Using Barbara Benagh’s Yoga for Beginners

I’ve had Yoga For Beginners for a while now, and I’m pretty sure I’ve used it in the past, but since I’ve been taking proper yoga lessons for six months now, I rarely turned to it.

What made me take it off the shelf today was my search for yoga practices longer than 30 or 40 minutes. Generally, I’m very glad to have shorter practices that are easy to fit into my day. Still, I wanted to see if any of my DVDs have longer practices, preferably an hour to an hour and a half, so that I might try and approximate the feeling of a real class on days when I have more time.

What’s neat about Yoga For Beginners is its organization into two levels. There is a menu with a series of focused workouts at around 20 minutes each, and a second menu of longer workouts that combine and recombine the shorter routines. I wound up picking up a forty-minute “Energize” routine, looking forward to the yoga wakeup.

My feelings about it were mixed. Maybe it’s because I love Benagh’s Yoga for Stress Relief, but I expected this to be great. It wasn’t. Benagh pays a lot of attention to breath, and gives all sorts of detailed instructions for positioning. Unfortunately, the movement cues didn’t really match what was going on on the screen, so when I looked towards the screen for guidance but listened to her breathing and movement cues, none of it made sense.

Another thing that annoyed me was a strange combination of slowness, lack of variety, and difficulty in the program. Now, I like slower yoga, but I want to spend my time deepening an asana, not lying down on my face breathing and thinking about what I might do next. The slowness of the program also meant there wasn’t much variety in the movements — the same program could have been done in 20 minutes. On the other hand, although the sun salutation didn’t have a full forward bend (I suppose because this is a beginners’ video), there were many repetitions of a full cobra, which I find quite hard on the lower back. My yoga instructor really challenges us in practice, and yet she still doesn’t have us do the full cobra that often.

I don’t think the video is bad, per se… a few hours later, my back does feel better, and it’s probably good for a slow and lazy day. Still, the “Energize” workout was anything but energizing. (I’m sure her relaxation and stretching routines are better.) And I want an hour-long video that really challenges me — if I want to spend an hour mostly lying on my face, I’ll stay in bed!

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