Once upon a time (read: before kids and homeschooling and homesteading and…), I exercised four times a week at the gym. I know! It’s hazy, but I distinctly remember packing a gym bag and a water bottle, and heading out for an hour-plus of blessed, uninterrupted heart-pumping, strength-building, yoga-loving gym sessions.
I started working out at home when my son was born, with the exception of a year-long kickboxing stint with a third-degree black belt trainer who scared the daylights out of me. The kids are older now, and I could hit the gym in the evenings, but I don’t want to. I like being with my people, and somehow I no longer the get the same heady, competitive rush from group exercise. Or maybe that’s just what I tell myself?
Anyway, I’ve tried a gazillion home exercise programs – all relatively budget-friendly (did I mention we traded two incomes for one when my daughter was born?). I have enough fitness knowledge to coach myself; however, again, I don’t want to. I’m noticing a pattern here. If I’m going to force my body to lift and stretch and run, and I can’t breathe and the weight is crushing and my muscles are spaghetti…I don’t want to concentrate on what’s coming next.
The trouble is, most prepackaged programs either don’t cut it, or they’re too repetitive. As an introvert, I struggle with the caricature-like, in-your-face personalities of the recorded fitness world. Over time, I’ve found a handful of programs that meet my (admittedly, rather demanding) criteria. I want to share one with you. (I’ve been advised to point out here that I have not been compensated, encouraged or incentivized in any way to review or promote this app. I love it, I bought it outright, and I simply want to share it).
Down Dog is a free yoga app for Apple or Android. I’ve tried DVDs and other yoga apps, and I always wind up memorizing the DVDs and give up out of boredom, and the apps I tried either glitched or tied me up in a pretzel and left me there. It was with much skepticism that, after stumbling across it by chance, I downloaded Down Dog.
From the Down Dog website:
A studio-like yoga experience
The Down Dog App provides a studio-like yoga experience in the comfort of your home. Each time you practice, Down Dog creates a brand new vinyasa yoga sequence so that you never run out of content. Clear vocal instruction and a matching playlist round out the experience for a true studio-quality class.
These, besides a couple reviews, are literally the only words on Down Dog’s home page. It’s been my experience that most fitness programs use far too many words to advertise their wares. Hour-long infomercials that over-promise and under-deliver are not uncommon. As I programmed my first workout, I wondered how Down Dog could possibly live up to such a perfect, succinct description.
I opened the app, which is branded with soothing blues, whites and grays, and found a sleek and simple options menu. I made my choices and pressed “Start Practice,” which means from download to deep breathing, I started my practice in less than three minutes.
My options (my selections in bold):
Sequence Type: Full practice, restorative (stretch and relax, before-bed routines); and, quick flow (start standing, remain standing)
Level: Beginner 1 and 2, Intermediate 1 and 2, and Advanced.
Length: 15 – 80 minutes for full practice (30 minutes)
Playlist type: Alt beats, Acoustic, Instrumental, Soft Instrumental, None
Pace: Slowest, Slow, Normal, Fast, Fastest
Boost: Hang on to your mat – None, aerobic, flexibility, core, twists, standing balances, hip opening, hip flexor opening, hamstring opening, low back opening, chest shoulder opening, back strength, upper body strength
I began in child’s pose. From there, the soft instrumental list played in the background as my “instructor”, who sounds as if she spends all her time meditating beside a reflecting pool, coached me with her pleasant voice through floor work, vinyasas, standing work, cool-down stretches and, finally, shavasana. As an aside, my son joined me and asked what shavasana means. When I told him “corpse pose,” he decided that perhaps yoga wasn’t for him.
But I absolutely loved it. With the “hamstring opening” boost, after a single session I was able to touch my toes with my fingertips – a feat I hadn’t accomplished in years. Still, I kept waiting for the glitch, the deal-breaker, but I’ve been at it for three months now and I’ve had neither glitch nor the same workout twice – or if I have I didn’t notice so, same difference.
One note, on the one occasion I convinced my yoga-loathing husband to try it, Down Dog had just updated, and with it came a glitch in which the audio cut off at the end of each cue. This was distracting enough for my husband to declare yoga the worst thing ever and he left in a huff. The next day, Down Dog pushed out a patch; problem solved, and I’ve had a glitch-free experience ever since.
That said, I have a bit of yoga experience, so most of the poses were familiar to me. For a total beginner (like my hubby), the Beginner 1 setting is slow and easy, and after a bit of searching I discovered that Down Dog has a Facebook page where they’ve posted videos of all the basic poses.
The Fine Print
Upon download, you enter a two-week free trial of Down Dog Pro. With Pro, in addition to the solid workouts, you can adjust “boosts” (which focus on specific muscles/joints); choose your pace/speed; and, switch up your playlist – all of these options vanish when the two-week trial ends unless you “go Pro.”
Let me state that the basic, free app provides the same, high-quality workout – just without the bells and whistles.
Personally, they hooked me with the bells and whistles. Down Dog Pro costs $49/year, but here’s a tip: I queued up my order, then I hesitated to spend the money. A few days later, Down Dog sent me an email offering Pro for $19/year. I can’t promise that will happen to you, but it’s worth a try.
In a sea of gimmicky workout videos and super-charismatic trainers and $250 don’t-wait-buy-now programs, Down Dog is a yoga-breath of fresh air. These guys didn’t rush it; whatever their process, they took their time and created a quality product. With a bit of practice, some aromatherapy and maybe a couple candles, you’ll have your very own at-home yoga studio. When you consider the cost of yoga-studio classes, whether or not you pay the Pro price, Down Dog is a steal.
Questions? Ask me in the comments below, or check out the Down Dog website for more info.
If you decide to give Down Dog a try, drop me a line and let me know what you think.
Photo via VisualHunt