Review of the Down Dog App

Woman in yoga posture

I’ve practised yoga on and off (admittedly more off than on) for the past twelve years. Every time I start getting back into it, I remember why I love it, but lack of time and easily-accessible classes has prevented me from doing a regular yoga practice for several years. Until I discovered the Down Dog app.

I work from home, sometimes spending up to 14 hours a day on my computer. By anyone’s standards (including my own), that isn’t healthy, but hey, I love my job! But years of computer work are starting to take their toll, and recently I’ve been suffering with RSI. I’m sure that part of the problem is down to not doing enough stretching and strength work to support my core, back and neck. I’m carrying out some short-term interventions to help with the RSI, but long term, I believe regular yoga practice will help me be a healthier writer.

I’m sure there are many of you out there who, like me, would love to be able to do a regular yoga class, but feel like you don’t have the time or money. That’s what makes the Down Dog app so great. It’s free and, from my limited experience to date, a brilliant alternative or addition to an instructor-led yoga class.

The Benefits of Yoga

Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that originated in India. It focuses on strength, flexibility, balance and breathing and has both physical and mental benefits. On the physical side, it can help increase muscle strength and tone, improve flexibility and help reduce the likelihood of injury from participation in other sports. Mentally, the concentration and breathing techniques are a type of meditation that can improve mental wellbeing and reduce stress.

There are lots of different types of yoga. Some focus more on specific aspects of the practice, such as breathing, or physical movement and strength. The Down Dog app features Vinyasa flow yoga, which emphasises the transitions between postures and a continued flow of movement.

What is the Down Dog App?

It’s a highly-rated yoga app that you can download to your smartphone to guide you through yoga practices at home. You get step-by-step verbal instructions and can also follow the instructor on the screen. Each practice has an accompanying music playlist.

There’s a pro membership which gives access to additional features and content, such as the ability to tailor your practice to a specific body part or practice area, to slow down or speed up the practice, and to access additional playlists. If you’ve used the app for a while then these features may be of interest, but in my opinion the features you get for free are more than enough for most people.

Down Dog App Review

I’ve downloaded a fair number of apps to my phone and deleted almost as many. The Down Dog App is hands down the best app I’ve come across to date. The features and flexibility you get are nothing short of amazing, given that this is a free tool.

To start with, you have a choice of four sequence types:

  • Full practice – this is a full routine including warmup, a range of standing and seated poses and a cool down. You can choose a practice length from 20 minutes to 100 minutes (the default is 30).
  • Short practice – a condensed version of the full practice with options as short as ten minutes. Perfect for a quick work break in the middle of the morning or afternoon.
  • Quick flow – this skips part of the warmup and is designed to keep you working throughout the duration of the routine.
  • Restorative – this option focuses on stretching and relaxation and is great for winding down before bedtime.

There are five different levels: Beginner 1, Beginner 2, Intermediate 1, Intermediate 2 and Advanced. So far I’ve only tried the beginner levels, but I’ve really enjoyed all the practices. None have been too difficult, but they’ve been perfect for remembering the different poses and getting back into yoga after a break. The best thing about the app is the variety – every practice you do is different.

If you’ve never done yoga before, then I’d recommend taking some instructor-led classes before using the app. The benefits of having a physical instructor present are that they can check you’re carrying out the poses correctly and adjust your posture if necessary. They will also help you push yourself, so you know how far you can stretch into the pose.

Once you’ve got used to the different positions and sequences, then the down dog app can be a great way of complementing your classes, carrying out a daily practice or as an alternative to instructor-led sessions. As you become familiar with the Sanskrit and English names for the poses and get used to typical sequences, you’ll get to a stage where you can just follow the verbal instructions and don’t need to look at your phone during the practice.

Unlike many free apps, there aren’t any annoying adverts or pop-ups that interrupt your exercise. You’re asked to rate different practices and there is the occasional reminder of the benefits of the pro membership, but it’s pretty hands off in terms of pushing the paid version. If you’ve been meaning to get back into yoga or want to carry out some extra sessions between classes, then I definitely recommend downloading the Down Dog app.

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