Saturday, July 13, 2013

Third Post of Yoga Recommendations for the Beginner

This is the third in a series of posts in which I share my recommendations for yoga resources, including dvds, books, and cds.  You can find the first post here and the second one here.  Before I dig back into my personal preferences, I wanted to urge you, dear reader, to go to your local public library and see what yoga resources they have available to borrow.  One of my favorite yoga dvds, which I review in this post, was discovered in this way.  If your library is very limited in the variety of what's offered, ask friends and family if they have any old yoga dvds you can borrow.  If you have a working vcr, you may find some people willing to just give away what they have.  Also, check your local thrift stores and neighborhood garage sales.  While I don't encourage anyone to accumulate a lot of dvds and such, I know it's hard to resist the temptation.  (In writing this post, in particular, I realized that I would like to add a few of these dvds to my personal library.  Or at least try them on for size.)

Don't get too caught up in having it all.  For me, the goal is quality over quantity.  I would rather have a few perfect-for-me practices that I do joyfully than a lot of not-quite-right ones.  Hopefully some of my recommendations will prove to be perfect for you as well.

Yoga Zone:  Introduction to Yoga with Alan Finger

This practice is as gentle and ideal for a beginner.  In fact, Finger has a set of dvds for beginners but I've only seen this one and cannot comment on the others.  This 55 minute practice is mostly seated and one of the women uses modifications, including a strap and blanket.  There are some balancing poses which can be challenging.  There is a lot of emphasis on form, which is always a lovely thing.  I can't say it often enough--it is better to explore a pose in comfort than push yourself deeper and risk injury.  This practice will allow you the space to explore your body without hurting yourself.

Chakra Balancing Yoga with Sharon Cannon

Now I'm introducing a dvd that gets a little into the philosophy that is the foundation for yoga as a form of energy healing.  The instruction is gentle and focused on how each pose benefits the body on a more subtle level.  It's easy to see, or feel, how tree pose helps with balance but it also helps with the "root chakra" so it not only benefits balance in the physical body but helps you feel grounded and balanced emotionally as well. There is some chanting on this dvd, which may feel strange to some.  I consider it an invitation to explore yoga in yet another manner. We know that there are different ways of learning; some people are visual learners, others tactile, and still others audio.  Chanting brings in this last element and you may find yourself responding to your practice in a deeper way with this lovely dvd.

Trance Dance Yoga with Shiva Rea

I adore this dvd!  I borrowed it from the library and kept borrowing it until Rob, tired of going to the library for it, bought me a copy.  Shiva Rea is gorgeous to watch and this practice is both traditional and unique.  For instance, she does what she calls a "serpentine cobra" which includes rolling the shoulders and upper back, which really opens up the chest, strengthens the arms, and feels like a shoulder massage all at once.  Furthermore, the dvd production is brilliant!  I cannot emphasize this enough:  more yoga and exercise dvds should be designed the way this one is.  The dvd is broken down into segments that include yoga practices and trance dance sequences.  You can literally create your own yoga experience or use one of the pre-set practices.  If you want to do only yoga, you can choose from the matrix which of the yoga practices you want to do.  You can make a short practice with only two or three short sections or develop a longer one by simply layering one sequence after another after another.  If you want a high energy practice, you can select the parts that are most dynamic or, if you need to keep things mellow, you can skip those in favor of the others.  The flexibility of how one can use this dvd is brilliant!  There is also a cd available for when you do not want to use a dvd or cannot.  The yoga practice is not identical to the dvd but it is still very good.  However, if you still consider yourself a mostly inflexible beginner, this dvd and especially the cd may be a bit too much.  Let's say that this is for the advanced beginner who is moving into being an intermediate practice. Or at least ready to do so.

The Heart of Yoga by T K V Desikachar

There comes a point where most people who take yoga classes and/or use yoga dvds at home feel a desire to explore yoga in their own way.  This book is the one that was recommended to me time and time again, along with Iyengar's Light on Yoga.  I'm glad I chose to buy this book rather the other.  Desikachar does a beautiful job of explaining the philosophy of yoga before detailing how to create a personal yoga practice.  For instance, when doing a warrior pose, one usually starts with one leg forward, typically the right, before repeating the same pose with the other leg forward.  That kind of balance is obvious.  But, as he explains, when you do a pose that opens the chest, like cobra, it is important to also do a counterbalancing pose that will open up the back, like cat.  The same is true for forward bends, back bends, etc.  Once you've explored several different dvds and collected a few asanas that you like, a few you find challenging, and maybe a few you would rather avoid altogether, you can use this book to help you design a practice that meets your needs.  The temptation to avoid those poses that are more difficult may be hard to resist but these are often the very places we need to go with our practice if we hope to grow in body, mind, and spirit.

There are so many wonderful ways to explore yoga and these three posts are merely a small sample of the full potential of resources available.  I didn't recommend anything for pranayama yoga, a practice that focuses solely on the breath.  I only included one practice that has any chanting although I love kirtan yoga.  I recently reviewed a book that is a fusion of mindfulness meditation with yoga practice that I highly recommend.  Don't forget to check out my pinterest board on which I have my reading challenge.  If you see something there about yoga and you want to hear what I think about it after it's all read and done, I'm open to suggestions.


  1. I have really been thinking of getting involved in Yoga of late. A couple of my coworkers are trying top talk me into it :)

    1. From what I know of you through your posts, I think you would love it. Of course, there are different types of yoga (just as there are different forms of meditation) so if you try one and decide it isn't right for you, don't dismiss yoga altogether. Try a different teacher, a different type, and maybe after four or five different chances, if you still feel like it's not a good fit then let it go. Not everything is for everyone.