Quantified Self: Visualising Progress in Yoga Inversions

May 6, 2020

I discovered yoga a year ago and fell in love with it. For me it’s the best way to slow down, listen to my body and shut off the mind. Several yoga types also provide a sweaty workout!

Some yoga poses are more difficult than others. Inversions fall in this category. An inversion is any position in which your legs are above your head. You’re going upside down! The first time a teacher asked me to give it a try last August, I was terrified, fell down and had bruises on my knees for two weeks.

But I got intrigued by the concept. Over the following few months, I practiced going upside down with the support of a wall. Slowly but surely, I became more and more confident. In November, I lifted myself up without the wall for the very first time. My excitement was trough the roof. I could stand on my head! How cool is that?!

Since then, I’ve become an inversions junkie. I practice them every chance I get, at home or in yoga studios. I’m lucky to have a friend who’s just obsessed and we go to many classes and workshops together.

The current lockdown provided me with the time to practice every day. A few weeks in, I started thinking: am I getting better? Can I stay upside longer each week? Are there any data to support this? Yes, you guessed it—I decided to make a visualisation about it!

Sarah Bartlett’s post about the next Iron Quest edition being on #QuantifiedSelf was the last nudge I needed for this. I planned to track my progress in three types of inversions—on my head, forearms and hands—for two weeks. I sketched out the framework for an awesome vis in Tableau. I was excited.

With every one of my vizzes, I go through a process that looks more or less like this:

The fun and struggles I go through with every visualisation

This one was no exception. The visualisation I had sketched out just didn’t work in Tableau. So I closed Tableau to look for inspiration. Instead of opening Pinterest or Behance as I usually do, I went through Dear Data. Dear Data is a book of hand-drawn visualisations by Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec. This drawing caught my attention:

One of the beautiful drawings in the Dear Data book that inspired my vis

Each black dot above is one day, and the empty blue/gray circles represent some variable. Simple and elegant! I couldn’t make empty circles work for my vis though, and (after hours of fiddling around in Figma) created bubbles instead. You can see the final visualisation below. It’s not even close to what I had in mind at first, but I’m happy with the result. Let me know what you think!

A custom two-week yoga inversions tracker 🤸

The data and the circle diameter calculations are available here.