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Yoga for Beginners & Beyond: Stretch, Strengthen, Be Stress Free! - Ana Brett & Ravi Singh
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Transform your body and your life! Experience a complete yoga workout that you will always love to do! Here is the best of the ancient and new: traditional yoga's spiritual depth and knowledge of body and mind, with the newest innovations in body mechanics and effective fitness. Starting with the basics, this flowing, fun workout will help you make great gains on all levels. Ana & Ravi have popularized Kundalini Yoga, the perfect system for achieving optimum health and energy. Featuring the design your own workout Matrix menu option, This all-in-one workout features stretching and strengthening routines for total body fitness, as well as bonus material including chair exercises, a posture primer, and more! Segments include: Standing Warm-ups, Salutation for Beginners & Beyond, Hamstrings, Hips, & Lower Back Stretches, Nerve Strength & Core Power, techniques to Be Stress Free, & More! From beginning yogi to expert, this DVD will be your workout companion for life. Ana and Ravi's all-in-one yoga workouts are the ultimate cross training encompassing movement, strength, stretch, flow, with inner focus and fun! Their workouts are set to cutting edge music to keep motivation high. Their DVD's provide a total workout fully integrating body, mind, and spirit, delivering you to your top level of physical conditioning and well-being.
Kundalini Yoga with Ana & Ravi was hands down, the best yoga class I've ever taken. ----Joanne Chen, Health Editor, Vogue Magazine
Those who are ready for the journey can follow yoga teachers Ana Brett & Ravi Singh. --Self Magazine
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Like most of Ana and Ravi's DVDs, Yoga for Beginners and Beyond: Stretch, Strengthen and Be Stress Free! has the matrix menu, which allows you to customize the length of your workout.
Introduction/Tune In (3:00): The introduction is, irritatingly, not a separate chapter from the tune-in. So you have to watch (or fast forward through) the entire introduction before you do the tune-in segment. The tune-in segment, itself, is similar/the same in many of Ana's and Ravi's DVDs, except that you stand (instead of sitting) while chanting "ong namo guru dev namo" three times.
Standing Warm-Ups (6:00): This is somewhat different from the warm-ups in Ana’s and Ravi’s other DVDs. I happen to think it’s great, just for variety. This segment consists of the following exercises. As the chapter title implies, the entire sequence is done while standing.
*Interlace your fingers with your arms up and your palms pointing towards the ceiling; bend your knees, then stand straight (and repeat)
*With your arms up (fingers no longer interlaced), lean to one side while dropping the arm on that side, then do the other side (and repeat)
*With your feet hip width, put your hands on your bent knees and do a version of cat/cow pose
*With your forearms on your inner thighs and your knees bent, twist up and raise the arm on the side you're turning to
Yoga Salutations for Beginners & Beyond/The Challenge (17:35): You have to do both of these together. Although they're slightly different in nature, they're not separately selectable from the chapter menu. (The Challenge is pretty short, though.) This segment consists of the following exercises.
*Inhale your arms up, exhale to prayer (repeat)
*With your feet wide and angled out, hold a plie with your hands in prayer
*Hold your opposite elbows, rest your forearms on bent knees and hold; then have your hands come down to the floor; then come all the way down and swing your torso while holding opposite elbows
*Repeat the plie and the move right after
*Sequence where you do cow pose, tuck your toes, deepen the pose, then go back to child's pose (Ravi walks you through and you breathe in time with the poses)
*Downward dog, bring one leg back, then bring it forward to a lunge and hold; repeat on other side
*Do the downward dog/lunge sequence again
*Standing, sweep one leg forward and back; then go into warrior III (though Ana and Ravi don't call it that)
*Hold your leg straight out in front of you while standing up
*Repeat the warrior III and leg held in front on the other side
Hamstrings & Hips (9:45): This segment consists of the following exercises.
*Sit with your feet flat and your knees bent and separated; rotate your knees left and right; later add a raised arm
*Lie on your back, bring your legs up and then out to the sides and hold your thighs (static pose)
*One leg straight up and the other along the ground; hold behind your thigh (static pose)
*Happy baby (on your back with your knees bent and feet off the ground, calves perpendicular to the ground, and hold your big toes)
Hips & Lower Back (7:00): This segment consists of the following exercises.
*On your back, bring alternate knees into the body and bring your head to your knee
*Roll side to side on your back while holding your bent knees
*Cross one shin over the opposite thigh (opposite knee bent); reach through the opening between your legs and grab your hand, then pull your thigh towards you
*Seated, put the sole of one foot on the opposite thigh, sweep your opposite arm over the extended leg (repeat)
*With your legs in front, bend one knee and twist your torso in the direction of the bent knee
Nerve Strength & Core Power (12:00): This segment consists of the following exercises. (It's one of the tougher segments on the DVD.)
