Yoga isn't easy. The best way to practice and improve is obviously taking classes at a studio, or even working with an instructor one-on-one. But that isn't practical for a lot of people, so we have apps, DVDs, and streaming classes through YogaGlo. Now a new sensor-packed yoga mat called SmartMat can provide real-time coaching and personalized stats and routines with the help of a mobile app.
The SmartMat has 21,000 piezoelectric sensors spanning the entire length of the yoga mat. It pairs to your phone or tablet with Bluetooth, and there's even a slot at the top of the mat that acts as a stand for your device. It charges with regular USB, with each charge lasting about 6 hours, enough for a few sessions--unless you're a marathon yoga nut. But otherwise, the latex-free mat looks and feels just like a standard yoga mat, and even rolls up.
The app walks you through a six-step calibration process to learn about your body and your yoga abilities. Once that's done, the Dashboard shows stats about all your sessions, with nicely designed graphs and charts to track your progress.
When it's time for some yoga, you have three modes to choose from. In-Class Assist is designed to be used in a real yoga class--you could put your phone (on silent, please!) next to your mat and steal glances at it during class, or even leave the screen off and just collect data to check out later. In-Home Private mode acts like your personal instructor at home, guiding you through routines tailored to your level. As you improve, the app keeps pushing you further. Finally, Zen mode is for more advanced yogis who already have favorite routines. I particularly loved Zen mode's selection of gorgeous full-color backgrounds.
Without having tested it yet, I was immediately struck by how nice the app looks, as well as its method of helping you progress when you're ready, not on a set schedule. This personalized feedback can hopefully help you avoid injury while you improve. The app can even support up to four users, if you have a yoga-loving roommate and you don't mind sharing. As a yoga novice who can only make it to real classes on weekends, I can't wait to try it out--and get the perspective of our staff's resident yoga fanatic, Greenbot'sFlorence Ion as well.