So it seems America has a burgeoning Internet addiction. Really: I read it online. Okay, we all know folks who log too many Web hours running background checks on their parents and uploading videos of their goldfish to YouTube, but there's still some gold in them thar pixels.
This week's gem: Yoga Today, which delivers a free -- yes, free! -- yoga class to your computer every day, taught by qualified instructors. I was dubious about this for many reasons (how can I see my computer screen during triangle pose?) but curious enough to try it.
I set my laptop on a chair in my living room, unrolled my yoga mat and hit the "play" button. After two brief ads -- which help fund the production -- I was greeted by Adi Amar, a young Israeli-born instructor, grinning from the Yoga Today studio in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Amar described the session as a "beginner's class . . . focusing on opening the chest." Also in her studio were two students -- a snowboard shop owner and a massage therapist (ah, the rat race of Jackson Hole!). The students, of varied skill level, help demonstrate pose modifications.
I've done my share of yoga and figured I would breeze through the beginner's session. Amar had other plans. Within 10 minutes, I was sweating and acutely aware that my shoulders and chest were constrictively tight due to, um, well, probably too much Web surfing.
"If you find your shoulder blades pinching in, pull the outer sides of your armpits toward each other," Amar instructed as I quivered through one push-up-like pose. As I was pondering this (do armpits have sides?), Amar told us to draw the inner muscles of our forearms together.
That may sound ludicrous to non-yoga types, but this level of detail closely mimics a live yoga class, and, kidding aside, I found Amar's tutelage clear and useful. It helped greatly that she used the students as props; snowboard dude and I seemed to be of similar skill and flexibility, and the adjustments she ordered for him often applied to me as well. (The massage therapist was practically levitating with enlightenment, and I trust the more-advanced home users related to her as well as I connected with the guy.) Although video yoga could never fully replace live instruction -- there is no substitute, for example, for shifting class pace or parsing poses in response to questions -- Yoga Today can be a valuable tool for people who like to practice at home with the structure and sequence of a class. I also enjoyed the luxury of rewinding the class to revisit nettlesome poses.
On the downside, what they post is what you get -- for example, the chest class when you might have hoped for hip flexibility -- but you can store downloaded classes in your e-library. Details at http://www.yogatoday.com.
Speaking of downsides: After three years, it's time for me to pass the baton -- all right, the yoga mat -- on this column. Thank you for letting me disrupt your breakfast with detailed accounts of my more ridiculous fitness pursuits. It has been an honor and a pleasure to write for such a lively and involved reader community. Stick around. There's plenty more good fitness advice coming in this space. Meanwhile, you've got the basics: Get active, stay positive and, above all, keep it fun.