Inspiration

Yoga changed my life! I suffered from endless upper body injuries (carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, back pain) for years, and tried all kinds of mainstream and alternative routes to healing, until I returned to yoga and started a serious practice which completely solved my problems. Since then, I’ve passionately shared yoga practices with everyone I meet who has similar issues — which is, almost everyone over the age of 18!

This is my opportunity to share a simple but transformative core practice with potentially millions of people, many of whom live in non-coastal areas of the United States where yoga classes are not so easily found as in the Bay Area, where I live.

Why this is a REALLY IMPORTANT MISSION

  • Yoga empowers people to help themselves, physically, mentally, and ultimately, spiritually.

  • Surya namaskar is a complete yoga practice for those with time constraints. It stretches and strengthens all the major muscles in the body, and contains a coordinated breathing practice which is highly restorative.

  • A voice skill is a gateway yoga practice which will encourage people to attend real in-person classes.

Trust me because…

  • I’m a Yoga Alliance certified RYT 200 yoga instructor and I grew up in India, practicing yoga from early childhood.

  • I’ve run a successful on-ground yoga business in San Francisco teaching a community yoga class in the Portola District: https://www.cfanyoga.com/, which means…

  • I’ve iterated on my class format with real users before bringing it to voice platforms.

What my skill does

  • Two modes: tutorial mode and full class mode

  • Tutorial mode: one classical sun salutation with precise instructions about how to do each pose for learners. Slow and extremely detailed.

  • Full class mode: three sun salutations, each one moving faster than the previous one, with coordinated breathing commands and preparatory stretches.

  • Pause, resume, and start over: both modes support these commands and will save your place if you pause. When you start a new skill session, you'll always start from the beginning of a practice.

How I built it

  • Created a Wizard of Oz prototype with a playlist of recordings and paper sketches of skill flow. Tested this on real people until I had an amazing flow.

  • Manipulated the AudioPlayer interface to produce two modes that can both pause and resume, while leaving the class mode inaccessible until subscribed.

  • Unit tested with this framework: https://github.com/taimos/ask-sdk-test

Challenges I ran into

  • Creating compelling and clear recordings with high sound quality.

  • Making instructions anatomically detailed and simple to follow even without visuals.

  • Being responsible both for creating the content and writing the skill code.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

  • I created a really good class: simple, effective and enjoyable.

  • Attention to detail. My skill can pause and resume in both modes, stream audio but keep some of it inaccessible unless subscribed, and start over on a new skill session but save the user's place if simply paused.

  • I made something people want. Everyone I know wants to use this skill, from rank beginners to experienced yoga practitioners. It’s even useful for myself, even though it’s my own voice.

What I learned

  • Technical: in-skill audio streaming, store data in Dynamo, set up ISP subscriptions, unit testing with Typescript and ASK SDK v2.

  • Content: how to design vocal tone in voice recordings to make them uplifting and engaging, how to pace things correctly.

  • Insight: Voice is perfect for yoga, unlike visual apps. When you’re practicing yoga in a real-life situation, you’re mostly listening to the instructor’s voice. It’s more natural to use a voice skill than stare at a tiny phone or tablet while practicing yoga.

What's next for Daily Sun Salutation

Features:

  • Synchronized images of a yoga instructor performing the class for a complete multimodal experience on Echo Show

  • Customizable number of rounds (more seasoned practitioners love doing several rounds)

  • Option to skip the introduction and contraindications (for regular users)

New skills and content:

  • Sleep Yoga: A 15 minute practice involving 5 poses and 1 pranayama technique designed to make you fall asleep

  • Car Yoga: A series of gentle upper body stretches designed to help give you a complete physical reset before or after the stresses of driving (for Echo Auto)

  • Complete Yoga: Full-length 60 to 90 minute yoga classes involving the full range of practices, with mantra chanting, simple stretches, sun salutations, standing/sitting poses, core strengthening, twisting, inversions, pranayama, and shavasana.

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