Yoga apps have really come a long way. Just a few years ago, most of them were basically electronic flashcards, maybe with narration and sequencing on the fancy end of the spectrum. Now, video is standard as well as many more options to customize your user experience. Sequences flow together almost seamlessly in a way that makes the best of these apps a real boon to the home practitioner. Many of them are free (with in-app purchases available). Most follow the model of offering a variety of video "classes" and a library of poses where you can get more detailed instruction.
We took the most popular yoga apps for a test run to give you a better idea of what you'll get when you click download. Not surprisingly, our favorites come from people with solid yoga backgrounds instead of app developers trying to capitalize on yoga's popularity.
1 Yoga Studio by Gaiam
Yoga Etiquette: No Phones in Class
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Yoga Studio offers users a lot of ways to put together home yoga sessions. You can use their Collections, which vary in length from 10 to 60 minutes. These include sequences for a beginner, intermediate, and advanced level students with themes like balance, flexibility, and strength. There are also sun salutations, poses for back pain, and yoga for runners.
If you don't want to use the preset classes, you can create your own custom flow using "blocks" of poses (essentially mini-sequences) or build one pose at a time. If you choose the latter option, the app does not instruct you how to move from pose to pose.
This app is best for people with at least some yoga experience as basic knowledge of poses and alignment is assumed, even in the beginners' videos. No modifications or props are mentioned either.
The video quality is excellent, as you would expect from Gaiam, which has years of experience producing popular and successful yoga videos. The videos download to your device. You can further customize your experience by picking your background music and prescheduling classes on a calendar.
It's around $4.99 for the download, which is pretty standard for this type of app. Yoga Studio gives you the best value for your fiver.
Down Dog is co-created by and features yoga teacher Adrienne Kimberly. It has some unique features that differentiate it from the competition. The pose library is impressive because it features in-depth video instruction for each pose with plenty of good alignment info and beginners' modifications. The videos are actually on YouTube with links from the app, meaning that you'll need an internet connection to access them. It also means you can watch them without the app.
The app itself offers sequences comprised of still photos accompanied by Kimberly's continuous narration, which makes things flow like a real class. It actually works pretty well, especially if you're already comfortable with vinyasa style practice. The free version of the app allows you to access restorative, beginning, intermediate, and advanced sequences that vary from 15 to 90 minutes. Upgrading to become a member allows you to choose the pace of the class (normal, fast, or slow) and change the background music.
FitStar Yoga with instruction by Tara Stiles breaks new ground with responsive personalized yoga sequences. The app relies on your feedback to tailor your sessions while also providing some set yoga workouts. Download the free version for a trial run but you'll quickly see that you're missing out on full access unless you pony up for the monthly subscription.
This app is also fully integrated with social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and fitness trackers like the Apple Watch, Fitbit, and Jawbone UP. If you want to join a community of users for motivation and advice, this is the one for you.
With its illustrated visuals, Pocket Yoga has a very different look from other yoga apps. Its approach is slightly different too. It is based on Gaia Flow Yoga, a Dallas, Texas-area studio with its own method and terminology. Their sequences are categorized as Ocean (cardio), Mountain (power), or Desert (flexibility). Once you pick one of these styles, you can a choose 30, 45, or 60-minute class.
The videos are not really animations, but rather a series of still illustrations. Though they are well done, it's somewhat less instructive than seeing a real body in the poses and looks a little jumpy. The narration, however, flows well. There is an extensive pose library that includes many preparatory poses that are especially helpful for beginners. This app also has Apple Watch functionality.
Daily Yoga has a pretty different approach than most yoga apps. It's set up around a series of multi-week programs with themes like 5-Day Detox, Improve Your Flexibility, and Let it Melt. Each of these programs includes 20-30 minutes of daily yoga and runs from one to five weeks. You can also download 10-50 minute independent sessions. In addition, there is an active community of users that you can interact with for support and advice.
The sequences themselves combine video and still images with minimal instruction. It is assumed that you will know basic poses. The flow is pretty good but no modifications are explained, even in beginners' videos. There are also annoying pop-up ads unless you upgrade to the subscription version, which also gives you access to more videos.
This app is available as a free download with in-app purchases. It's part of a series of Daily Workout apps. Given the name, it's not surprising that it has a very simple interface. With the free version, you get access to three level-one (beginners') sequences that clock in at 20, 40, or 60 minutes. Upgrading to the paid version gets you level-two sequences and the ability to customize your own series.
The workouts are in video form with voice-over narration. While the instruction is decent, the flow is pretty weak. It's more like a series of individual poses than a true flow. The model is hilariously set up between two potted plants. Between Two Ferns Yoga!
Yoga Academy comes from the folks behind My Pocket Fitness and while it's not terrible, it definitely lacks the polish of the apps described above. Though there are many superficial similarities, like the ability to choose the level and duration of practice sessions, the flow of the instructional narrative is pretty spotty.
The classes are in video form but the oral instruction doesn't always align with what the model is doing on screen. Audio clips have obviously been spliced together instead of narrated continually like a real class (and like the better apps). In addition, how to do the poses isn't described very well. There is also a pose library with photos and written descriptions. The free version of the app only allows you to use it five times. Only premium members get unlimited access and can create custom classes.