[App Fridays] How made-in-India meditation app Dhyana lets you master mindfulness
Experts believe that the mental health fallout from the coronavirus pandemic may spill over into the next couple of decades. The United Nations has urged governments around the world to “take the mental health consequences seriously, and ensure widespread availability of mental health support”.
Meditation could be the way out.
A habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts, meditation is known to reduce stress, decrease blood pressure, control anxiety, enhance self-awareness, promote emotional health, and improve sleep.
Reason enough for the rising popularity of meditation apps like Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer, and others. But, how effectively are you using your meditation apps?
Made-in-India app Dhyana aims to ensure that your breath, posture, and focus are just right for your meditation session.
Developed and published by Hyderabad-based startup Avantari Technologies, Dhyana helps you “master meditation with science”. The app tracks your heart rate variability and breaks down your meditation session into the three core tenets - breathing, relaxation, and focus. This ensures that you take as little time as possible to achieve mindfulness.
Product development startup Avantari Technologies was launched in 2015 by Bhairav Shankar, an Oxford University graduate and the person behind designing and developing a mobile holographic unit for Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the 2012 Gujarat General Assembly Elections.
The startup, which specialises in AR, VR, AI, and IoT, is backed by former Indian badminton player Pullela Gopichand. With core competence is in developing consumer software, the startup is attempting to change our approach to meditation and mindfulness with.
It claims its unique proposition – an algorithm designed to measure heart rate variability (HRV) to analyse the autonomous nervous system and tell a user exactly how relaxed or stressed they are – is presently unrivalled in the global wellness app industry.
Dhyana, a word that literally means concentration, is less than a year old on Google Play Store and has been downloaded more than 10,000 times. It has a rating of 4.4 stars. But does it really help you meditate better?
Get started with Dhyana
Set up an account by logging in with your Gmail id or any other email address. The next screen asks you to set your goal: do you want to balance your emotions, an instant calm down, or to enhance your sleep quality?
Dhyana offers its own wearable: a ring that lets you track the effectiveness of your meditation. However, if you don't buy the ring (priced at Rs 6,000), you can still do it with the help of your smartphone camera.
The app activates the smartphone’s camera to double up as a sensor to measure the heart rate variability (HRV) of a user. This is a unique feature…more on that later.
Why 21 minutes?
The app claims to run on a scientific theory that 21 minutes of mindfulness provide all the benefits of meditation. That’s why app sessions are of 21 minutes.
When you start a session, you need to keep your finger or thumb on your smartphone’s primary/back camera. The app uses your phone’s camera as a sensor, and seeks permission to take and record a picture/video.
Cover the camera lens without touching your phone flash to track how effectively you are meditating. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but you soon figure out how to keep the phone in position during your session. When you start meditating, the app captures your heart rate with each breath. The team claims that the sensor also gauges if you are focusing on your breath or not.
At the time of reviewing, we felt that worrying about whether you have placed your finger properly or not may impact your mindfulness, but we got past that in two-three sessions. A user can also choose to use the app just like any other meditation app.
The sensor works well, but the camera tends to heat up after 10 minutes or so. A user in the comments said his fingers were “baked” during a session; others, however, said they were using the app for months and had been able to correct their techniques due to the sensor.
The app keeps promoting its wearable ring, but also offers an option time to continue using the app without it. A user can also choose to meditate without any tracking.
What happens then?
The app breaks down your meditation session into three core essentials - breathing, relaxation, and focus - so that you take as little time as possible to achieve mindfulness. The charts you see after your meditation are really helpful - the infographics tell you about your pulse rate, how focused you were, and how far you are from your goal. The graphs also reveal details about your breathing and focus.
While choosing a session, you need to input how you are feeling and what you are looking for. The app then lists customised sessions as per your mood and objective.
The sessions are really different from the other apps we have used, and we really felt calm after doing just two sessions. A 21-minute session in Dhayana is broken into four parts and the user interface follows the guided meditation. If you are breathing, a circle on the screen (with a timer) will show how long you have to breathe in, how long to hold, and after how many counts you breathe out. The audio in the sessions is clear, and are of high quality.
Dhyana allows users to meditate from other apps as well, including Calm, YouTube, Spotify, Headspace, Insight Timer, and others. This feature stands out as you don't need to keep switching apps.
For instance, we selected YouTube and searched for one of our preferred calm-inducing talks, and we could hear it. There is a catch though: you cannot stream these sessions without tracking the effectiveness of your meditation unlike Dhyana’s sessions.
Dhyana is a sophisticated app that offers great quality features and sessions.
The informative, easy-to-use app has an intuitive and calming interface, and lets you know how mindful you actually were during a session by providing data pertaining to quality of breathing, extent of relaxation, and duration of focus.
We particularly liked the free app – except if you buy the ring - because it can also be used as a vanilla meditation app without any tracking and that it can stream sessions from other apps as well. If app makers can reduce phone heating while using the camera as a sensor, it will really make a difference.
In a recently published piece in Time Magazine, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote about the cumulative impact of stress, grief, and anxiety.
“Unless we act now to address the mental health needs associated with the pandemic, there will be enormous long-term consequences for families, communities, and societies,” he said.
Do your bit with Dhyana. Stop, breathe, and slow down.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)