Bending over backward for novel research thanks to free online Yoga classes

Research for my novel in progress, Yoga For Smokers, has been leading me down some mystical, muscular and exhilarating paths as I expand beyond familiar Hatha Yoga flows and classic sun salutes into therapy yoga for everything from grief and the winter blues to COPD and hormone balancing.

Type a term into your search engine, be it “morning yoga,” “yoga for neck pain,” “eye yoga,” “laughter yoga,” et al., and let your frolic in the CyberShala begin. All around the world teachers are opening their studios, public spaces and outdoor landscapes to us, especially during September, which is National Yoga Month.

I’m grateful to the instructors, studios and other providers so generously providing us with a stream of short to full-length Yoga classes. It’s never been easier to do the Yoga you were meant to do. Yes, you!

Each summer I lead a free Saturday morning Yoga practice at our local marina. I typically attract more excuses than participants. I’m not complaining because it’s pushed me to promote a little-understood truism: Anyone can do yoga. Anyone. Everyone.

Yes, I’m blessed with flexibility. I’m also challenged by a balky left ankle and maladjusted right shoulder. There are some moves, including full seated lotus, that aren’t possible. So what? Yoga is not a competition.

You don’t need to be a certain weight or super bendy or anything other than what you are. Got a bum hip, bad back, criss-crossed toes, MS, asthma or Parkinson’s? Trying to increase fertility, deal with menstrual cramps or reduce hot flashes? You’re the perfect yoga candidate. A great many people start doing Yoga because they’ve injured something physically or emotionally and they want to heal. Yoga is proven medicine with a science behind it.

Many of the classes mentioned in this listing are on-ramps to subscription sites or provide a means for you to donate what you can so that Yoga can continue to be available and affordable to all people, everywhere. If you can give, please do so. You can also help by sharing, rating and commenting on classes.

Be safe. As one of my favorite yoga leaders in the Florida Keys says, “Go at your own pace. And if it hurts, don’t do it.”

Dr. Melissa West’s Namaste Yoga (, with the guiding principle of “real yoga for real people,” is celebrating its fifth year. A paying membership site delves into all sorts of specialized areas, from yoga to do when you’re sick to deeper studies of the teachings in the classic Bhagavad Gita. Free weekly online classes focus on interior learning as well as exterior movement, emphasizing yogic philosophy and ways to take the lessons off the mat into the world. If you’re used to fast, sweaty power flows with no pause for thought, West’s instructional style can be a wonderful tempering mechanism for impatience as she explores the concept of “infinite time, no ambition.” Her gentle sense of humor celebrates the OKness of imperfections in the practice. The silence will be broken by quacking ducks or band practice in the park. Tree roots and rocks will poke. There will be times when a mantra or mudra doesn’t come easily. None of this is allowed to get in the way of the practice. Extremely responsive, with several ways to contact her or her mate Tim, the technical guru who films the classes, Melissa often bases classes or series around a particular emotion, life circumstance or yogic deity. There’s lots of variety in her large library and her classes are often first to pop up when googling a specific condition or name, i.e. “yoga for grief” or “Hanuman yoga.”
Here are a couple of links to get you started:
Yoga for Fear of Emotions:
From the Keepin’ it Real Series: Yoga for Letting Go

Esther Ekhart’s Yoga classes are healing, practical and thoughtfully paced, covering every aspect of human physiology as well as matter-of-factly addressing the complex landscape of human emotions.
I value her instructions for their precision, attention to alignment and awareness of what might be going on mentally before, doing and after practice, especially when you’ve been holding a position for a few minutes. In addition to her Yoga and anatomy training, this daughter of a Yoga instructor is also a “clarity teacher.” The benefit of this skill is evident in each and every full-length practice as well as short segments. ( brings fortunate Yogis an array of classes by different teachers in different styles for every skill level. Donations are gratefully accepted, including volunteer subscribership or by purchasing classes in audio, mobile or large-screen formats. Some of my favorites so far include powerful sessions such as Fiji McAlpine’s multi-level morning flow class on a rock-strewn beach ( and Tracy Noseworthy’s “In the Moment” segment ( With everything to offer from prenatal to winding-down-to-sleep practices I’m looking forward to exploring more of this site’s offerings.

