I’ve avoided writing about the Wii Fit yoga videogame and yoga action figures, as making the practice of yoga into a form of amusement rubs me the wrong way. Yes, it does expose a whole different section of the population to the physical experience of yoga asana, but does it support the growth of yoga’s authenticity, or reduce it to a cellophane wrapped novelty item to be sold in a decade at the neighborhood yard sale?
Nintendo Wii released Wii Fit in late May. For $89.99 you procure the Wii Fit with the balance board, an add-on to the $249.99 Wii console. The game includes four categories of games: strength, aerobics, balance, and yoga. All games are done in conjunction with the balance board or the Wii-remote. Geared toward physical fitness, it begins by measuring your BMI (body mass index) and assists you in setting goals to reach your ideal weight and fitness level. There are 15 yoga postures included in the game, all of which are apparently taught with the focus on fitness and physical effort. Sure, one couldn’t expect a video game to expound upon the benefits of pranayama and meditation. But is it yoga?
Then there are these new plastic yoga action figures. Created by yoga teacher Raymond Fogleman and made in China, the “3-D Yogis and Yoginis Box of Poses” are designed to assist beginning students visualize asanas in practice. There are 16 figurines in all, eight female and eight male statuettes with a code which corresponds to written instructions.
Fogleman sites army figurines as his inspiration for the statuettes when he realized that the antithesis to a solider would be a yogi. Fogleman hopes that the figurines will encourage children to explore yoga.
I am relieved that the “toys” of yoga actually promote the experience of it in one way or another, but for $340 for the Wii and accessories, you could hop into the nearest yoga studio and take quite a few classes with a qualified instructor. And yoga action figures will make great gag gifts and the office Christmas party, but how many people are actually going to use them to support their practice?
Cashing in on the latest “fad” is the American way, and it seems to be working as the one of the biggest challenges of the Wii Fit was simply finding a store that had them in stock. So as I am trying to see the benefit of a yoga video game, it seems that a good number of fellows are trying it out when their girlfriends and wives are at yoga class. I keep reminding myself that we all had to start somewhere, and in the coming months, the link between virtual yoga asana and actual yoga will become more clear if these explorers choose to dive deeper by attending a class or two with an actual teacher. I will keep my fingers crossed.