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A High-Tech Twist on Yoga

By Matt McMillenSeptember 22, 2015
From the WebMD Archives

For those of you who love yoga, but have trouble getting to class regularly, here’s a new high tech twist you might like: a talking mat that guides you through your routine and corrects your form as you go. Due late this year, the SmartMat is packed with sensors that track you as you move through asana poses like downward facing dog to half-moon to high lunge. The mat connects to your smart phone or tablet via Bluetooth, and its Android or iOS app provides real-time feedback. The app also lets you track your workouts over time so that you can see where you have improved and where you still need work.

Sounds cool, right? The price might be a bit of a stretch, though. Pre-ordering the SmartMat will cost you $ 297. Add another $ 150 if you opt to wait until it’s released and reviewed. But keep in mind that if it works as it says it will, you can skip the cost and inconvenience of your usual classes and practice yoga at home and on your own schedule.

“It could be ideal for someone who doesn’t live close to a yoga studio, can’t afford classes or doesn’t have the desire to attend a public class,” Mashable’s Samantha Murphy Kelly wrote last year when the SmartMat was announced.

Want something more reasonably priced and available right now? Loads of yoga apps exist to aid your practice. Here a couple of the best reviewed:

  • FitStar Yoga for iOS (free, with subscription options) offers a few interesting features. It gathers feedback from you after each session in order to better personalize your next session. And for fitness tracker enthusiasts, it links with FitBit and Jawbone UP. Want to share your progress? The app also syncs with Twitter. John Corpuz at Tom’s Guide calls FitStar Yoga “a wealth of yoga workouts designed to help you lose weight and increase flexibility.”
  • Yoga Studio for iOS ($ 3.99) tops several recent top lists. “The clear instructions and video encourage proper posture, making this app one of the better choices for beginners,” LiveScience’s Stephanie Pappas writes of Yoga Studio, which includes numerous classes for all levels, a dictionary of poses, and a calendar feature to schedule your sessions.

However, as Pappas warns, beginners are better off starting with a traditional class before using an app on their own: “No app we found can replace an in-person lesson for teaching the correct alignment and safety in postures, and it was very rare that apps offered modifications for beginners, even in beginner-level sequences.”

Yoga, after all, is not risk free. Injuries can and do occur, though serious injuries are rare. The NIH considers yoga “generally low-impact and safe for healthy people when practiced appropriately under the guidance of a well-trained instructor.”

And it’s highly unlikely that any app or yoga mat – no matter how ‘smart’ – can provide that level of guidance. So, however you choose to practice, practice caution.

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