Getting started with yoga is best done by attending a regular class where you can watch an instructor and your fellow class mates to learn the various poses. In person classes also mean incorrect posture can be aligned by the instructor directly — hands on. But once you’ve been properly bitten by the yoga bug one or two weekly classes likely won’t cut it. You’ll find yourself doing DIY sessions at home, perhaps following along to a free class on YouTube. But that means practicing without any dynamic instruction.
So enter Finnish startup Yoogaia, which soft launched its online yoga studio in Finland towards the start of this year. It’s taking yoga and home exercise practice a step further by offering live online classes in which participants can use a webcam to broadcast their practice — thereby enabling them to gain personal guidance from a remote instructor.
Now obviously a remote instructor won’t be able to physically align postures, but given that home yoga practice usually involves no oversight from an instructor Yoogaia’s service is going one better by offering the chance for individual verbal feedback. Or at least the ability for the instructor to keep an eye on how a class is doing overall — and potentially adapt a lesson to the abilities on display.
That said, it’s worth noting that Yoogaia does not limit the number of participants per class, so the chance of individual feedback is presumably going to shrink as the service grows in popularity.
If you don’t like the idea of being watched remotely as you bend and stretch in your own home you can also participate in live classes without using a webcam. Subscribers to the service can also watch recordings of classes for up to a week after the fact if they can’t attend the live session at the time it’s being broadcast (currently Yoogaia’s timetable is aligned to Finnish time).
As well as various flavors of yoga, the service offers pilates, core and kettle bell exercise classes with trained instructors. At present most classes are in Finnish but some English language instruction is offered. Yoogaia plans to expand the number of English classes in step with a planned global launch next month. Presumably it will also broaden its timetable to better target different timezones.
The global expansion push is being funded by a €500,000 (~$630,000) seed round, being announced today. Yoogaia said the funding will be used for expanding the team. Specifically it said it’s on the hunt for more yoga instructors.
Yoogaia’s seed round has been led by Nordic VC firm Inventure, which is putting in around €300,000 of the funding, with the rest coming from unnamed angel investors. Prior to this, the startup had raised just under €100,000 via a crowdfunding campaign.
Thus far, since its soft launch, the service has attracted between 3,000 and 5,000 users. Yoogaia offers a free first week so users can trial the service. After that pricing for unlimited access starts at €14.99 per month if the user signs up for a year, rising to €19.99 for a one-month unlimited classes pass. That level of pricing positions the service to undercut the average monthly cost of gym membership.
Or indeed individual yoga class prices, although I for one would never replace my in person yoga classes for a purely remote service. In person classes are far too much fun to give up. But I might be interested in this sort of service as a way to supplement those classes — although at that point Yoogaia is competing with free classes on YouTube so it’s going to need to offer something pretty compelling, instruction wise, to compete with free.
“We love the idea of making fitness more accessible,” said Inventure director Ekaterina Gianelli, commenting on the funding in a statement. “Many consumers have already left their gyms in search for alternative ways to exercise, and live online classes is the next logical step. Yoogaia service helps you stay healthy, simplifying your daily routines at the same time. Being one of the first-movers on the market, Yoogaia has incredible potential.”