Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Yoga Girl -- that's me!

I haven't written much about yoga and I'm not sure where to start. I've have this picture up above as my address label because I have learned to love yoga so much these past few years. I initially thought I'd be bored with yoga -- that it would move too slowly or that I'd think the instructors were too dramatic or something. But I love it.

I started doing yoga about 9 years ago when I bought a Karen Voight video called Streamline Fitness. I'd seen it advertised in a fitness magazine and thought it must be the one for me. This was back when I only bought exercise videos much more sparingly and carefully. They were more expensive and harder to find. The last third of the video was yoga, which was only about 15 minutes long. It was peaceful, not intimidating, and helped me understand how good it could feel to do something as simple as a triangle pose.

From there, I tried some Yoga Zone and Yoga Journal (which later changed to Gaiam) videos. The Yoga Zone videos I liked best were the ones that have 2 twenty minute segments (apparently taken from a TV program). I liked Patricia Walden and Suzanne Deason from Yoga Journal and Gaiam. My favorite of Patricia's is PM Yoga and I enjoy Yoga for Stress Relief and Yoga for Weight Loss with Suzanne.

I found a Quick Fix yoga video that I was super excited to get when it came out on dvd. It doesn't list the instructor's name anywhere on the box, but it's led by Suzanne Donegan. Don't confuse it with any of the other QF Yoga workouts -- this dvd is called Quick Fix Total Mix - Yoga & Pilates. I don't really care for Tracy York's Pilates, but Suzanne's 4 yoga segments are really great all together or just as one or two 10 minute segments to add onto another workout.

Later I discovered Bryan Kest. I love his original 3 -- Energize, Tone, & Sweat. His later series was okay, but sounded more like an infomercial for why yoga was better than weight lifting. He was selling the sport and just talked way too much. I tried a few of his audio CDs later on. They didn't appeal to me as much either. But I still do the first 3 from time to time.

Once I tried Bryan, I branched out to Baron Baptiste (who's style is similar). Baron's become an all time favorite yoga instructor for me (well, he's in my top 3). I love his demeanor, I love the way the flow of his yoga feels, and I love the poses he chooses. Sometimes I can't even try a yoga instructor more than once because what they do just feels awkward to my body. I'm sure it's individual. But Baron always resonates with me.

I have enjoyed a few of Baron's books -- Journey Into Power and 40 Days to a Personal Revolution. I also like his Yoga Bootcamp Box (which has flash cards and 4 audio workouts) and his Yoga Pretzel cards for kids. My youngest kids love to pull those out and do the poses.

Erich Schiffman is another instructor that I love. His style isn't as fast as Baron's or Bryan's, but he can challenge me just as much. His voice is THE perfect yoga voice -- calm, soothing, gentle, yet powerful too. I was first introduced to him without realizing I was buying an Erich video in Yoga Mind & Body, which is Ali MacGraw's yoga video. She talks at the beginning and is a student of Erich's. It's filmed on a white sand desert and the photography is just stunning. It was made in 1994 and I still love doing it. Erich walks in as the practice begins and leads the beautiful people of all ages in yoga.

I later purchased his Backyard Series from his website, which he produced himself in (yep) his own back yard. I really like the Beginner and Back Bend dvds. The Inversion one is difficult, so I don't do it as often, but I like doing it too. I only did Lotus once because it hurt my feet to be in the Lotus position so much. I should do it again with a modification. I'm sure I could work into it eventually.

Erich has a former student, named
Tilak Pyle , came out with a dvd called Altar of the Heart, which was voted favorite yoga video on the Video Fitness website a few years ago. It is probably my favorite relaxing yoga video I own. It's quite heavenly, actually. His voice is different from Erichs, but he has that same soothing quality to it. The photography is wonderful and if you can believe it, I actually cried the first time I did it because the music moved me so much. It's that beautiful. He recently released a MP3 download of a yoga class, but I haven't done it yet. I keep forgetting that I have it. I'll have to try it out tomorrow morning.

