For this post I am going to discuss the Yoga portion of Wii Fit U. I think that this game is a bit of an unorthodox way to become connected with yoga, however it is a valid place to start if you are uncomfortable going to a yoga studio.
The setup of the game…
If you have never played a Wii Fit game before, the general gist is that you as a player are standing on a Wii balance board facing your television screen. A camera on top of your TV is able to pick up your general motions and, along with the input from the balance board, determines exactly where your center of balance is. From a list on the screen, you select a pose and the yoga teacher avatar demonstrates the posture while a voice narrates the positioning.
For most poses, there is a yellow circle located somewhere on the avatar where you are meant to keep your center of balance. A red dot within the circle tracks your balance and at the end of the pose you are given points based on how well you kept the red dot in the same place. Depending on the number of points you receive you are given a one to four star rating. As you gain more points and more stars you are able to unlock more poses.
What this game is teach us…
There are some aspects of this game that I really like and others that I do not. To start, I would like to critique the purpose of the game being a stationary center of balance.
In my own yoga practice, even if it is a Yin one (in which you hold the postures for a prolonged period of time without ‘moving’) I am rarely completely still. In order to continuous move energy throughout the body I am constantly making micro-adjustments. Thus, although I appear to be still I am usually slightly moving, relaxing, and activating different muscles.
This approach to poses is crucial for reaching a deeper position within the posture. It is impossible (or dangerous actually) to immediately go to the full expression of a pose. Instead, I start by entering the pose with care until I feel I have reached a stopping point at which time I use my breadth and slight muscular adjustments to deepen the posture. Wii Yoga lacks any of these aspects within postures. It teaches students to rush into a pose and to hold it as still as possible. This causes a stagnation of energy and a build of tension. The complete opposite effect of what we want while practicing yoga
Contrasting this critique, I like how the game is set up to reward players who have mastered certain poses by unlocking new poses for them to practice. This is a class structure that should be practiced more readily by modern yogis. When yoga was originally practiced, students would be unable to even attempt the next pose in the sequence until they had completely mastered the previous pose. Now, we have people who will see an acrobatic pose on Instagram and immediately try and replicate it without taking the steps to strengthen and stretch their muscles with the preceding poses. This is downright dangerous and undermines the humbling practice and journey that is yoga.
In the end I would say that if you enjoy practicing Wii Yoga and you use it as a stepping block to starting you practice then go for it. However, I would warn you that this game has some aspects that do not align with classical yoga teachings. This does not mean that it is invalid as a yoga platform, but is something that you should be aware of.