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Jennifer Garam

Gyms are closed. Yoga studios have packed up their mats and shut their doors. Most of us are self-isolating at home right now, if our work doesn’t require us to be out in the world. But even though life as we knew it has come to a screeching halt, we still need to exercise for our physical and mental health.

Last year I underwent treatment for Stage 3c ovarian cancer. Prior to my cancer diagnosis, I’d done yoga for 20 years and, living in Brooklyn, walked almost everywhere. But I didn’t do any cardio workouts. Post-treatment, I had a session with an integrative oncologist who recommended that I add cardio to my weekly exercise regimen, and do it a significant amount. In addition, as this past winter approached, my psychiatrist told me that I should do some form of cardiovascular exercise for at least 20 minutes, at least three times a week, to ease symptoms of depression and anxiety.

During the periods when I was able to exercise while I was undergoing cancer treatment, I continued with gentle forms of yoga, and I also joined a gym and started working out on the elliptical. This routine was getting repetitive and boring, so this past summer, as I was regaining my strength post-treatment, I began to mix it up and seek out more challenging workouts, like running in the park, trying cardio dance classes, and returning to the kinds of vigorous power yoga classes I used to go to pre-cancer-diagnosis. I was really getting on a roll with regular, varied, and more challenging workouts when… the global pandemic hit.

But now more than ever, as we’re confined to our homes and self-isolating, it’s important to exercise for our physical and mental well-being. In fact, even Harvard Medical school recommends doing yoga as one possible way to relax during this unprecedented time of coronavirus worries in their article “Coping With Coronavirus Anxiety” published last week. And Cleveland Clinic suggests exercising regularly as one way to manage stress during the coronavirus outbreak.

While yoga studios have closed, many are offering paid online classes. So if you’re attached to your favorite studios and favorite teachers, you can check out their websites and Instagram feeds to see if this is an option. This is, of course, also a way to financially support those studios and teachers during a time when their income is severely reduced and limited.

However, many of us were stretched thin financially before the COVID-19 outbreak, and now are on the brink of financial hardship. A 2017 national survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder found that 78% of workers are living paycheck to paycheck to begin with. So while it’s ideal to support our local yoga studios and teachers at this time, that may not be an option if you’re trying to figure out how to scrape together enough money for rent and essentials with limited (or no) work right now.

As the weather gets nicer, for the time being we’ll be able to go outside for a brisk walk or jog, making sure to maintain a distance of at least six feet away from our fellow walkers and joggers—unless that changes and we go into a more severe lockdown mode. But on rainy or cold days when that’s not possible, or at times when we just want a little variety in our workout routines, there are lots of options online at no cost. I put out a call on Facebook for suggestions, and then I put together this crowdsourced list of FREE online yoga and fitness classes you can do from the self-isolated comfort of your own home, in your threadbare workout clothes because you can’t afford to replace them until the coronavirus quarantine is over and work, life, and income levels have returned to normal.

Scroll on for a wide variety of free online workouts and who knows—you may grow to love them so much that you’ll never pay for another yoga class or gym membership again!

