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Welcome. For today’s practice, you will need a yoga mat, a couple of blocks, and a towel you can use to really pull into the stretch. Also, you will need your phone. That’s right, an app will guide you through today’s session.
Breathe. I’ve searched through the Play Store and put together a list containing some of the best options available. One is bound to be a good fit for your level of skill or commitment. Inhale, exhale, and let’s begin.
Before We Get Started
I’m someone who has practiced yoga semi-regularly over the course of the past two years, and the bulk of my experience has taken place in the comfort of my own home. I’ve attended classes taught at a local Hindu temple, but for the most part, I’ve used videos and articles to guide my practice.
There are some things you get from an in-person class that you can’t get from any app or website. Instructors offer immediate feedback and can really help you perform each stretch properly. More importantly, they can make sure you don’t hurt yourself. You can find general health advice online, but it’s hardly the same.
That’s not to say in-class instruction is inherently better than anything you get at home. Videos allow you to practice at times that fit your schedule. And if you don’t have the discipline to drag yourself to class, you can practice at home by literally rolling out of bed. There’s also no reason you can’t use them to supplement, rather than replace, whatever you learn in person. Some may be useful even if you’re training to become an instructor yourself someday.
Ultimately, some time spent tuning your body and mind is better than none. If these apps help you keep at it regularly, then that is what matters. You can even pre-order a smart yoga mat if you’re so inclined, though that’s hardly necessary. Now, here are my recommendations.
1) Pocket Yoga
Pocket Yoga is a travel friendly yoga companion, as you don’t need to burden your WiFi or cellular connection by downloading video. Instead, it guides you through each practice using still images of various poses. There are only three sessions to choose from, but each one contains a varied selection of techniques. You can also scale up the difficulty as you advance and shorten the time limit when you have somewhere to be.
Pocket Yoga lacks detailed instruction, so it’s not an app I would recommend to someone looking to learn yoga for the first time. The pictures can be hard to make out, and without any prior knowledge of how to sink down into a pose, you’re probably not going to apply pressure in the right places.
But for those with experience, Pocket Yoga does a good job of keeping your eyes off the screen by announcing each step and instructing you when to inhale and exhale. This keeps your focus on what you’re doing, not what you’re seeing.
The app costs $3 to download, and that’s the only money you’re required to spend. All of the practices are available right from the start. Backgrounds are a different story. You start off able to practice indoors, but you have to unlock the option to do so at the beach or in the mountains. You can do this on your own just by using the app, but you can purchase everything if you want to avoid the wait.
The Yoga.com app serves as a companion to the website of the same name. Think of it as an easier way to access the site’s content on your Android device.
Each of the programs will announce the name of a pose, show a video demonstration, then provide audio instructions as you maintain the stretch. The presentation can feel awkward, especially during practices when you aren’t staying in any one position for long.
Fortunately, you can toggle these different aspects on and off as desired. You’re also able to save programs to use offline. But after you’ve done a few, you will need to pay to get the full experience. At least you no longer have to put up with ads.
The app contains a database of nearly 300 different poses. Each one comes with a description of how to get into position, a diagram that shows how your muscles are supposed to bend, and a video demonstration. This makes the Yoga.com app a go-to tool when you want to see how a real person gets into the poses you find demonstrated in magazine photos and blogs.
Download: Yoga.com for Android (Free with in-app purchases)
3) Ekhart Yoga
You can find many good sources of yoga videos on YouTube these days, and Ekhart Yoga is one of them. The relatively new Android app provides you with access to the full catalog. You can stream videos on demand or save them for offline use.
After a while, you will probably come across a few that you like to do regularly throughout the week or month, and you can favorite these to come back to them easily each time.
Ekhart Yoga costs $12.50 a month or $120 a year. That’s pricey compared to the other options mentioned above, but it’s reasonable compared to attending a class in person. The instructors in each don’t just demonstrate each pose, they guide you through how your body should feel and what to look out for. This is about as close to attending a class without doing so as you’re going to get.
Download: Ekhart Yoga for Android (Free with subscription)
4) Yoga Timer
If you’re someone who already knows your way around, and you aren’t looking to your phone for guidance, this is still an app that you could find useful. Yoga Timer is a tool that you configure to be sure you’re spending the desired amount of time in each position.
Really, it’s just a glorified alarm clock that goes off every few minutes, but that’s okay. It’s much easier to configure, and you can store multiple routines in one place.
Yoga Timer is ad-supported, but it doesn’t start showing them until after a 7-day period. After that you can pay $1.49 to remove them.
Download: Yoga Timer for Android (Free with in-app purchases)
5) Yoga Meditation Music
Yoga may be commonly associated with stretching, but physical activity is only part of the practice. What goes on in your mind is arguably more important. Unfortunately, getting in the right mental space can be difficult with all the distractions there are throughout the household.
Yoga Meditation Music is an app that provides you with the kind of background ambience to bring your mind where it needs to be.
Do you need a dedicated app for what is essentially background music? Not at all. You can easily buy an album or peruse the web for tracks that set your mind at ease. This app just saves you some effort. It’s free, and you get a decent number of tracks. The interface is also surprisingly well done, as long as you can deal with the ads.
Download: Yoga Meditation Music for Android (Free)
Be Mindful: Smartphones Are a Double-Edged Sword
Smartphones and yoga aren’t an obvious match. These devices embody all the distractions that bombard us over the course of our day, keeping us in a constant state of anxious alert. Yoga forces us to slow down and focus on our bodies in the present moment.
But it’s important to practice yoga regularly, and if your smartphone is the tool you need to keep at it, then it’s nudging you in the right direction. Just turn off the notifications, if only for a few moments. It’s hard to maintain balance in tree pose when a chime (was that a text? an email? a tweet?) reaches out for your attention halfway.
Do you use your phone or tablet to help you practice yoga? Are you here to find Android alternatives to the many options available for iOS? What about other physical activities? Sound off in the comments below!