June 7, 2012 at 5:57 PM ET
When your triangle pose is not quite triangular enough, you might be used to the guiding hand of a yoga instructor to help gently move you into place. But how would you feel about getting an electronic "nudge," or buzz, when you're out of alignment?
A new concept for a high-tech shirt intended for use during yoga (and other activities based on precise movements, like Pilates, baseball or golf) is equipped with sensors that can tell when your movements are out of whack; it'll send you buzzing, electo-hints until you correct yourself. It's currently in development from a company called Electricfoxy. Here's how the company's site describes the product:
Haptic feedback embedded in the hips of the garment give you subtle "taps" on the side that needs adjusting. Continue to modify your move until you perform it correctly. Correct movement ensures better performance, faster improvement, and helps keep you from injury.
The "wearable technology garment," as Electrofoxy insists on calling it, syncs with a mobile app that will save and track your progress on getting your movements right. For precision-based activities like baseball or golf, the smart shirt might be a handy tool to create a better swing of the club or bat. But for yoga, while it's true that the ability to practice your yoga poses at home while still nailing the precision part of it would be helpful, there's also something that also feels a little ... off about the whole thing, said some yoga instructors we spoke to.
At first glance, Seattle yoga instructor Ellen Boyle's reaction was a big "NO!" Boyle, who teaches at Seattle Yoga Arts in the city's Capitol Hill neighborhood, worries that the device would disrupt the fluid connection yoga helps to forge between your physical body and your internal, spiritual self. If you're always waiting for that little buzz, that's a different type of "awareness" than what yoga is meant to teach.
"And it kinda freaks me out a bit," Boyle admits. "It would make me anxious to be constantly anticipating the 'nudge' in my practice rather than relying on my own sense feeling."
Laurice Nemetz, co-president of the Yoga Teachers Association, a non-profit educational organization, worries that students might risk injury by trying to push themselves into the correct position, whether or not their body is actually capable of doing so. And for others, "in a society with body-image issues, this app might feed into those obsessive issues, instead of helping them," Nemetz says. Still, she says she'd be curious to give the app a try.
"This app may prove useful for physical therapy rehab and be an interesting tool, but I hesitate with something that would replace human-to-human feedback," Nemetz says. "Health is far more important to me and my clients' movement than the attitude that implies. The work of yoga, Pilates, etc., is both science and art."