A few years ago I decided to stop spending so much money on exercise and became a YouTube exercise video devotee. Well, what really happened is that I discovered I didn’t make enough money to pay for exercise, even though exercise was probably the only thing that kept me sane in my final year of dissertation writing.
Part of this revelation was just a sign of my growing up. I was well into my 30s, and in a moment of clarity I saw that I never had been, and probably wouldn’t ever be, one of those people who legitimately had extra income for a gym membership or yoga/spinning studios. Throughout my 20s I had oscillated between earning an adjunct instructor’s salary and a graduate student’s income — which, sadly, were very similar — supplementing here and there with money earned from bartending and waiting tables. I was paying the bare minimum on my student loans, and I didn’t quite get yet that my relationship with Sallie Mae was really just an expensive, drawn out torture plan.
In other words, I certainly became more financially aware as I grew older, as most of us do, and knew that I needed a better budgeting system. But becoming a little more conscious of my bank account after my 30th birthday is not the only reason I decided to pursue free exercise options. The timing of my decision also opens a window into a horribly fascinating moment in recent economic history.
My income, which had remained static for almost fifteen years despite earning two advanced degrees, was becoming less and less sufficient to pay for any extra expenses. As an example, I realized that the few hundred dollars a month we allotted for household food and entertainment wasn’t really cutting it. I came to the terrible understanding that the $50/month for my gym membership (along with the even occasional yoga class at $15 each) was being eaten up by our grocery bill, or the rare occasion we made it to the movies.
Also, I discovered that unless they’ve worked their way into a boutique studio or personal training market, exercise instructors were largely in the same boat as all other teachers: their salaries have stagnated over the last 10-20 years (the average hourly salary today is just under $20/hour, down almost a dollar from ten years ago). And while I certainly wanted to support face-to-face classes, I also realized that the pricey per-class fee at my neighborhood yoga studio doesn’t always translate to paying the teacher a living wage. While it’s very likely that the internet (like all technological change) has played some role in this stagnation, it’s also slowly adapting: there is a growing set of advice for helping instructors adjust to a changing market, and instead of expecting a free class free-for-all, many users (including me!) are paying smaller membership fees or make donations that more often go directly to the teacher.
And all of those realizations were happening as the options for virtual classes were increasing on the internet. By the time 2012 rolled around and I quit the gym for good, there were already several high-quality YouTube yoga channels, on-demand video options, and exercise podcasts that I had been using in between my trips to the gym. In the last several years these have only increased in number and quality, so it makes sense that it took me a long time to hone a good method for curating all of it. It’s involved digging through a lot of awkward classes with poor sound (it’s amazing how much better technology has gotten over the last few years!), and eliminating instructors or approaches who don’t quite do it for me (although some of those I don’t follow are loved by many thousands of users! So my playlists are definitely about my personal tastes.).
What’s resulted is an embarrassingly earnest playlist system, which includes themed exercise (i.e., “morning yoga” or “cardio”) as well as weekly exercise playlists. A weekly playlist is a great method for those of us without the accountability and structure of a paid gym or studio membership. I find that it keeps me on track to regular workouts, but still leaves the flexibility of being able to choose what suits my mood, energy level, or time constraints for that day.
Below you’ll find a few examples of these playlists I’ve made for YouTube yoga. In each are seven classes total: mostly hour-long flow and yin/restorative, along with a few shorter options (which are great for mornings or if you’ve had an incredibly long workday). While most of them are general yoga classes, there are also some specialty sessions, including one for runners, shoulder healing, the winter solstice/downtime, and even a class in Spanish (which are hard to find! Also, if you inferred from YouTube you would think that 97% of yoga teachers – and practitioners – are white ladies, which is not true, so hopefully we’ll start to see some shifts in representation here.). We hope you enjoy these, but also hope that you find the system useful. For those who are challenged by money and time, these virtual classes can offer a great way to keep ourselves moving in a culture that seems to want us to remain stagnant.
Weekly Yoga Playlists
Beginner Weekly Yoga Playlist
Restore and Energize Weekly Yoga Playlist
Winter Energy Weekly Yoga Playlist
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