By Faye Martins
Anyone can turn and bend statistics to give you a variety of different outcomes. The facts are we can only guess how many people practice Yoga in classes and at home. There may be a large number of “closet Yoga practitioners” out there that get yoga, quietly doing Sun Salutations and meditating at home.
Yoga Journal magazine estimates that 7.5% of the US population has taken a Yoga class or plans to take one in the next six months, totaling approximately 23 million people. But what if people received instruction at home, with feedback on their balance and positioning, and an opportunity to challenge themselves over time? Is it possible, or is it just marketing?
Over 22 million copies of Wii Fit, a fitness “game” designed for the Nintendo Wii and including a Yoga instruction segment, had been sold as of May 2010. The Wii Fit program utilizes a “balance board,” which measures pressure in each foot as you stand on it, determining the center of gravity and even the body mass index (BMI) of the practitioner. While using the Yoga program, one executes poses standing on the board or with hands or feet on the board, and the game provides feedback on how steady the pose is. It can even suggest adjustments based on how much pressure is being placed on the arms or legs.
Critics of the game claim that the instructor avatar gets some poses wrong, and performing the poses on a slightly elevated balance board can be awkward. Others insist that the lack of flow from pose to pose keeps the exercise from being a true Yoga experience. The BMI calculator has been the target of many complaints, and Nintendo issued an apology in 2008 to customers “offended by the in-game terminology used to classify a player’s current BMI status.”
Still, from a statistical measurement perspective, the balance board can be useful. Noting where one’s center of balance is and such problems as favoring one side or putting too much weight in one’s hands may be missed during regular practice, but are tracked visually on the Wii. In addition, results are recorded over time, so improvements to balance or core strength are easily visible.
If viewed as one tool, alongside regular practice and a healthy lifestyle, the Wii Fit Yoga program can be considered valuable for advancement. Just don’t expect your online avatar to experience the peace that comes when you spend time on the mat.
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