Fitness

World’s first smart yoga mat YogiFi can correct your posture like a teacher

CES 2020 Innovation Award honoree, YogiFi, is the world’s first smart yoga mat that can sense your posture and give you feedback

The world is getting ‘smarter’. And so is the humble yoga mat.

YogiFi, the world’s first interactive yoga mat, developed by Bengaluru-based company Wellnesys, was recently awarded the Innovation Award at CES 2020 in Las Vegas. Made with haptic pressure sensors, the mat can track your asanas and give you real-time feedback for posture correction. It comes along with a mobile app, pre-loaded with programmes (sequences of asanas for different needs) and a virtual assistant that guides you through them.

It’s been a hectic 30 days for Wellnesys founder Muralidhar Somisetty. Over a phone call from Boston, on his way to New York, he admits his foray into the wellness industry was a fortunate accident, caused by niggling back pain. The former Cisco Systems employee says, “Back in 2015-16, I had some serious health issues: chronic back and neck pain, combined with diabetes and hypertension. I was learning yoga, as a method to overcome them.”

His experience at the SVYASA Yoga University convinced him that yoga is the ‘science of wellness’ and encouraged him to become a trainer himself. “I realised that any good trainer can create programmes specific for lifestyle conditions. But how do you track whether it is working, whether your students are doing it regularly, and doing it right?”

And so, in early 2017, with the help of a team of like-minded people: Vinod Ajjarapu, Pranav Kanuparthi and Sankar Dasiga, YogiFi (www.yogifi.io) was born.

World’s first smart yoga mat YogiFi can correct your posture like a teacher

Bespoke is the word

So popular are online yoga trainers today, you can barely lift your arms into the warrior pose without poking one in the eye. But the main disadvantage, claims Muralidhar, is that online yoga training is not personalised. “Certain asanas like headstands are not advisable for people with hypertension.” An amateur yoga enthusiast has to be careful while following someone online.

Certified teachers, he says, can collaborate with YogiFi to create personalised programmes for their students. The app currently comes preloaded with programmes designed by teachers, expert in different styles of yoga such as Hatha, Sivananda, Iyengar and Patanjali. These programmes are designed for lifestyle issues such as hypertension, back pain, anxiety, arthritis and weight management. There are also separate sections for prenatal care, for kids, for men over 40 years and so on.

World’s first smart yoga mat YogiFi can correct your posture like a teacher

“Even if you follow a particular teacher, there are times you miss out on going to the studio. The mat will help you keep in touch with your teacher, who can track your progress through a dashboard available to them,” he says. You can take the mat to the studio too — it has a silent mode in which it only tracks and does not give any instructions.

The X factor

What YogiFi is trying to do, is what FitBit did to running and what spin classes did to cycling — sell the idea that ‘yoga is cool’. And like all of them, at $400, it costs a pretty penny.

While the mat looks like any other — made of rubber and foam — one of the edges contains the hardware for audio and a stand for the phone or tablet. It communicates with the app over Bluetooth, and can also be connected to smart assistants such as Alexa and Google for speaking in multiple languages.

It is integrated with Apple Watch, so you can check your vitals while you practise the asanas. Post a session, you can compare your stats: your flexibility and strength are now in the form of a number — which means, they can be bettered. You can throw ‘motivation challenges’ and compete to be featured on the leaderboard.

World’s first smart yoga mat YogiFi can correct your posture like a teacher

It makes one wonder: are we complicating what essentially is simply a practice to recentre oneself in a world full of distractions and competition? “In yoga, everybody’s journey starts at some level. You can’t be immersed in it from the beginning. So initially, you do need guidance, motivation and instructions,” says Muralidhar. Once engaged, you can choose how to make use of the mat : “Maybe you want to do it with a community, or maybe you want to do it on a mountain top, or in your garden by yourself. That is all up to you.”

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 1:07:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fitness/ces-2020-innovation-award-honoree-yogifi-is-the-worlds-first-smart-yoga/article30665376.ece

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