Yoga 42 — Meet Steph Armijo

Steph Armijo is the founder of Yoga 42, a yoga studio specializing in yoga instruction for professional athletes. Steph and Ben, her husband, has done some fascinating work on the intersection of yoga and motion analysis. Steph recently collaborated with us, bringing some of her athlete-focused classes to Yoganotch. We figured the best way to announce our collaboration would be to publish our conversation with Steph about yoga, technology their bright future.

How did you discover yoga?

You are specialized in teaching yoga for elite athletes. How did this come to you?

Teaching yoga for the Mets sounds a unique challenge. Can you tell a bit more about your experience and what you learned from working elite athletes who may not be yogis themselves?

I was very impressed that the athletes I worked with had a high level of proprioception. They knew their end ranges and worked within those parameters. Often, that aspect needs to be taught to novice yoga students. I always have to remind athletes that it’s ok (and healthy and necessary) to relax in a yoga class. I remind them that breathing and being present is enough, and in fact, beneficial for their overworked nervous systems.

I started teaching yoga to an NBA team a few years ago. They had no experience with yoga and no stretching routines in their training. I had mostly worked with baseball players up until that point and I knew what to expect from a baseball player’s mobility.

When I had the basketball team together, we were in a standard yoga forward fold. The entire class could touch the ground with their hands (which does not come easily if you have tight hamstrings). I was stunned. For a moment, I thought, these guys are doing something because they are all more flexible than the baseball players I worked with. It took me a minute to realize that they could all touch the ground because their arms are longer than average. They were just as tight as you would expect from a group that didn’t stretch!

What is your approach to designing yoga classes?

Just because a class may have a focus on one area, it is important to keep the class well-rounded so it doesn’t feel imbalanced or missing anything at the end. For sequencing, I like changing up my classes. In my opinion, there are enough yoga poses that you don’t need to do the same thing every single day. I keep notes on my class sequences and change things up for my students. This is not only to prevent boredom, but to learn new movement patterns and to vary the load on their body during yoga.

You are using really cool technologies to help your students learn more about themselves. Can you tell us more about that?

My husband (ex-CTO of Motus Global and current biomechanics engineer of the Chicago White Sox), leads the development of our software platform that extracts skeletal data from 2D video using TensorFlow’s PoseNet API. Combined with manual data refinement, strict test administration, and cues to capture face-on or perpendicular-facing body data, we assess 18 range-of-motion measures in a 2 minute exam.

We provide students with their own biomechanics report after class. The utility of seeing range-of-motion before and after class has been extremely beneficial for the athletes I’ve taught; and it’s been a tremendous learning tool for me for sequencing yoga classes.

What was your experience teaching yoga during COVID-19?

COVID-19 has been a devastating time for so many of us. When I began offering classes, I realized how important it is to have that connection that we get through yoga. The majority of my students in my online classes are my students that I taught in NYC. For months, they were on a much stricter quarantine than the rest of the country. Together, we have been through a lot in the last few months. Yoga has helped us get through the challenges of 2020.

Where do you think technology can help yoga beside Zoom?

While skeletal tracking from 2D video will improve, there is a large need to understand full 3D biomechanics of yoga pose alignment. To that end, Notch sensors are some of the best IMU’s for yoga analysis. We’ve been really impressed with the kinematics computed from the sensors, and think it will really help guide yoga poses into the future.

What can we see next from your side?

About Steph

Originally published at https://blog.yoganotch.com on July 16, 2020.

Yoganotch is a personal yoga assistant that gives voice feedback on your yoga form when you practice at home. Created by Notch Interfaces, New York company.

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