YOGA

  1. Yoga With Adriene on YouTube: I’m starting with yoga videos because this is still my preferred workout-of-choice, and these videos in particular are actually what prompted my idea to put together this list. A week and a half ago (but it feels like a lifetime ago, really), I was having a phone therapy session with my oncology social worker. I must’ve brought up concerns about going to the gym or yoga studios, and she suggested that I try these Yoga With Adriene videos on YouTube. There are a TON of different yoga videos on this YouTube channel, organized in a variety of different ways—by length, level, theme, body part benefit, and more.
  2. Yoga With Kassandra on YouTube: This recommendation was one of many that came from my Facebook crowdsourcing request. Like Yoga With Adriene, this YouTube channel offers a huge assortment of videos of varying lengths and levels. There’s even a whole section of videos dedicated to yin yoga, a slower-paced and more passive and restorative form of yoga, which is definitely needed right now.
  3. Yoga Vida YouTube Channel and Instagram Live Sessions: Yoga Vida has four New York City locations: Union Square, NoHo, Tribeca, and Dumbo. Back in 2012, I blogged about Yoga Vida being my new yoga home. For a brief period of time right before my hip injury, Yoga Vida was the studio where I practiced regularly. For the time being, all their physical locations are closed, but they’ve moved online, offering free, pre-recorded yoga and meditation classes on their YouTube channel, and daily 60-minute live classes via Instagram Live. (You can see the class schedule for their Instagram Live sessions here.) Donations are optional, and if you’d like to make one you can do so through Venmo @yogavida, and they ask that you add the class instructor’s name in the Venmo note. However, if you can’t afford to make a donation, the classes are all still available for free.
  4. Yoga4Cancer / y4c Online Class and Live Sessions Via Zoom: I discovered Yoga4Cancer, a nonprofit organization that offers free, research-based yoga classes developed for people going through cancer treatment, and available for cancer patients and survivors and their caregivers across the United States and Canada, while I was in treatment. I was overjoyed to find that there was a free weekly y4c class offered at a local yoga studio in my neighborhood just a 10-minute walk from my apartment, and I regularly attended this class during treatment and as I was newly recovering post-treatment. In-person classes have been suspended at this time, but Yoga4Cancer already had a video of a free 60-minute online class taught by y4c founder Tari Prinster up on their website. All you have to do is fill out a quick form with your name and email address and you can access this class. Yoga4Cancer founding partner and managing director Josi Kytle also tells me that they’ve just started offering free live sessions via Zoom during this unprecedented time. Check the Events tab on their Facebook page to see the schedule for upcoming y4c classes on Zoom. The live classes will be recorded and distributed for free to anyone who is unable to participate in real time.

BARRE

  1. Body Dada Barre Classes on Instagram Live: LA-based barre fitness studio Body Dada is now offering free daily classes on Instagram Live Monday through Friday at 12pm PT, and Saturday and Sunday at 9:45am PT. According to their website, Body Dada is “an invigorating full-body workout designed by a professional dancer” and “a welcoming studio coming at you with love and the punk spirit.” Their website also notes that no previous dance or barre experience is required for any of their classes. To access classes, go to their Instagram profile and click on their Stories at the top left corner, and from there click the LIVE tab at the bottom. Not able to tune in live? Not a problem. Once the live class ends the videos are still accessible for 24 hours afterward in the same way. Classes are free but they’re accepting donations on Venmo @BodyDadaLa.

PILATES

  1. Mitchell Method Pilates on Instagram Live: Here’s another recommendation that came from my crowdsourcing post on Facebook. Pilates instructor Andrea Mitchell runs a New York City-based Pilates studio in Union Square, but these days is taking her classes to IG instead. You can find her weekly class schedule posted on her Instagram page. Each class has a theme, like “Theraband Class” or “Ball Workout.” Mitchell also holds an MPS in Creative Art Therapy from Pratt Institute, and, according to this week’s schedule, will be leading “ArtMaking and Meditation” classes as well. This Friday night’s ArtMaking session instructs to “bring your own wine,” so be prepared for a good time.

CARDIO DANCE

  1. 305Fitness Videos on YouTube: 305Fitness is a cardio dance studio described on their website as “an addictive dance cardio party with the best music where all are welcome.” Well, that sounds fun. 305Fitness founder Sadie Kurzban is currently leading live 305Fitness cardio dance classes at 12pm and 6pm ET daily on the 305Fitness YouTube channel. But don’t worry if you can’t make it at those times because these videos stay up on their YouTube channel afterwards. Just head to their YouTube channel and scroll down to the 305 Live! section, and then dance like no one’s watching. Because literally, no one is.