Another yogi I love is Steve Ross. He's completely the opposite of Tilak or Erich -- not mellow in any way. He was in a few bands in the 70s and 80s (Fleetwood Mac, Men at Work, Beach Boys, Stevie Nicks) and has brought that love of music into his class. You can't buy any of his videos, but he has a show on the Oxygen Network called Inhale and you can record them to play whenever you'd like. I have 18 of them (don't know if there are any more) on dvd and just love to do them. They're only 45 minutes long and are filled with humor and energy. He has a book called Happy Yoga, which is a real joy to read. I learned much about wanting and desires in life from him. He also talks about eating (is a raw foodist himself) and puts a humorous (and convincing) case down for not eating dairy -- or if you must, make it organic. I started buying organic dairy products for my family after reading his book.

I recently discovered Max Strom. I decided to take some local yoga classes last fall and found an instructor here who used live in L.A. and take classes with Steve Ross. She later got her yoga instructor training with Erich Schiffman and Max Strom. Even though I liked the instructor, I actually preferred the style of another instructor at her studio better and attend her classes occasionally instead. But the first one told me about Max Strom (whom I'd heard of on Video Fitness) and I decided to see what he was like. He's gentle and wonderful like Erich, but has a stronger style somehow. The Strength, Grace & Healing dvd has 2 practices on it, which are both slow and basic, but wonderful. His Learning to Breathe dvd taught me to do the ujjayi breathing for the first time after hearing so many other instructors tell me to do it (I just couldn't make the connection before). I think it's a must for anyone who wants the most from their yoga.

I've tried many other instructors, but those are the ones who stand out the most for me. In 3 of Baron's dvds, he uses some music that I grew to love. When I took a few live classes, I'd hear the same singer and wondered who it was. I found out it was Krishna Das and have since bought his Best of cd. It's fabulous. I play it often after a workout to do yoga on my own at the end -- sometimes for 10 or 15 minutes. Other times it ends up being close to an hour. He has a very powerful voice. The cd I have came with a dvd too and he is deeply spiritual. I love learning how similar the spirituality of yogis can be to my Christian beliefs. I'm sure there are differences to, but I rejoice in the parallels -- it helps me understand what I've already believed even better.

I've also recently discovered a yoga singer, Dave Stringer. He has a song on Tilak's Altar of the Heart dvd that I just love (Devakinandana Gopala). I was taking a yoga class, heard the song, and asked the instructor who sang it. After many attempts of me singing it and her clicking through the chapters of her CD, she said, "Oh, that's Dave Stringer." She's heard him live before and said he is really personable and great. She later gave me a few of his CDs for me and I'm so glad to have them.

Some other yoga cds that I've done yoga with alone (or taught children at school) are the Yoga Zone cds -- Music for Meditation and Music for Yoga Practice. I even used these when I was a cabin leader at Young Women's Camp to help the girls calm down at night and actually get to sleep. They loved it so much, they asked for it after the first night.

Even though I mentioned a lot of the yoga dvds today, I'll write up a list of them tomorrow that may include some extras. TTFN! (or should I say "Namaste" :))


  1. Hey, sis, maybe the list-making thing is genetic, now that I think of it. Maybe there's a boy version of the Go-Go's... I've been thinking about taking up yoga in the past year or so. Have you perhaps thought about a question and answer section to answer yoga, nutritional, and other questions? One good one would be: How does a person start?

  2. Hi Ginseng -- I'm happy to answer any questions. Thanks for asking. (I don't know if there's a format for just a Q&A section, but I'll look into it -- maybe just the Post a Comment area for now though). As for starting yoga, there are many good beginner videos like Suzanne Deason's Gentle Yoga for Beginners. Her Yoga for Weight Loss (now it may have an A.M./P.M. in front of the title) has good modifications for beginners too. Patricia Walden's Yoga Practice for Beginners is good if you want to see everything broken down slowly -- like a yoga lesson, but doesn't flow as well for an actual yoga practice later on. Yoga Zone dvds are good for beginners too. Go to www.collagevideo.com and search "yoga" and each video that comes up will have a listing that will say what's good for beginners. You can even see a video of it to see if it's what you'd like. If you want to take a live class, I'm sure you can find an instructor who teaches a beginning yoga class that will help you learn one on one -- when you take a live class, the instructor can check your form and help you work into the poses better than you might do on your own. There's also this website I just learned about called www.yogatoday.com that gives free yoga instruction daily. I'll look into it more, but I'm sure they have good ways to help beginners too. Let me know how it goes!

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