Can You Do Yoga With a Wii Fit?

Weighing the Pros and Cons of a Home Practice

Wii Fit
Courtesy of Nintendo

Nintendo’s Wii Fit system was introduced in 2008 and quickly gained popularity among those wanting to add a little fun to their home workout routine. Among the various modules was a basic yoga program overseen by a virtual "teacher." In recent years, the program has been expanded to accommodate people looking for a more complete home practice.

From an innovation standpoint, the Wii Fit definitely broke ground in the home fitness arena. But from the point of a home yoga practice, does it live up to the hype?

Starting Wii Fit

The Wii Fit system uses sensory technology to assess your physical fitness and establish how well you are performing certain tasks. The package includes an 11-inch by 19-inch balance board for you to stand on. The board not only confirms how much you weight, it can sense your center of gravity by evaluating the amount of pressure you're exerting from each foot.

In the start-up session, the Wii Fit will automatically calculate your body mass index (BMI) and advise you of your ideal weight. It will then determine your "Wii Fit age," which can be great if it's less than your actual age and jarring if it's not. Take that number in stride, and consider it the starting point for the journey ahead.

Yoga on the Wii Fit

For the Wii Fit yoga module, you will start by picking a male or female instructor. The virtual teacher will take you through a series of postures, demonstrating each pose and then instructing you to do it together. The poses are typically held for 30 to 40 seconds. While you are in the pose, the on-screen display will illustrate your center of gravity in real-time. To avoid neck strain, your TV should be at eye level.

After each pose, you will be given a score based on how well you maintain your center of gravity or how much pressure you have exerted with your hands or feet. The score is then ranked alongside other players on the system.

After accounting for the time it takes to score performance, navigate menus, and get advice from your teacher, you should expect to spend around an hour for what is ultimately 30 minutes of exercise.

Pros and Cons

Like any yoga practice done without a teacher, you will more likely benefit if you have had some form of prior training. Unlike human interactions, the Wii Fit system cannot provide anything more than generalized instructions. As such, you won't be told to square your hips, extend your spine, or correct any imbalance that could undermine your practice or cause injury.

From an instructional standpoint, the Wii Fit has both its strengths and weaknesses. The strengths, not surprisingly, are in standing balancing postures. With poses like the tree and king dancer, it is actually useful to have a visual representation of your center of gravity. It can help improve proprioception, and that's a big plus.

However, beyond the balancing postures, the yoga module is something of a mixed bag. Among some of the more notable shortcomings:

  • The warrior II is completely wrong. Despite what the virtual teacher tells you, the knee of your front leg should never come in front of your ankle.
  • The alignment was also off on the shoulder stand wherein the hips should be situated directly over the shoulders.
  • I also object to the downward facing dog in which I was repeatedly told to increase the weight in my arms. When I finally achieved the recommended pressure, I was practically in a plank position with my hips way too far forward.
  • Because the balance board is about two inches high, my alignment was also frequently compromised, particularly in poses where one foot was on the ground and the other was on the board.

Another drawback is that Wii is designed like a progressive game. In the yoga section, you are provided only a few postures to start with and can only get more if you log in additional time. This is a major pain if you have some experience and desire a more complete and rounded practice.

Final Verdict

So the question is this: is the Wii Fit worth the investment for those days when you are unable to make it to yoga class? For the most part, yes. In the end, the point of any practice is to gain insight, and the Wii can offer that, particularly with respect to balance and coordination.

Is it the right tool to use for a beginner or as the sole form of practice? Maybe not. As a medium, Wii Fit has its limitations and is unable to address important alignment issues in a serviceable way. It is these sorts of shortcomings that create bad habits, many of which are hard to break.

With that being said, Wii is far more fun than watching a video or reading a book. The interactive features keep it interesting and allow you to move to other exercise programs if the same old routines start to get boring. The system also allows you to combine strength training with yoga for a more personalized approach.

It is ultimately this sense of fun that makes the Wii Fit system unique. If you don't mind occasionally getting a lower score for doing a pose right, it is definitely worth your consideration.

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