Back in the summer when I started creating an at-home yoga routine I realized that one of my favourite ways to do yoga was with apps. I’m a pretty heavy app user, although I always supplement, say, my to-do list apps with written lists. Apps work well for me because my preference for yoga and meditation is audio only, with visual aid when necessary. I put on headphones and stick my phone in a fanny pack/bum bag (yes!), and it works very well for me. Also, meditation and mindfulness seem to be having a moment and there are quite a few different ways to experiment with it, but since I’m a beginner I like to go the guided audio route.
In late summer I was supplementing my at-home practice with classes at The Yoga Sanctuary, where I took the photo above. I particularly love the College location of this studio, located in the glorious former ballroom of a Oddfellows Hall. I know in-class practice is important to guard against injury (an experienced teacher can correct your form and teach you proper alignment, etc.), and to help keep things fresh. But it’s been a while for me; it’s the coldest winter in twenty years, and carrying a yoga mat and a change of clothing and traveling to a studio then heading home in darkness seems like an insurmountable challenge sometimes.
Onto the apps. I apologize for this, but most of these are only available in iTunes, and not for Android. I’m not an Android user and I didn’t realize how many apps just aren’t available on Google Play before I started making this list.
Aside: I should mention a couple of popular apps/websites that are very often recommended: I have tried Headspace but I don’t really like it, personally. I didn’t think it could be possible to be overwhelmed by a meditation app, but I was! And I feel pressure to like it since it’s so popular! But I don’t! And I haven't really given Yoga Download a try, but I will.
1. My favourite yoga app is Yogify (unfortunately not available for Android). Free, with in-app purchases available. This is a clean, easy to use app with a ton of different programs, if you buy the entire collection of classes for $9.99. The classes are mostly vinyasa/power yoga style, with emphasis on strength, flexibility, or balance, and they are made up of still images with a somewhat monotonous voice-over. There aren’t many alignment cues and there are no Sanskrit names for the poses. At first I thought it was a little cold, but over time I grew to love this app and found that its simplicity made for less distraction. You can pause a pose to read information on proper alignment and benefits of each pose, and you can run your own music in the background. There is enough variety in the classes that I’m never bored.
2. For meditation I like the app Omvana (again, unfortunately not available for Android, but it looks as though they will be releasing a web version). Free, with in-app purchases available. I preferred the app a few updates back, and I don’t love that every program requires an in-app purchase, because that can get expensive (some are free, but they range in price from 99 cents to $7.99 or so). Still, I love that there is a wide variety available, from simple guided meditations to hypnosis to music. I really like a program called Boost Your Creativity by Phil South.
3. The Om Finder app (again, iTunes only, but it’s free) was created by Lululemon and uses your location to help you find yoga classes around you. It’s been pretty useful in helping me find studios I wasn't aware of around my neighbourhood. It’s like Tinder for yoga!
4. Yoga Nidra (available in iTunes for $3.99 and Android for $2.99). Yoga nidra is a type of yogic relaxation that involves doing a full guided sweep of the body. You can get different versions (the Shiva Rea album below has a yoga nidra track that I enjoy as well) but this one is nice. The narrator has a very soothing voice and the nature sounds are pretty chill too.
5. Calm (available in iTunes and on web). Free, with in-app purchases. Guided meditations in various lengths, with soothing narration and visuals. I haven’t purchased any of the programs but I like the shorter free programs for when I just need a moment!
6. Yoga Studio (available in iTunes). $2.99, but I got it for free with one of those download cards at Starbucks. This app has video and very soft, new age-y music that I actually really love, and the sleepiest-sounding narration that feels like a warm hug. I use this app when I want a more restorative routine, rather than an energizing or strengthening one. There are different programs to download, or you can build your own like a playlist. Unlike Yogify, you can’t pause for pose information, but it does include a section where you can look up tips for each pose once you have exited out of a class.
The next two aren’t apps but they’re app-like so I wanted to include them.
7. Drops of Nectar by Shiva Rea. This is a two CD set that you can get as an audio download. This one contains a number of different guided meditations and relaxation techniques. Sometimes I’ll do a Yogify class and when I get to Shavasana, I’ll close that app and put on the yoga nidra track from this set. It’s lovely.
8. Share the Love Yoga, currently available for Boston, Montreal, New York, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver. Similar to Om Finder, but web-based. This website uses your location to help you locate classes around you that cost $10 or less. Many studios will offer at least one reduced-price class per week, but I also just used it to find a $9 meditation class in my neighbourhood. Pretty sweet.