There has to be something that I really like about a service to get me to write a blog with no intent on getting something in return!  I have enjoyed this app so much I just had to spread the word.  There are only a handful of apps that I use regularly.  I am always on the look out for a new fitness related app.  There are thousands of them, but rarely do I come across one I want to keep. Even though I am a physical therapist and could come up with my own exercise plan, sometimes it so much better to just have one already there.  One that gives variety from what you might normally do.  This is very useful when travelling or you are in a time crunch.  Like a little pocket personal trainer.  (First disclaimer:  I use an android phone and am not aware of how this app may work for iOS phones).  The app I want to share with you is called Down Dog .
Now, I know that there is more to exercise that just Yoga, but this app makes it so easy.  I have enjoyed each session I have had.  I only wish there were more apps like this; I hope to find others I like as much as Down Dog Yoga.
It is time for a short story.  For those that have read my other blogs, you know that I participate in Crossfit style workouts.  During the winter we transitioned to more powerlifting as it was too cold to do more variety workouts outside where I live.  I am not sure of the exact reason but the program we were following was starting to put a lot of strain on my body.  I felt like technique and other things were fine.  The coaches were watching and all was correct.  I was increasing my weights.  Unfortunately, I started to have shoulder issues and some lower back issues.  I had to decrease the weights and change up my program.  About a month later I was at an education conference on a physical therapy topic and the presenter was sharing a similar story.  He went on to say that he started doing Denise Austin yoga videos and he felt they really helped (that was not meant as a plug for Denise Austin though I assume her videos are fine).  A little light bulb went off in my head.  Maybe I should try something like that.  I knew what yoga was.  I had tried it once during a class in physical therapy school.  I had even bought a gift certificate for my wife and I for our first anniversary (14 years later we still have not used it).  So I borrowed a few yoga videos from the local library and liked one of them.  But did not want to just use the same one video each time.  Nor did I want to just cycle through 2-3 videos.  That gets boring.  I knew that I was not available enough to take regular classes.  I also did not have it in the budget to pay for another monthly fee on top of the Crossfit.  I decided to search the Google Play Store before I just gave into trying more videos.  I am so glad that I did!
I actually spent an hour or so reading reviews of several yoga apps.  The ones in Down Dog just seemed more real and positive.  They had a free version (with no ads might I add) to try out.  So I gave it a go.  I decided to load it to my tablet so I could have a larger screen.  I assume this would work well on a cellphone, but I think the experience would be best with a bit more of a screen.  There free version has great options for beginners to test it out and get better before putting down money of the full version.  You get guided sessions and you can choose a few customization like “quick flow” “full practice” or “restorative”.  You can choose the duration from about 20 min all the way to 90 min.  For free, I believe you can also choose between beginner 1 or 2.
The sessions themselves are very well done.  You are guided by voice with a series of pictures that show each progression step.  The photos are great quality and I felt like it was just about like video.  There is only a bit of guessing in how to transition into the next position.  The voice with the sessions is a real voice.  Relaxing, calming and very clear.   It prompts you for all moves and even most breaths.  You can also choose to have music in the background which adds nicely to the experience.  Everything is relaxing and well done.  I also very much like that, even though this is a Yoga app, you don’t get a staunch Yoga lifestyle preached to you while using the app.  They use sanskrit names at times, and the music is not from the op 40 list, but no pressure to adopt a more traditional “yoga” lifestyle.  Just nice guided sessions.
Before writing this post, I reached out ot the customer service email listed in the Play store.  I wanted to see what kind of support they have.  I stated I wanted to write a blog post about their app because of how impressed I was and if they had any background information about why they created it.  The next day I had a kind response and an offer for a bit of free “full version” access.  I thought that was very kind of them.  I already loved the app and did not ask for anything in return of my blog.  They just put it on my account, I did not have to do anything.
So, of course I was going to try the full version.  The session style and quality are exactly the same.  What you get for paying is much more customization.  You have more choice with your music.  You can choose intermediate and advanced difficulty levels along with beginner.  You can also add concentration to specific areas of the body or training goals such as back, shoulders, aerobic, balance and much more.  I have tried several combinations of custom settings and feel like the choices result in a true custom session.  The core one leaves you feeling energized but sore in the mid section.  I feel more work in my back with the back strengthener option.  The shoulder opening choice did just that.  That was just what I needed after several days of more computer work than I should have been doing.  One other fun customization is you can choose to have the names of the postions displayed in captions in sanskrit/english.  This helps in telling what they are called and in memorizing their names
The hardest level I have tried so far was intermediate 1.  That was plenty.  I am no slouch, but still new to Yoga on a regular basis.  I assume the more advanced sessions would be be fairly challenging.
No app is going to be totally perfect for each person.  There are a few suggestions I would make about Down Dog, but I still really love the app.  I will be exicted to see what they do over time.  One thing I have noticed is that they concentrate on a lot of forward bending (think trying to touch your toes or similar) and they also use the position of down dog a fair amount.  I assume this is typical in the style of yoga that they following.  The lengthening of the hamstrings is going to be good for just about any human in the modern world.  I would be a bit fearful of those with current back pain.  They might not tolerate it as much for the first while.  However, I did just fine depsite my mild back pain.  All of the sessions I have gone through have the same person in the photos, so you don’t get any idea of what the positions look like when other do them.  This is a minor issue, but would add variety.
Compared to group Yoga at a studio this is very affordable.  I it is about $8 a month or $60 for a whole year.  One month at a studio near me is about $60 a month.  Of course you trade cost for less ability to get feedback about your transitions and postions.  The real nice thing for someone like me is that it allows me to add Yoga to my other fitness routines without adding another location to travel to and schedules to adhere to.  I can just open my tablet whenever or where ever I want and do a session.  I already pay for training with a garage style gym.  I also have a job, kids, a house to take care and other adult things to do.  Trying to afford and get to a Yoga studio based on their schedule would be very hard.  Plus I can do sessions when I travel, I could do one with my wife or alone.  If I am in rush I can do a quick flow for 20 minutes.  I have more time I can do for longer.  It really is that great!
One other note, if you plan on useing it offline there is an option to “save” previous works and choose to keep them offline or not.  I have a few saved, but have not actually tried them as I have had WiFi accessible since I started with it.  I may need to update if I find that it does not work.
The benefits of Yoga, or yoga like activity, are fairly well documented.  Thousands of health professionals recommend yoga all the time to everyday people for various reasons.  I certainly feel better after each session.  As a physical therapist, I would certainly trust this app to most of my patients.  There will always be some that might need some assistance in transitioning into a program like this.  If you have trouble walking, getting down on the floor and back up, or significant pain during the day or night consult with a health care provider first.  Of course, I would recommend a physical therapist.  I can see many ways that this app could be utilized.  As I also work in employee wellness I can see how this would be a great little perk to offer employees.  The workplace could load it to a few tablets or even offer to pay memberships.  Schools could do the same.
I really hope that this app sticks around for a long while.  It has a great platform and useability.  It is simple to use and follow and does everything it offers.  Thank you Down Dog!  Thanks for sharing your practice with us, Namaste!