June 21, 2020 9:15:52 am
Today, as millions of people across the world mark International Yoga Day, celebrating an ancient practice for living that integrates physical and spiritual disciplines, the fact remains that the discipline has become more accessible than ever before. Yoga, which is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’, consists of asanas (poses), breathing exercises and meditation that relaxes the body, relieves stress and anxiety, and promotes wellbeing. Seen as India’s biggest cultural export, Yoga is now practiced all over the world. Indianexpress.com spoke to two tech startups that are not only simplifying Yoga but also making the ancient Indian discipline accessible to a larger global audience.
Bengaluru-based company Wellnesys is behind YogiFi, a smart yoga mat that uses AI and a mobile app (Apple watch support also included) to connect users with a virtual instructor and give them feedback on their movements. This ‘smart’ Yoga mat consists of pressure sensors that provide step-by-step guidance and real-time feedback on your posture, strength, flexibility, and balance after each session.
Muralidhar Somisetty, founder and CEO of Wellnesys, says he thought of creating YogiFi after suffering from a severe spinal injury, which he managed to reverse after he started practicing yoga.
“One fine day I got this thought about building an intelligent smart mat,” Somisetty told indianexpress.com over a phone call. Somisetty, who himself is a Yoga teacher, said he and his team went through several iterations of YogiFi before finalising the design.
“Our YogiFi mat and computer vision when combined together is a holistic solution,” he said. Somisetty says the YogiFi mat manages to track things like muscular strength and flexibility which is not visible to the naked eye.
YogiFi retails for $199 (approx Rs 15,000), which is on the expensive side. But Somisetty argues that the cost of owning the intelligent mat is way less than paying Rs 2000 per month for attending Yoga classes. Somisetty again stresses the fact that YogiFi isn’t just the hardware but a solution that gives users access to Yoga classes, virtual Yoga teachers, and most importantly, the mat will remain with you for life long. In the future, Somisetty wants to sell YogiFi as part of the subscription plan where users only need to pay for the app on a monthly or yearly basis.
Parjanya Creative (Prayoga app)
Founded by Krishnaprasad Jagadish, co-founder of Parjanya Creative, the Prayoga app uses Apple’s ARKit body tracking technology and machine learning to correctly understand how users perform a pose. Prayoga, which is an iOS exclusive app, highlights yoga pose correction and gives users feedback in real-time
“The essence of yoga is not about actually performing asanas, but it is about the final holding position,” Jagadish said over a call. “So, when you get into the final position the way you hold the position is what defines your expertise level in yoga and we thought that would be perfect for us because if you can do body tracking we can exactly tell you what parts of your body needs to be corrected.”
Perhaps the highlight of the Prayoga app is that every asana is available as a high-quality 3D model. “One thing we decided early on was not to include 2D vision because it was not really the way you learn a Yoga pose,” he explains. Jagadish relied on laser scanners from Occipital mounted to an iPad. This was followed by building a custom rig that would go around the trainer and that way Jagadish and his team managed to create a 3D model of the trainer.
To make sure Prayoga is different from other Yoga apps on the market, Jagadish said he consulted a lot of Yoga teachers, many of whom are PHDs, before designing the app. “With every asana, we tried to mimic a Yoga studio,” he said.
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