*With your feet in butterfly and your hands behind you with the fingertips pointing forward, push your chest out and look up, head slightly back
*Reverse plank (that is, sit with your legs in front and your hands behind with your fingers pointing away, then raise your pelvis up)
*With your legs extended, angle forward and do breath of fire (the only exercise in which you do breath of fire in this DVD)
*Pump your stomach with the breath held out
*Lying on back with your arms extended above you, raise alternate legs and arms
*Seated with your hands in a mudra (hand position), hold your arms straight out to the sides
Upper Back, Neck & Shoulder Strengthen & Stretch (7:30): This segment consists of the following exercises.
*Move between downward dog and plank while on your forearms
*Seated, with your arms at your sides and your elbows bent and your hands in a mudra (hand position), take your head and elbows back, then bring your head down and elbows forward
*Turn your head right and left, then add shoulders to the turns as you go on
*Hold your knees and raise alternate shoulders, then do both shoulders at the same time
*Extend one arm and bend the palm down/back with the other hand; tilt your head to stretch your neck
Deep Relaxation (4:35): This is similar in many of Ravi's and Ana's DVDs. Lie on your back, slow your breathing, and listen. There's nothing particularly remarkable or particularly irritating about this segment.
Be Stress Free Meditation (6:20): With your left palm in your lap, find your pulse with your right hand. Repeat "sat nam" mentally in rhythm with your pulse. Please note that the music in this segment may interfere with your concentration. I would've preferred something instrumental here.
Sat Nam Chant (5:45): This is pretty simple, you just repeat the mantra listed below, only in a sing-song way with repetitions of different phrases to get through one round. I will say, I'm not happy with the music here, either. The recording of the guy singing it sounds OK but it is really difficult to sing along and have it sound nice, with an appropriate melody. I find myself liking this segment less than some of Ana's and Ravi's other meditations because of the music.
Sat-a-Nam Dhan-a Wahay Guru
Closing Prayer (2:55): This is similar to what appears in other Ravi/Ana DVDs.
Breath Primer: Please note that this segment may not play if you just play the entire DVD through. It is accessible from the matrix menu and the chapter selection menu, however. If you are not familiar with kundalini yoga, you will definitely want to follow along here. It's actually a pretty good refresher for anyone who has practiced for awhile, as well. You learn how to do long deep breathing, a panting breath that serves as an introduction to breath of fire, and then a standard breath of fire technique. I think this is the exact same segment as was included with some of Ana's and Ravi's other "blonde Ana" DVDs.
Energy Breath: This very short segment also doesn't play if you just play the entire DVD through. You sit cross-legged and inhale in four parts through the nose, then exhale in four parts through the nose.
Posture Primer (6:25): This segment appears on some of the other "blonde Ana" DVDs and is more focused on having good posture in general than on any of the specific poses in this DVD.
Chair Exercises (7:35): Another one that may not appear if you just play the DVD through. This consists of exercises done while seated in a chair. Please note that some of these are still pretty complicated and may not be suitable for people suffering from mobility problems. They are NOT modifications of other moves and postures in the DVD. This segment consists of the following exercises.
*Cross one ankle over your opposite thigh and angle forward
*Cradle your calf in your forearm
*Stretch your leg up at a 45 degree angle
*Repeat the previous three exercises on the other side
*With your arms out to the sides and your elbows at right angles, take your arms and head back, then bring your arms together and your head forward
*Swinging arm movements (up, back, cross in front, back)
*Interlace hands behind your head, extend your hands until your arms are straight, then bring the hands back down (repeated rapidly)
*Then hold your interlaced hands in the upward position and do breath of fire
For those of you familiar with Ravi's and Ana's DVDs, this is one of the newer ones with the concrete floor, white pillars, fake nature background, and blonde Ana. Both Ravi and Ana narrate and Ana demonstrates the poses and movements. The music mostly Ana singing mantras set to an instrumental track. You'll recognize some of it if you've done Ana's and Ravi's other DVDs.
As usual, I don't care for the camera work in some parts of this program. It seems to jump around randomly, and sometimes there are zooms in and out between camera angles that are jarring. Maybe it's just me, but I'd prefer standard (boring) camera work where you can always see what Ana's doing, with no unnecessary visual effects.
With regards to the title of the DVD, I think this is much more suitable for beginners than the other Yoga for Beginners & Beyond (without the subtitle) that Ana and Ravi have put out. It introduces you to concepts like breath of fire in a controlled way (not all at once; there's actually very little of it here) and has a lot more in common with hatha yoga (which people will be familiar with), while slowly introducing some of the repetitive movements that kundalini yoga is known for. There aren't a lot of modifications offered, although there are certain poses where a block or strap could come in handy (use your own judgment there). Also, don't forget -- you don't have to keep up with Ana, nor do you have to stretch as far forward as Ana in the forward-bending moves. Work at your own pace and do what YOU can.
Now, on to a more general discussion of kundalini yoga in general, and Ana's and Ravi's DVDs in particular. (I intend to include a version of this in all my reviews of Ana's and Ravi's DVDs.)