Lesley Fightmaster is another Yoga angel living the belief that Yoga should be accessible to all regardless of income or time constraints. Her style isn’t as gung-ho as her last name might imply. Here’s a link to Fightmaster’s selection of classes:

“Namaste, beautiful yogis,” says Ali Kamenova, and she certainly is. ( This teacher with the exotic, rich voice, impressive physique and adorable dog frequently seen on set offers challenging “interval yoga” body-toning, butt-kicking sequences for all levels. Her classes, often done in a home setting, will appeal to Pilates practitioners and anyone else who’s up for some blissfully sweaty body sculpting. She also offers some gentler practices but her forte is abdominal, tush and leg work. Ali typically does the moves with you. I love that because it makes me feel like we’re all in this together. Here’s a Moon Flow class that introduces you to her style and her puppy: (
Another extremely beautiful and accomplished instructor, Yogi Nora has several short segments and a few classes on YouTube. Her advanced practice is for most of us more for watching than doing: (, while her Yin class is a tension-releasing joy ( )

For three years led by long-time teacher Sukhmandir Singh was my live-streaming Wednesday night induction into the “noisy yoga.” Truth be told, the first time I connected to this class I thought it so bizarre I nearly didn’t go through with it. But all the huffing and puffing, inner concentration on the third eye or other gland-trigger points and holding strange positions for one minute, three minutes, five minutes or more does something magnificent to mind and body that can be immediately felt. For me it is a mystical and joyous process that brings immediate light-heartedness and healing. I no longer care how weird I look or sound, although the often off-key music and chanting remains a test of my ability to be non-judging. I’m married to a musician; non-melodious noises guarantee my solitude as he flees the caterwauling. After several years of free live streaming Wednesday nights there has not been a live practice broadcast since July 16, 2014. Here’s hoping it was just a summer hiatus. In the meantime the Kundalini Live YouTube Channel as well as offer past classes with eclectic guest instructors for sampling.

I’m continually finding new teachers, different classes and new takes on Yoga to explore, helpful to the next novel but also to my writing and editing in general, offering clarity and focus as well as combating desk spread. I’ll give almost anything a try, modifying or stopping altogether to gaze in wonderment at the screen if the skill or silliness levels exceed my own. I give each teacher a chance, sticking with it, with the exception of Yoga teachers who announce rather than demonstrate poses. Voice-overs for previously filmed classes are OK, as long as the instructor is practicing with us. Telling without showing throws me off my Zen. A certain Yogi comes to mind who I caught examining his fingernails, looking around and yawning as he intoned us to “keep up” during a very powerful and strenuous Kundalini kriya. We were supposed to keep our eyes closed, focusing on the Third Eye at the browpoint. Tiring a few minutes in, I looked at the screen for the inspiration to persist. There he was, goofing off. Haven’t clicked on his classes since.

Past and present favorites include YogaToday which offers a free trial and amazing variety, and Kundalini teacher Maya Fiennes. Both offer short tutorials on YouTube. As I grow in my practice, acquire material for the book and make plans to attend teacher training I welcome your suggestions. Who’s your favorite teacher? What style of Yoga do you prefer?

Look for another Yoga blog in coming months on TV Yoga options. My family recently acquired a Roku. Netflix or Hulu Plus? Discuss.

Freelance writer and editor Cyndi Perkins has been practicing Yoga for more than 10 years, tracing her appreciation for its physical, mental and spiritual gifts back to childhood, when her mother was a Hatha Yoga instructor. Opinions expressed by the author are her own and don’t reflect that of other individuals or entities. Cyndi frequently adds classes and other useful, fun and interesting material to her “Living Yoga” board on Pinterest (

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