and speed up the process of healing.
Correct alignment is difficult to do alone as you can not see yourself from all angles. You may think you are doing the pose correctly but you could be tipping forward slightly or twisting a hip inwards. The wrong alignment in the hip can cause injury like a pulled tendon in the knee. In Trikonasana (triangle pose) people tend to collapse slightly when bending sideways and rest their weight on their lower leg or knee joint - focusing on stretching up through the opposite raised arm and fingers engages your obliques so that they do the work and strengthens your core. This is not always easy to pick up in a busy class or when you are practicing alone. A good 1-2-1 private session can make an enormous difference to the effectiveness of your ongoing practice. A well qualified teacher will have an in depth training in anatomy and physiology, an understanding of when to use restorative yoga, stretching and breathing techniques. They will check for any physical or medical issues that may affect your practice. Poses will be explained properly so you understand the benefits of each asana and they will be able to offer adjustments and props to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable experience
The correct breathing is also important to get the full benefit from your practice . For example you should be exhaling as you move up into downward dog as this helps you to engage your core muscles correctly for the maximum benefit of this pose. A good instructor will teach the correct breathing technique to use throughout your practice.
Lastly being part of a class or working 1-2-1 with a teacher gives you a sense of community and belonging. Having the support of a class and a teacher encourages you to maintain your practice and you can learn from each other. There will be times when your motivation or energy are lower and having others around you keeps you going.
Online courses are a great addition to your regular practice and can be really useful when life gets busier or you are travelling but as you can see there are so many positive benefits to going to a physical class or having a 1-2-1 session with a trained and experienced yoga instructor.