Wii Fit can help you fit in a yoga practice if you don't have time to get to the studio or are intimidated by a class environment. The gaming system offers a complete set of postures that will help you hone balance, strength and breath from the comfort of your home. You can do the whole set of 18 postures for a long workout, or fit in just a few when you can. No worries about the pretzel-y girl in the front row or the sweaty guy in the corner -- Wii Fit allows you to focus on yourself and the virtual trainer.
The Wii Fit can help you start up your practice with deep breathing. You stand and work on a focused inhale and exhale that you should strive to maintain throughout any poses you perform during your session. The "trainer" directs you to deepen your breath and to sync it with the figure on the screen. The game also offers Sun Salutes, a classic yoga warm-up sequence that includes reaching to the ceiling, touching the floor, assuming a yoga-style pushup, doing a backbend and then moving to Downward-Facing Dog. You can repeat Sun Salutes several times to get your body ready for longer pose holds.
The Wii Fit offers an array of standing poses that build strength in your legs and core. Half Moon has you stand on the Wii Balance Board and lean to the side. In Warrior 2, you place your front foot on the board, stand the back foot a few feet back, bend your front knee and reach the arms out to the front and back of the room. In Triangle pose, you also place one foot on the board and the other leg three to four feet behind with the toes aligned with the front heel. You then hinge from the hips and reach your lower hand toward the ground while the upper arm and hand reach toward the ceiling. In spine extension, a variation of the classic yoga pose known as Pyramid, you extend your front foot and step the other foot about two feet back. You then bend forward over your front leg until your back is parallel to the floor to open up the hamstrings and strengthen the muscles of the back. Chair pose, which looks much like a strength-training squat with your arms reaching overhead, is another standing option to do on the Balance Board to test your steadiness.
The Wii Balance Board gives you feedback on how steady you are in balancing positions. The Wii Fit offers balancing games as well as numerous yoga poses to train your stability. Poses such as Tree, Standing Knee, Palm Tree and Dancer all have you balance on one leg or, in the case of Palm Tree, on your toes. Wii Fit Plus has the option of doing a Grounded V, or Boat pose, by balancing on your sits bones on the Balance Board with your arms and legs extended to create a "v" shape with your body. Grounded V is an intense core strengthener.
Not all of the Wii Fit poses use the Balance Board. Floor-based postures include Gate pose, in which you kneel, extend one leg out to the side and side bend over it. Cobra pose has you lie belly first on the floor, place your hands under your shoulders and lift up your head and chest to stretch out the back and open the pectoral muscles. Your Wii trainer can also lead you through a twist by having you lie on your back, draw your knees into your chest and drop them to one side as your head turns the other direction. Shoulder stand, an advanced posture in which you lie on your back, prop your hips up with your hands and extend your legs to the ceiling, is also offered.
You can program Wii Fit to do the poses in any order, essentially designing your own routine. You can also combine Wii Fit yoga moves with the game's strength-training and aerobic exercises to create a complete workout. While you may be best off getting to a class with a certified yoga teacher on occasion to develop proper form and guidance, the Wii Fit is better than doing no yoga at all. The Wii Fit also provides tracking so you can see if your balance is improving over time.
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.