Ashtanga quantified by my new Basis Watch

After 4 months of waiting, I finally got my new Watch: The Basis. You can read more about it here. It has a whole bunch of sensors in the form factor of a watch, that makes it really convenient to monitor your body.  It continuously captures heart rate patterns, motion, perspiration and skin temperature. The website contains fascinating data about a lot of stuff – your temperature, prespiration, how many calories you burned during the day, with an hour by hour breakdown. Awesome for data geeks.

Of course, the first thing I wanted to know is my vital signs during ashtanga practice at my awesome shala, Yoga is Youth in Mountain View, CA.

The most interesting insight was how Ashtanga impacts perspiration. I know I sweat a lot during practice, but the closing sequence cools us down, and the final shavasana (corpse) posture relaxes us. But this is what – consistently – the basis band showed. In the chart below, my practice was done around 9 AM. As would be obvious, I started at 7:30. I started the closing sequence at 8:50 – but I really did not stop perspiring till 11:30 – when I went for a shower! So what I’ve been told by teachers is actually true – wait for atleast an hour before having a shower after practice.

Perspiration - asthanga primary sequence completed at 9 AM

In case you think this is an error, here’s the reading from Thursday, when I started at 6:30, and went for a shower at 9. Perspiration continues till I had a shower.

 

Heart Rate

The heart rate capture is a little bit annoying. As you can see from the chart below, Basis seems to have some trouble capturing the right heart rate when you are perspiring (I think). So suddenly your heart rate drops from 110+ to 30.

Ignoring these losses, the chart shows what I’d expect: A gradual rise in heart rate, and then a slow down as the closing sequence is done.

The peak was reached at around 8:45, of 133 beats/sec. Right when I was doing supta kurmasana , Titibasana and the jumpback, I bet. (check it out on youtube if you don’t know what that is)

Calories

I do not buy what Basis is telling me – that essentially, the days I do 2 hours of a really physical practice of ashtanga, I burn essentially the same number of Calories as I do on non-Ashtanga days.

I suspect I know the reason for this. I have noticed that doing Ashtanga does not add significantly to the step count for the day, which presumably is how a major portion of calorie consumption is computed. Here is a monday compared with Sunday

Monday

 

I have not found the skin temperature to be very useful. It clearly increases during practice, and then goes back down after. Just what you’d expect

Finally, the step monitoring is actually very useful – I found it quite motivating to try to slip in some extra walking during the day. The feedback cycle really works.

The strap

I really hate the strap. If you fasten the strap too tight, the sensors will start digging into your skin. I do not know if this is because I am not used to wearing a watch, but I find myself adjusting the strap every 15 minutes because it is uncomfortable. I wish Basis would offer the option of a cloth and a steel strap. Plastic sucks, IMO. 

In Conclusion

Any device that gives feedback on how you’re doing is bound to be interesting, useful and motivating.  I highly recommend trying it out. Oh, it is also waterproof, though I prefer removing it when I have a shower