The Yoga Tutor

Learning 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! But knowing my 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 technological 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 of study yet these days (even most yoga teachers today haven't reached that level yet).

So for most 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 teachings must still accurately represent the oral tradition of yoga, and not be watered down to suite the emotional needs of the hords of wandering yoga tourists in this modern age.

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 a yoga exercise 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 well-polished 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 the Director of International Yogalayam, Editor of The Yoga News, and creator of the yoga training programs at

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