Easy at-home fitness

common yoga pose
Here is a common yoga pose, Standing Bow, which tests balance and strength.

As COVID-19 has led to gym closures and most of us being stuck inside, many are faced with new challenges regarding physical health and fitness. The combination of stress, uncertainty and social isolation in this period can pose mental health concerns as well.

If you haven’t tried incorporating yoga practice into your workout routine before, it’s a great time to start learning at home. There are so many variations of yoga that there’s something for everyone. While there are more than 100 different types, or schools, of yoga, most sessions typically include breathing exercises, meditation and assuming postures (sometimes called asana or poses) that stretch and flex various muscle groups. “Size and fitness levels do not matter because there are modifications for every yoga pose and beginner classes in every style,” says Dr. Natalie Nevins, a board-certified osteopathic family physician and Kundalini Yoga instructor.

Nevins explains that the physical benefits of yoga include increased flexibility, muscle strength and tone, energy level and protection from injury, to name a few. She also notes that yoga can be very effective in managing stress. Studies have suggested that yoga practices can reduce the impact of exaggerated stress responses and may be helpful for anxiety and depression.

Mind-body practices like yoga are frequently used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in both military veterans and civilians. In a short seven-day study, veterans diagnosed with PTSD attending daily three-hour sessions of a breathing-based style of yoga showed reductions in PTSD symptom severity, anxiety symptoms and respiration rate at the end of the study as well as at one-year follow-up.

Yoga instructional videos can be found all over social media and YouTube for every skill level. One of my favorite YouTube channels is Yoga With Adriene, who makes high-quality videos that are more suited for beginners. On her page you can also find a playlist of 34 videos called “Yoga for Uncertain Times.”

There are a variety of apps for practicing yoga at home, although most are paid subscription. One of the most popular subscription yoga apps is Glo. For $18/month, you have access to over 3,700 classes led by nearly 50 different teachers. The classes include yoga, pilates and meditation, and you can easily filter them by difficulty level, duration, body part, required props, etc.

If you’re not interested in paying a monthly fee, Down Dog is a highly rated free app on iPhone and Android that has more than 30,000 configurations for a new yoga practice each day. There’s also a paid version of the app that’s been made free for all students and teachers through July 1. Daily Yoga, another free option, includes more than 50 workout plans and step-by-step instructions through every movement. Yoga with Adriene also has a free app called Find What Feels Good, where you can access over one hundred hours of yoga videos in HD.

Recently, I’ve been trying to make a habit of doing yoga before bed. I’ve noticed that it helps me fall asleep faster and my flexibility has been improving a little bit. I can also vouch for the effectiveness of yoga for calming anxious thoughts and it’s definitely something I look forward to at the end of the day.