In this review I turn my attention to Prana. This is a unique wearable device that helps you maintain awareness of your posture and breathing. Its compact design and simple interface are intended to bring calm and balance to your daily life.
If you believe there is no direct relationship between posture and breathing, you are mistaken. The two are inextricably linked.
The chest, diaphragm, and lungs are properly aligned when we stand or sit upright with good posture, allowing for optimal lung expansion and contraction. This results in efficient and effective breathing, which aids in the supply of oxygen to the body and the removal of waste carbon dioxide.
Slouching or hunching over, on the other hand, can compress the chest and lungs, resulting in shallow breathing and decreased oxygen intake. Furthermore, good posture can reduce tension in the neck and back muscles, which can improve breathing by reducing restriction and allowing for full rib cage expansion.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
The idea of this device is to facilitate the interconnection between proper breathing and posture in order to improve health and wellbeing. And we could all use a little of that. Work demands, financial pressures, and the fast-paced nature of modern life have all contributed to an increase in stress levels in recent years.
I’ve been putting Prana through her paces for the past few weeks. Here’s my take on it.
Prana is a name you may have heard before. That’s because, about six years ago, the company introduced a small wearable that clips to your waistband and tracks the way your diaphragm and chest move in and out while you breathe, as well as your body position. Because of technical difficulties with the design, the product was eventually discontinued.
The company has now returned with a much improved version. The next-generation Prana has a more functional form factor. But that’s not where the improvements end.
The primary functionality remains unchanged. As before, sensor feedback is used by the wearable to guide you through the essential aspects of breath work: diaphragmatic breathing, proper posture, and optimal breath patterns. However, the software that comes with the wearable has been significantly improved and now includes some novel features such as gamification.
Prana is now available in the form of a circular retractable plastic disk. It reminds a bit of a standard heart rate chest strap, but without the separate band that holds the main unit in place. Instead, a 59 inch retractable belt is concealed within the device. Pull on the stainless steel clip and it will come out.
There is no need for special clothing to hold it in place, and the device can be worn on top or underneath your clothes. To fasten, simply pull the belt around your body and snap it in place by inserting the clip into the holding receptacle. It’s a clever way of approaching things. Because everything is contained in a single unit, there are fewer product components to consider. Also, this type of retractable design makes it much easier to fasten than the average chest strap.
The device itself is extremely light. It is only 26.7 grams and measures 0.6″ x 1.89″ x 2.75″. A status LED and vibrational element are included, as well as Bluetooth technology and posture sensors.
Charging, under the hood
According to the website, the rechargeable battery lasts about a day of continuous use. However, this is not something you should wear all day. It is a training tool that is most effective when used occasionally while sitting or standing.
I did not put the battery claims to the test by leaving the device on all day. But on a typical day, I’d use it for up to a half-hour of tracking and the same amount for training. With this type of usage, I believe I could go longer than 10 days between charges, possibly even up to two weeks. That is more than sufficient.
Plastic body, stainless steel clip, 59″ Retractable Belt
None (use smartphone app), LED light on the side
0.6″ x 1.89″ x 2.75″
All day, Micro USB charging
The wearable is fairly decent looking. But its functionality and accompanying software are what impressed me more. At the time of writing there is only an iOS app, but an Android version is expected to follow soon.
Breathing exercises are crucial in all of this. Prana generates more than 80 scientifically validated breathing exercises designed to target specific physiological effects. Real-time sensor feedback informs you of your performance. These can aid in stress reduction, increased energy, better focus, and better sleep. Or simply teaching you how to breathe properly. The exercises can be combined with feedback on posture.
The software has clearly undergone extensive testing. You could literally spend hours going through the various options and exercises. Not only do you get a variety of ways to track and train, but everything is polished and works flawlessly. And it’s all extremely simple to use.
To begin using the device, launch the app and press Prana’s single physical button for three seconds. This will connect the device to your phone via Bluetooth, and you are ready to go. Then select either Training or Tracking. The third option is Live Graph, which simply displays your real-time inhales and exhales, posture information, along with accompanying statistical measurements.
I found myself using Tracking the most. There are a few decisions to be made when you choose this option. To begin, you must decide whether you want to monitor your breathing, posture, or both at the same time.
You’ll also need to decide if you’ll be sitting, standing or lying down. Let the wearable know. Another step is to decide where you’ll wear Prana. Depending on the other options selected, you can choose between the lower back, upper chest, belly and even the upper arm.
Unlike some competing products, Prana does not rely on adhesive tapes or tight clothing to stay in place. Instead, you should extend the retractable belt and wrap it around your body. As mentioned above, this is held in place by slotting the belt’s end pin back onto the device.
If you have chosen to include posture in your tracking, you must position yourself upright while sitting or standing. Then click the “Set Upright” button. This provides Prana with a reference point for proper posture. After that you can begin to track.
Because I work a lot behind a computer, I’d typically use the wearable to help me maintain a healthy posture at various times throughout the day. The great thing about the software is that you can change the reference posture at any time by pressing the “Set Upright” button again. I found myself using this when transitioning from a sitting to a standing position, for example.
