Can You Really Learn Yoga Online?

By: Yogacharya

I was once asked how many times I thought my Swamiji would turn over in his grave if he knew that I was encouraging my students to learn yoga online. Well, first I pointed out that Swamis are interred in Samadhis, not graves, and that they are also placed in them in an upright, cross-legged sitting position!  Knowing Swamiji, I’m sure he turns upside down himself sometimes anyhow, just for fun!

Swami Gitananda never even knew the internet. It was after his time. But he once shared his thoughts on the subject of yoga and book learning, which have been a guiding light to me as I continue to explore the possibilities for helping people to learn yoga online in this technology age.

Swamiji pointed out that yoga has always been considered something that cannot be learned from books, but he was also quick to qualify that by saying what most people think they are learning these days is really only just the starting point of yoga.

What he was saying is that at the higher stages of yoga the personal guidance of an experienced teacher is essential, and that it is very rare to find anyone who has gotten to that point yet these days.

But for most of the rest of us, he was confident that there is indeed much that can be learned via the written word and through proper diagrams – much to lay the foundation of a healthy personal practice, as well as an understanding of the concepts and principles of healthy yogic living.

He also reminded me that those teaching must still accurately represent the oral tradition of yoga, and not be watered down to suite the emotional needs of wandering yoga tourists.

In the 1970s, Swamiji finished probably one of the most profound pieces of modern literature I have had the privilege to lay eyes upon, which he eventually engineered into his own yoga correspondence course called “Yoga, Step by Step.”  This course was my own introduction to Swamiji, and the spark that would ignite the raging fire of transformation in my life over the years to follow.

If you’re curious to learn yoga online, you’ve no doubt done a little searching on Google. What you came up with, however, was probably a far cry from what Swamiji would consider to be an accurate representation of the yoga tradition.  So many yoga teachers today seems to think that all they have to do is film themselves teaching an asana class, and that is what teaching yoga online is all about.

There are hundreds (maybe even thousands) of websites with libraries of yoga exercises and smatterings of yoga-related information all indexed for the casual visitors to scan through and pick and choose what interests them.  But you definitely won’t learn yoga online if you take that approach.

The web has brought us into a new technological age, but technology alone doesn’t make learning yoga any easier. Simply creating slick looking websites and captivating videos alone does not make for good yoga instruction.

A deep understanding of the tradition of yoga and the rare wisdom of how to transmit that knowledge is still the one and only mark of a genuine yoga teacher, no matter what the medium of instruction used.

I can only imagine what Swamiji would have done if he had all these modern tools at his disposal as well. I’m sure he would have given us all a humble lesson in what it really means to learn yoga online …


Yogacharya is Director of International Yogalayam and Editor of “The Yoga News

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5 Comments so far

  1. Ananda Balayogi on September 19th, 2009

    very well put indeed!
    Swamiji would have loved the internet as he was already connected to the cosmic net -the Akashic record and this would have been child’s play for him
    can only imagine what a monument he would have made with these tools when the step-by-step was done by letter press where each letter had to be put in place by a type setter!!
    no copy/ and paste/delete or margins to adjust!!
    keep up your good work that is a way for people to come to know of the REAL YOGA that lies ultimately within themselves

  2. [...] I posted an article here that answered the question “can you really learn yoga online?” … and the answer was a definite [...]

  3. sunioto on November 8th, 2009

    I thank you very much for all the session of yoga online
    I like yoga since my childhood 50th years ago, I learn
    from many yoga book, at least yoga pantanjali from Mahesh Maharishi Yogi in TM Shidis,but I still just to
    learn more about Yoga, and want to become an Affiliate
    in selling via clickbank marketplace.Thank you again
    for all your attention.

  4. elaine on July 5th, 2010

    I think you can learn yoga postures on line, but you cannot learn to teach yoga on line. The nuances and the safety of having a teacher there with you to show you how to adjust etc. are lost.
    I recently attended a class with a teacher who received her “certification” on line and she basically read a script…no originality or previous experience required I suppose.

  5. Amber Montoya on August 16th, 2011

    Hi there, the link i put in for my website, is a company io have recently discovered and started to try. I am a yoga novice and like the idea of being able to do it at home for now. I was just wondering if you guys thought these mats to be accurate.
    I get a wicked work out from them so far and have been pretty happy!
    i hope to hear back from you guys