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
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.