Do Online And In-person Yoga Have Similar Benefits?


March 15, 2022     benefits of yoga | Yoga Research

Online yoga has different benefits than in-person yoga

Research Study At A Glance

The Research Question Asked

Do online and in-person yoga have similar benefits?

Type of Study

Cross-sectional survey with a follow-up

Study Participants (Sample)

  • Sample size: 156 total participants
  • All were over 18 years old
  • 92% female
  • Completed at least 1 year of in-person yoga practice pre-pandemic
  • Currently participating in online yoga at the time of the survey

Methods

All study participants completed the initial survey. The survey asked participants about their demographics, yoga practice history, and their perceptions of online and in-person yoga.

Results

Survey respondents rated online yoga better for convenience and affordability. But, they rated in-person yoga better for mental and physical health benefits as well as for connection to community.

Conclusion

Survey respondents perceived that online yoga did provide mental and physical health benefits, but not to the same level as in-person yoga. However, yoga provided over the internet offered greater convenience and affordability.

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Background

The covid-19 pandemic pushed many activities and events online due to safety concerns around in-person activities. And yoga classes were no exception. Instructors looked for ways to stay connected to their students and keep their businesses solvent. At the same time, students looked for opportunities to stay physically active and get the mental health benefits they experienced from in-person yoga classes. Yoga instructors and students co-created a world of yoga classes accessed via the internet to try and meet those needs. Now that we are a couple of years into that experiment, researchers are curious whether practitioners feel they experience similar benefits online as they do in person.

Research question

Do online and in-person yoga have similar benefits?

Research methods

Study participants (sample): 156 total participants

  • All were over 18 years old
  • 92% female
  • Completed at least 1 year of in-person yoga practice pre-pandemic
  • Currently participating in online yoga at the time of the survey

The researchers conducted a cross-sectional survey in August 2020 and did a follow-up survey of interested respondents in April 2021. They distributed the survey in Australia to yoga participants who were at least 18 years old. In order to be eligible to participate in the survey, yoga practitioners needed to have been doing in-person yoga for at least one year before lockdown. Additionally, they also needed to be currently (at the time of the survey) doing yoga online.

The researchers found participants for their survey using social media, through advertising by the national Australian yoga association, and by directly contacting 12 yoga studios. Their survey collected demographic data and information about participants’ yoga practice history. Additionally, it assessed some baseline mental health aspects using the Kessler-108 scale. They also asked survey participants about their perceptions of yoga accessed over the internet versus in-person yoga. Specifically, they asked them to rate their likelihood of attending online or in-person yoga pre-pandemic, at the time of the initial survey, and at the April 2021 follow-up.

Results

Survey respondents rated online yoga better for:

  • Affordability
  • Convenience

Survey respondents rated in-person yoga better for:

  • Mental health benefits and improved mood
  • Physical benefits
  • Connection to people
  • Mental focus and concentration
  • Feeling energized after yoga class

Why is this relevant to yoga practitioners?

We’re all pretty busy these days. We’re often balancing work and family with the activities that support our own mental and physical health. Online yoga provides an opportunity to get some of the mental and physical health benefits of yoga without the extra time needed to travel to class, find parking, perhaps get a babysitter, etc. Instead, various forms of online yoga are now available at most times of the day, including recorded sessions which are available any time. Unsurprisingly, there is some loss of community and student-teacher connection in the online format. But, practitioners discovered that the simple accessibility of online yoga is an important benefit too. This is especially true when the availability of online yoga makes it possible for people to attend yoga classes when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

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Conclusion

Unsurprisingly, yoga practitioners felt that they received more of the group connection and community-type benefits from in-person yoga. However, yoga practitioners found that yoga accessed over the internet had benefits too. Specifically, it offered greater accessibility and often reduced costs compared to in-person yoga.

Reference citation

Brinsley, J., M. Smout, and K. Davison. 2021. Satisfaction with online versus in-person yoga during COVID-19. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 27(10):893-896.

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