Monday, January 4, 2010

Exploring Yoga by Video

I have friends in remote places who seem to have fast enough internet service to actually do yoga along with streaming videos. There are several wonderful sites for this, some, like, that charge a nominal monthly fee for access to a wide variety of levels, styles and lengths of yoga practice videos. Even YouTube has a nearly endless array of serious yoga videos - and joke ones too. Today I rediscovered a couple DVDs that a friend had passed along to me - one is from 1999 with Rodney Yee, Power Yoga: Strength & Flexibility, the other is from 2004, Yoga Shakti with shiva rea. So this morning I set aside my self-generated practice and took a sip from the common cup - yoga with computer open and the recorded sounds of someone else's directions.

When I take a yoga class in person I cherish the breath around me, the humor in the variety of experiences in one place at one time, the deep practice of each student being present on the mat. The teacher offers glimpses into themselves, their heart and understanding. Sometimes the teacher in me picks up a phrase or a sequence that is especially useful or apt. Mostly, I try to release into being the student, and leave my inner notebook at the door with my shoes.

Using a video to organize my yoga practice was oddly new to me! I bet many of my students have more practice with this than I! It took me a while to get over the total lack of eye contact, the vast difference between my situation on the mat in my bedroom and the incredible backdrops for the videos (Maui for Rodney Yee and the Maldive Islands for shiva rea). This slightly disconnected feeling seemed to keep my teaching mind much more alert. I was noting the transitions, observing the teachers' personal adjustments, sensing their structures embedded in their sequencing. It was particularly amazing to be able to stop the video and literally look at Rodney Yee in the midst of movement, seeing how his weight rests in his feet or the way the energy in his neck continued to pull the spinal movement in his arm balance. This obviously disrupted my own practice! It was much easier for me to move along with shiva rea, her languaging brought a presence into the sequence of events that made space for me, not just a logistical direction of where and how to physically do the asana, but in some ways directing inner drishti, and encompassing meditative aspects of the practice. I'm curious to see a video by Rodney Yee 10 years later, and experience how his teaching has developed.

Since this morning, I've investigated a few YouTube videos: of teachers David Vendetti and Todd Skoglund of South Boston Yoga Studio, and of Sadie Nardini generator of Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga in NYC. Each offers a very different feeling - both styles are more intimate and less of a commodity as the whole video production number.

Frankly, if you don't have a home practice and it's hard to get to classes either because of cost or your schedule or location, don't despair! There is a huge array of encouraging teachers available through your computer! Older yoga videos are just as wonderful as new ones, so keep an eye out in second hand stores, at yard sales, in video lending libraries, or on shelves among friends whose loans could be a great way to keep you going. Some sessions will strike you as too athletic, some as not athletic enough. Some will be overly wordy, some not wordy enough. Some over simplify, others over explain! And the music varies totally. And so it goes. This is often the case even if you pay for a class in a studio. It's also a lovely feature that you can actually repeat the class to support your journey. Perhaps revisiting a video after a hiatus would offer an entirely new adventure!

Using videos is a good way to keep yourself moving, to continue your inquiry on a more regular basis and maintain a commitment to a practice. You can choose a 20 minute practice to fit your day. You can explore some new approach that is unavailable in a nearby studio. If you can take a class, fabulous. If you can close your eyes and remember a few parts or sequences or flow from a collection of class memories, that's a great way to generate your own practice. It is fun to mix things up, though, and keep your yoga from turning into an exercise routine.

Videos and DVDs can fit nicely into this encouraging niche! Experiment within the level that you can practice without a teacher to guide you personally. If there are aspects, asanas, or directions that go beyond what you know is safe or familiar, watch it first without doing it. This is a great advantage of the technology. It is what we call in teaching a "demonstration." Allowing the mind, eyes and spirit to input and process before asking the body to follow is a nice benefit of a recorded session. Let yourself take a restorative class whenever you need one, rather than be limited by the once-a-week restorative schedule at your local studio.

I don't know enough to recommend specific videos - the ones I explored this morning were so different from one another and in my possession for totally arbitrary reasons! If you have videos to recommend, please share that in your comments - identifying the level for which they would be appropriate, please.

The most important part of practice is to be present, notice where you are in the moment, and let that be just what it is. You, breathing, right there. You can be on a plateau overlooking the ocean in Maui, or in the sand and surf of the Maldive Islands all while doing sun salutations on the mat in your living room!

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