Most of the yoga that people are familiar with falls under the umbrella of hatha yoga. Perhaps you've done a series of static poses, or some vinyasa/flow yoga. Kundalini yoga is not exactly like either of these, although Ana's and Ravi's DVDs do incorporate elements of hatha yoga (e.g., this DVD has downward dog, plank, and triangle pose in it). However, kundalini yoga is also what I would consider to be a very active form of yoga, consisting of some repeated movements and a lot more work with the breath than you may be used to. It can be difficult to keep up with at first, but can be very rewarding if you stick with it. If you are bored of holding static poses all the time, or if you want a bit more movement but hate vinyasa (sorry, but I am not a fan of flow yoga), kundalini might really work well for you (although I note this DVD is somewhat more hatha-like than Ana's and Ravi's other DVDs). Keep in mind that Ana is fit (and this makes her an excellent demonstrator for the poses), but this is not a competition. Don't strain yourself, and don't try to keep up with her. Just try to improve a little bit every time!
Kundalini yoga also involves a lot of meditation. Sometimes this is quiet and involves breathing either in a sitting position or lying down, occasionally with your hands in a mudra (hand position). Sometimes it involves chanting a mantra. This DVD contains a mantra chanting segment as well as the mantra "sat nam" repeated mentally. Whenever there are mantras, Ana and Ravi tell you what they mean. If you are uncomfortable with mantras for religious reasons, check out Ana's and Ravi's website (can't post links in reviews but they're easy to find through Google) for alternatives and use the matrix menu or your DVD remote to skip the chants. (I happen to like the chants, but that's just me.)
With respect to calorie-burning, this DVD is probably not going to do a ton. But kundalini yoga works on your inner self as well as your outer self, and so some parts are a little less "active" than others. For my own part, I still do plenty of pretty intense cardio at other times of the day. (I do about 30 minutes of yoga a day by combining segments using the matrix menu. Ana and Ravi are a part of my fitness routine, but they are not the whole of it.)
Ana's outfits are a bit skimpy, but certainly nothing less than you would see at the beach. And the reason she dresses like she does is so that you can really see her performing the movements and asanas. That way you know exactly how to position yourself for maximum benefit. (Most of the time, kundalini yoga is done with the eyes closed, anyway.) There is not a lot in the way of initial instruction in this DVD. If you are familiar with Ana's and Ravi's work, you can jump right in. But if you are new to kundalini yoga, watch the DVD first. Observe Ana, listen to the cues, make sure you understand. You'll be glad for the ability to omit the instructional segments later -- you don't want to be told on the 20th time you do a DVD how to do triangle pose; you know it by this point!
A few health claims are made in this DVD. Take those that do appear with a grain of salt. I do find that Ana and Ravi are quite accurate when it comes to muscular and skeletal issues. The leg and back exercises are particularly useful if you've got problems with sciatica. At any rate, certainly don't use yoga as a substitute for seeing the doctor. But doing a routine like this isn't likely to hurt you or make your health condition worse (as long as you PACE YOURSELF).
If you are struggling with a sequence, Ravi and Ana are very accessible and quite nice. They have contact information on their website (the URL is on the DVD case) and usually get back to you in a couple of days. They also have a monthly e-mail newsletter that I enjoy. 4.5 stars.
In the introduction, Ana describes this DVD as a mix of Kundalini, Hatha and Power Yoga. I don't think there is any power yoga in this workout, since it is slow moving and relaxing.
This DVD was filmed at the same time as Yoga for Beginners & Beyond: Stretch, Strengthen, Be Stress Free and and Kundalini Yoga: Cardio, Stretch & Strengthen. Thus, it has some of the same issues.
What I liked about this DVD:
**the different music. It's still new-agey, but with a faster beat.
**Ana is radiant and glowing, as always. She is a joy to watch.
**Both Ravi and Ana give instruction. I love hearing both their voices.
**how I feel after doing this DVD. I love doing this workout at the end of long, stressful day. It's not too hard and it feels so good to relax and stretch my body.
What missed the mark on this DVD:
**the odd choice of scenery. The workout is filmed against a backdrop picture from Hawaii (or maybe California). It looks totally fake. The lotus blossom and Buddha sitting in the corner look out of place.
**the matrix doesn't work. You can select maybe 3 sections and then the selector freezes. I am especially disappointed with this DVD since I like to start the workout with the breath primer, posture primer and chair exercises, which are the last chapters. I have to pause and restart the DVD now and this breaks up the workout flow.
**Odd and inconsistent camera angles. It's nice to see the poses from different angles, but several poses must have been filmed at different times. One part of a move shows Ana sitting lengthwise on the mat, the camera then switches to Ana sitting cross-wise on the mat continuing the move. This is very distracting.
I recommend this DVD to those wanting a nice workout that incorporates lots of stretching and breathing. If you are a yoga purist, you may not like the mix of Kundalini and Hatha yoga.