India is spearheading the development of yoga wearables to promote this ancient practice to the rest of the world. But will such new technology be a good fit for a practice that’s 5,000 years old?
One of India’s largest conglomerates, Tata Group, made headlines earlier this year after announcing plans to capture its share of the US$14 billion wearable technology market with two smart wristwatches, one of which targets a very unique audience – yoga practitioners. Their wearable will be designed to help yogis track breathing patterns, alertness and other relevant metrics.
But will yogis bend to this modern technology?
For Krishan Jogia, it’s only a matter of time. As a certified yoga teacher and owner of Australian yoga business Alchemy Flow, Jogia wears his Fitbit to yoga classes and shares that he finds it useful to take a quick scan of the clock to pace himself and take water breaks.
“Yoga teachers already hook up their smartphones to sound systems to play music. They build and share playlists on Spotify, use tablets to write and prompt their class plans, and take photos during classes to post on social media,” he said.
Not all yoga instructors share Jogia’s enthusiasm though.
According to Michael Dever, who runs yoga studio FM Yoga, thinks that technology may distract the students’ from finding self-awareness and presence in a chaotic world.
“A yoga practice is characterised by fostering an internal awareness of the energy and spirit as opposed to a number of steps spat out by a tracking device,” he said. “Technology can be a superficial distraction.”
Blending Tech with Heritage
As far as technology companies like Tata Group are concerned, it’s an emerging market that holds plenty of potential to sell new and unique products.
“Having built a platform for wearables [with the wristwatch for workers],” said a Tata Group spokesperson, “We are exploring the yoga wearable as a unique angle for the consumer space.”
While these wearables are gaining popularity, Jogia adds that it is up to each individual to decide if yoga wearables are an appropriate part of their practice.
Everyone practices yoga for different reasons, and the use of wearables is likely to be affected by what attendees want to get out of their classes.
“I suspect the people who are more interested in the physical progression of the practice will be pleased with the stats that wearable tech can offer. Other people who come to class to enjoy the more traditional and spiritual aspects of yoga may not consider it necessary to have access to this information,” he explained.
“Beating yourself up for not performing goes against the yogic concept of aparigraha, which is about non-possessiveness and letting go. We all draw our own lines for where technology starts to detract from heritage.”
From improved posture to more focused breathing exercises, yoga wearables can unlock new possibilities – both in the studio and in private, at-home practice. While it may be too early to predict their impact on India’s ability to promote this ancient discipline, growing demand across the broader wearables market is a sign of good things to come.