There is also an option to adjust the tracking sensitivity. If you find that the wearable is not picking up your metrics in sufficient detail, you can choose between three levels of sensitivity. I did find myself using this at times.
A wealth of data
The smartphone app displays a variety of real-time statistics. For posture, this includes the percentage of time you are upright during the session and number of slouches. The goal is to get as close as you can to a 100% upright posture figure. If you’ve chosen to track your breathing, a live graph will show the breaths you take as you inhale and exhale, along with respiration rate, breath count and other stats.
The mannequin image is a nice touch. The figure will slouch as you begin to slouch. If you have a bad posture, the color will change from green to red and you’ll get buzzed (optionally). This serves as a great reminder to strengthen yourself and get back in the green zone. It trains you to pay attention to how you sit or stand, helping you break unconscious habits.
The company actually does not recommend wearing Prana while walking. However, I discovered that it works perfectly well as you move out and about. Having said that, walking in a perfectly upright position is extremely difficult. It’s unnatural. Perhaps that is why it is suggested to only use it while stationary.
Training is very similar to Tracking in that pretty much the same set of metrics are monitored. The difference here is that the wearable is guiding you. This is done either via vibration alerts or the gamified mode.
For Training, you are meant to wear Prana anywhere between 3 and 15 minutes per day. In essence, the more time you spend training the quicker you will adopt healthier habits.
Choose one of the 80+ exercises on offer. To simplify things, the company has divided them into a few categories including: relax, energy, focus, sleep, lung capacity, health and custom.
For example, the relax options will guide you to gradually slow your breathing. Focus might help you maintain equal breathing while Energy will help you elevate your respiration rate. There really are lots of options to explore. And as with Tracking, you’ll be guided in realtime with the aid of a chart and accompanying statistics for both respiration and posture.
The haptic mode guides your inhales and exhales via a vibration. It is the one to choose if, for example, you want to relax with your eyes closed.
The gamified mode is a bit more fast paced. The basics of this are the same as when tracking your posture and breathing via haptic feedback. But now, everything is presented as a quick moving game.
The app will require you to control a flying bird with your breaths alone. The character flies up when you inhale, and swoops down when you exhale. By carefully controlling your breath according to the guidance, you are meant to collect flowers along the route. Slouching stops all movement. Brilliant!
Body measurements are the third main feature of Prana. This is useful in determining the proportion of fat and lean mass in your body. Because it considers both muscle and fat mass, body fat percentage is a more accurate indicator of your overall health than body weight alone. Tracking changes in body measurements over time can also provide useful information about the effectiveness of diet and exercise programs aimed at reducing body fat.
Waist size, for example, can have a significant impact on your body mechanics as well as the quality of your breathing and posture. Prana takes and records 15 different body measurements, including body fat percentage, to help you achieve your breathing, posture, and overall fitness goals.
It takes a bit of practice
I did have some difficulty figuring out how to take the measurements. But after a while I got the hang of things. It’s actually not too difficult with a bit of practice. Basically, you are meant to measure each of the different body areas by extending the retractable belt and clipping back to the device so that it forms a loop. Press the button and the measurement will be done for you automatically.
Depending on how much practice you’ve had, it takes upwards of 10-15 minutes to complete all of the individual measurements. However, this is not something you should do frequently. Perhaps once every few months to see if anything has changed. To assist you, the app includes a number of video clips that demonstrate how to properly measure various parts of the body. I found this to be very helpful.
After you’ve finished everything, enter your height and gender. The body fat percentage formula is based on the US Navy Body Fat calculations. If you want more information, there is a research paper that explains in detail what goes into this.
Prana estimated that my body fat percentage at 21.55%. Which, interestingly, corresponds to my smart scale readings. I was hoping the smart scale was off, but it doesn’t appear to be. Nonetheless, this puts me within the healthy range for my age. However, having gained more knowledge about my body fat, this has motivated me to try to reduce it.
To keep tabs on your progress, there’s a separate history section. This shows your readings for each of the 15 different body measurements and body fat, and groups it into weekly and monthly charts. The history section also shows your training and tracking information.
Prana review: The bottom line
Initially, I saw Prana as little more than a posture tracker, but it is much more. The device blends modern wearable tech with ancient mindfulness to help you maintain proper posture and breathing throughout the day.
The software is what impresses the most, along with the number of customization options. And the fact that everything works flawlessly. A lot of work has clearly gone into developing the product.
You can wear Prana a number of different ways and, thanks to the clever design, there is no need for adhesive tapes or tight clothing to hold everything in place. Simply use the retractable belt that is housed inside the device.
Use the Training or Tracking mode to help you improve your breathing or if you simply need reminders to stand up straight. Ideal for desk work, Prana is an innovative solution that promises to bring a sense of calm and balance to your life.
The wearable can be picked up for $199 on the company’s website. If you are not happy with Prana, it comes with a 30 day money back guarantee.
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