TRENDY FITNESS

  1. Peleton App Free 90-Day Trial: Remember, pre-pandemic, at the beginning of December when life was normal and we had time to hate on a Peleton commercial? Well, you might want to forgive them for their advertising misstep, because they’ve made their app trial free for 90 days (the free trial period was previously 30 days). Contrary to what you might think, you do not need to own an exorbitantly priced Peleton bike to use the app, which boasts thousands of on-demand workouts and a selection of daily live classes. In addition to cycling, there are also workouts and classes for running, yoga, stretching, bootcamp, and more, plus tools for setting goals and tracking your progress. Just remember to cancel your subscription when the 90 days are up—otherwise you’ll wind up paying $13 a month. The Peleton app is available for download on iTunes and Google Play.
  2. Daily Burn App Free 60-Day Trial: Daily Burn offers tons of options for exercise classes, one-on-one training, and even audio workouts you can take on the go—not that you’re going anyplace any time soon. You can choose to enter some information about yourself and the app will customize a fitness program tailored to your level and goals, including creating a schedule of workout videos for you to follow. There are also tools for you to track your progress. Daily Burn has close to 2,000 streaming workouts and many categories of workout videos: Intro to Exercise, Cardio Strength, Barre for All, Yoga Basics, Beginner Pilates, Cardio Kickboxing, High Intensity Training, and Pregnancy and Post-Natal, to name a few. The app is available for download on iTunes and Google Play, and you can stream these workouts on basically any device. From what I can tell, the free trial period used to be 30 days and they’re extending it to 60 days in light of the coronavirus outbreak. Just remember to cancel your subscription before you hit the 60-day mark; otherwise you’ll be out 20 bucks a month.

JUST LIKE BEING AT THE GYM

  1. YMCA @ Home: I’m a member of my local Y; it’s where I do my aforementioned elliptical exercising. I was one of the last holdouts there and was still going to the (nearly deserted) gym up until last Saturday, when I made a little bed of antibacterial wipes to lay my iPhone down on in the elliptical water bottle holder so I could listen to my Taylor Swift Pandora playlist during my workout, hopefully germ-free. However, over the next day and a half, I got a flurry of emails about yoga studios, stores, and generally every type of establishment closing, and I started to feel like going to the gym wasn’t safe anymore. I decided to stop going, but it turns out that I didn’t even have to make this decision, because on Monday the Y closed all their branches in the greater New York area. However, they wasted no time in creating a new online series called YMCA @ Home, which launched only two short days later. Here you can find exercise videos in the following categories: Stretching and Yoga, Conditioning and Strength, Meditation and Relaxation, and Cardio, and they even have a special section called For Seniors. So while I’m going to have to skip my elliptical workouts for a while, on the plus side I no longer need to make a bed of Lysol wipes for my phone—which is a good thing, because I can’t find them ANYWHERE.
  2. YMCA 360: On-Demand Videos: The previous listing is put out by the YMCA of Greater New York, but here’s one from the larger YMCA organization. There are a lot of different categories and options at every fitness level. You can take any of the following types of classes: Bootcamp, Barre, Yoga, Active Older Adults, Weightlifting, Tai Chi, Youth Soccer (not going to try this one in my studio apartment! But also, I don’t have kids), Y Box (I don’t happen to have a giant punching bag in my home, but if you do, this one’s for you!), and Youth Sports Performance (again, I’m not the demographic for this but it could be helpful to many who are). There’s also a FAQ page in case you run into any technical difficulties.
  3. Planet Fitness United We Move Home Work-Ins on Facebook Live: Okay gym-goers, here’s another option for you. Planet Fitness has launched a new online workout series with classes streamed live daily at 4pm PT / 5pm MT / 6pm CT / 7pm ET, and they’ve even gone to the trouble of listing the time in all the different time zones so no math is required, because really, who has the extra brain space right now to do math? Go to their Facebook page every day at 4/5/6/7pm to take a class, or click on the Videos tab, where all past classes are archived.

Stay safe and healthy everyone!

Photo by Dane Wetton on Unsplash

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