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Yoga DVDs

Friday, August 17, 2007 by Marianne Elliott

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I had to share this – I just tried out, for the first time since I got the DVD on Monday, one of the two full length solar vinyasa flow practices on Shiva Rea's DVD Yoga Shakti. I absolutely love it.

As you can probably guess, living in the mountains of Afghanistan as I currently do, I rely entirely on DVDs from inspiring teachers to reinvigorate my yoga practice when it gets a little sluggish. I have accumulated a little pile here and I enjoy them all for different reasons and seasons. I started out with just one DVD by John Scott when I came to Afghanistan. But since then my discovery of new CDs and DVDs has shaped the development of my yoga practice and having reached this particularly high point this morning with the discovery of Shiva Rea, I felt like sharing the journey in case anyone esle out there is looking for their next yoga DVD.

My starting point, John Scott, teaches the classic ashtanga vinyasa primary series according to the teachings of Sri K Pattabhi Jois. John's style of teaching is very precise and traditional and his DVD has helped me come to understand the technical precision required to safely and effectively practice this series (more accurately – the beginners poses from this series) and also improved my discipline. John is also a New Zealander and I can't deny I quite enjoy listening to his instructions in a familiar accent. If you are looking for a traditional approach to the primary series I highly recommend John Scott.

When I arrived in Herat I was given an audio CD of the standard Sivanada sequence by an Italian woman who was a dedicated follower of the Sivanada yoga tradition. At first I was quite disconcerted by the differences between the Sivanada practice and the astanga vinyasa sequence to which I was accustomed. Some of the differences are small, such as the variations in the surya namaskara sequence. Buut some differences are very considerable – in Sivananda, for example, the sequence goes into inversions at the outset of the practice whereas in the traditional astanga vinyasa sequence these are the closing poses of the practice. It was good for me to learn that different approaches to yoga exist and to let go of some of my more limiting ideas about what might be "right" and "wrong" in that regard. I began alternating my practice depending on my mood, energy and the time available for my practice.

When I was in Portland last year I saw a Seane Corn DVD in the Wholefoods supermarket, and having read her articles in Joga Journal I thought I might enjoy it so I brought that back with me too. Seane Corn also teaches a vinyasa (flow) style of yoga but her DVD focuses very much on the importance of the breath and her slow rythmic style encourages me to slow my thoughts and my breathing so that my practice becomes a true meditation in action. I've read negative reviews of this DVD because of the care she takes to teach modifications and variations for beginners or people with injuries. I don't understand why anyone would complain about that. If you are experienced and able to do a full upward dog then it needn't stop you simply because Seane is demonstrating a gentle cobra. Personally I admire the care she shows for the people who are using her DVD and it doesn't hurt me to be reminded to listen to my body and start my practice from where I am, not where I think I should be.

So for more than six months I alternated between these three guided practices, sequences I made up myself for days when I was too tired, too bored or just too lazy to do any of them and infrequent but wonderful bursts of practicing with a real live teacher (when she was in town) who was trained in the Sivananda tradition but who was happy to take me through the Astanga Vinyasa primary series as well.

Fast forward to this week. I bought Rodney Yee's "Power Yoga Total Body" in my latest Amazon haul because a (male) friend of mine living in the very intense and conflict South East of Afghanistan does it every morning and swears that it helps keep him centred, calm and healthy in the midst of daily roadside bombs and fighting. I only got this DVD on Monday and I've only been through the practice once so far. I can see why he likes it and I think I will also use this DVD at least once a week. Yee's style is energetic and vigorous and I enjoyed the intensity of the standing sequences. I miss the meditative aspects of other teachers, but then again this DVD doesn't claim to be anything other than what it is, and for a girl who has very limited chances to get out and stretch her legs a vigorous physical practice is important at least once or twice a week.

Also in this recent Amazon parcel was the Shiva Rea DVD: Yoga Shakti. Which brings me back to the start of this post. This DVD has a little bit of everything I love about a yoga DVD. Shive Rea herself has a lovely calm, clear teaching voice, the setting is beautiful and simple (on a sandy beach in the Maldive Islands), and the music track is soothing and rythmic by turn. The four practices all look great. I've already done the beginners practice once this week and this morning I did (and loved) the first of the two full-length solar practices. I love Shiva Rea's unique flow sequences, like the Dancing Warriors. I had already learned some of them from Jessie Chapman at the yoga retreat in Thailand in June and they were amongst my favorite new sequences from that retreat.

But here is the really exciting part. This DVD is designed so that I can go into the matrix of all the sequences and put them together as I like to create my own custom designed practice. If I have 45 minutes and am feeling a bit blue I can chose heart opening and energising sequences and put them together with a shorter standing sequence. If I have two hours I can combine the entire first solar practice with the extra back bend sequences from the other practice and add the meditation from the lunar practice on the end. Basically I can create endless different customised practices.

So all-in-all I am a very happy yogi this afternoon. Righto – back to the sofa and my Harry Potter…

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7 Responses to "Yoga DVDs"

  1. mel says:

    Yoga! Thanks for all the info–even those of us who have access to live instructors like to get inspiration at home. I only have one old VHS tape of Rodney Yee and could use some more variety.

  2. Roy says:

    New here like your writing. I wanted to do some meditation or yoga while at Bagram but the place was so noisy and dirty I could not. You look as though you are in a better place there. The only really peaceful spot I found was at ISAF HQ in Kabul. After months of Bagram, Khowst, Gardez and Jalalabad the beer garden there was like a vacation. Plus the food was a welcome change from the mess hall on base. I wish you well and stay safe. The cooler weather is just months away.

  3. Roy says:

    New here like your writing. I wanted to do some meditation or yoga while at Bagram but the place was so noisy and dirty I could not. You look as though you are in a better place there. The only really peaceful spot I found was at ISAF HQ in Kabul. After months of Bagram, Khowst, Gardez and Jalalabad the beer garden there was like a vacation. Plus the food was a welcome change from the mess hall on base. I wish you well and stay safe. The cooler weather is just months away.

  4. What a rich source of yoga information
    You are such an inspiration!

  5. luzie says:

    Delurking here to say that stumbling upon all this yoga info was just what I needed today. I will definitely have a closer look at the DVDs you mentioned. Thank you for that! (And enjoy the Harry Potter!)

  6. thanks Frida- for all this information! I was just writing how camping out on the beach in Olympic Nat’l Park made me want to learn more about meditation and yoga and here you are opening a door of sorts. I confess that a precursor to my desire was reading about your retreat in Thailand! I’m thinking I might have to look into that next year. Thank you for the inspiration you have given me for something all together good.

  7. Heather says:

    Frida, I am also delurking. Do you have access to Yoga Today? http://www.yogatoday.com There they have free one-hour yoga sessions for download. If you have itunes, you can download them for free there, too. I live in China and have no access to a live yoga teacher and it is difficult to receive packages in the mail, so I download a video daily or a few times a week. I am no yoga expert, but the sessions help me to feel great. (The files are big and do take a long time to download here in semi-rural China.)

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