Mike Baldwin says Yoga Student is designed to complement a class. Photo by Chip Scheuer.
Mike Baldwin wouldn’t call himself a spiritual person—he isn’t interested in prana or chakras, and he’d probably rather be programming software than chanting Om shanti shanti shanti. But he’s a yogi, through and through. His practice is an integral part of his life.
Glowing with the vitality of a guy on a paleo diet, Baldwin is a trim 31-year-old who contemplates his sencha tea before speaking. His intense green eyes spark when he begins to talk about “Yoga Student,” the three-month-old app he’s created for fellow yogis.
“It’s designed to complement a yoga class,” he explains. “This app is for removing some of the friction from the practice, taking what you’ve learned from your teacher and applying it. It’s not a tutorial. It’s for people who have done enough yoga that they feel comfortable doing the poses.”
Yoga Student was created to help with something that is inexplicably difficult: practicing yoga on your own, without the help of an omniscient yoga teacher or the motivating presence of enviably limber classmates. It came out of Baldwin’s frustrating attempts to practice yoga using yoga cards. He wanted a simple tool that would help guide a more fluent routine, one that would keep time and prompt him on what came next.
“It frustrated me when, like, I might go into a routine with the intention of doing certain poses, but halfway through it I might realize I forgot to do this or that, or maybe I started daydreaming and did a pose way longer on one side than the other side,” he says.
Yoga Student has a library of some 100 hatha poses, color-coded to denote the area of the body worked. Each pose is illustrated with a figure doing it properly, drawn by Baldwin himself, plus the English and Sanskrit names. Unlike many apps that do it for you, Yoga Student allows you to create your own routine by picking out the poses you want to do and setting the time frame for each one.
Note to self and others: setting a good routine is crucial, and at least a minute per pose is a good idea. My routine was all over the place. Floor, then standing, then back to the floor. I’d have been happier with a pre-programmed routine. The app also has a really peaceful bell sound signifying time for the next move.
Baldwin says he’d like to create a sort of Yoga Student network so that users can share their personal routines with other members, and teachers can share routines with their students.
Yoga Student is Baldwin’s second app. The first is Self Talk, a tool for writing short notes to yourself—positive affirmations, reminders, mantras. It’s for the kind of person who puts post-it notes on the bathroom mirror and then forgets all about it until back at home that evening. Both apps are just 99 cents. And no, Baldwin hasn’t hit the big time—yet.
“It’s not like an Angry Bird situation for anybody,” he says.