Thinking about yoga and technology in the same context almost seems counterintuitive. In ways, yoga is about as anti-technology as an activity can be. It’s all about focus, breathing, physical movement, and serenity – in a way, using these things to feel more human (or at least feel like a healthier one). That said, we have already seen technology evolve in a very important way for yoga practitioners everywhere.
Specifically, we’ve seen the emergence of a whole category of yoga apps, available via mobile devices and capable of providing what amounts to digital instruction for users. In other words, gone are the days when you might have had to attend a class or purchase a video to learn yoga poses and move through routines. You can now learn it all from an app and practice in your home, progressing at your own pace and learning new poses and exercises as you go. It’s still yoga in a very pure form, but it does intimately involve technology.
There is some reason to believe, however, that this minor intersection of technology and yoga was only the beginning of a larger movement that will see the two more closely involved in the near future. Yoga is often recommended as a sort of “easy” home exercise in that it requires little to nothing in the way of equipment and, though it may not be ideal from a focus standpoint, it can be done while multitasking. For instance, you can do yoga in front of a television show, or while listening to a favorite playlist or podcast. As one article recently suggested, yoga can even be included among exercises you can do while gaming.
It’s this last point that got me thinking, because even the nature of gaming is changing as we know it. What the article meant was that yoga poses and some similar exercises can be done in front of a computer or console mid-game; but the thought naturally follows: what if the exercises and the games were actually related? What if instead of watching a show or playing a game while doing yoga, we were interacting with technology the same way we do when we use yoga apps, tapping into our devices but doing so in a way that specifically relates to the activity at hand?
I’m talking primarily about virtual reality, the exciting technology that has taken the gaming world (and numerous other industries) by storm. VR is designed to literally trick our brains into processing animated or filmed realities as though they’re real – and when you think about it, the potential for this technology’s use in yoga is staggering.
The first thing that comes to mind may be a twist on a yoga app, seen through VR. We might be able to enter virtual classes in which we can actually see instructors (and potentially even avatars representing other users) and get the same communal feeling you can get when you go to a class. However, more exciting in a way is the potential for VR to take us to beautiful and relaxing destinations while we practice. And in fact, this is something that has already been experimented with.
Oculus has already teased what it refers to as the ultimate relaxation experience in virtual reality, combining light yoga exercises with visuals of five beautiful locations around the world. Beaches in Australia and the Philippines make the list, among other places (and it’s not hard to imagine the sort of visual that could bring a Moroccan beach to life!). It’s not a full-fledged yoga program so much as a tool for meditation with some light guidance. But it speaks to the potential for technology, and VR in particular, to change yoga.
There will never be anything that beats the experience of physically being in a pretty location to practice meditation or yoga. You get the benefits of feeling the breeze, smelling the sea, touching the sand beneath your toes, etc. None of that is there with virtual reality. But given we can’t always walk out to a world-class beach whenever we feel like fitting in some exercise, VR may be the next best thing.