Video Fitness


Petra Kolber

I would describe the video as aerobic, dancy tai chi. I know the same- or similar- has been said of Urban Tai Chi, but I've never seen that video so I can't compare the two. I really enjoy this tape. On preview, the moves don't look very challenging, and they aren't. However, put them together fast, and you've got a very nice workout.

Kolber's routine consists of a Tai Chi "form" that has 12 movements (some of which I don't have names for). The total workout, including warmup and cool down, takes about 40 mintes. Below is a breakdown of the cardio portion- please forgive some of the less than eloquent descriptions.

*Gathering the Chi* (Pulling your hands up from the tops of your legs to your chest)
*Opening the Door* (Pulsing while you push your arms straight ahead and pull them back)
*Windmill (?)* (Circling your arms around your body while your feet pivot; one hand lands on the spine behind the navel, the other on the opposite shoulder)
*Circling the Orbit* (4 semi-circle steps forward, then 4 straight steps back, while your arms circle ahead of you then back to your chest)
*Push and Pull* (Squats to the sides; hands push down when you squat and come up when you return)
*Circling the Belt* (A grapevine with your hands meeting in the back when you "land")
*Cloud Hands* (Hands pull across your upper dantian (forehead), middle dantian (heart) and lower dantian (below the navel))
*Gathering Stars* (Reaching up to the ceiling with one hand, then sitting in a squat as you pull that hand down; meanwhile, your other hand lands on the spine behind the navel. Alternate hands as you stand and move feet to the sides.)
*Sunrise* (2 times- squat into chair from Yoga, reaching hands over head, then standing; third time, lift one leg behind you after the squat, moving hands behind you; switch legs)
*Bow and Arrow* (Stand with feet wide apart, and semi-squat as you circle your arms to the sides; pull one arm back, then semi-circle the arm to meet the opposite arm; same movement with the foot. Repeat 3 times, then switch sides)
*Throwing the Pearl* (Keep one hand on the spine behind the navel, move legs into a semi lunge, and move other hand to the opposite shoulder. Pivot on your feet as you move your hand as if throwing something into the sky)
*Soaring Eagle* (While circling your arms out to the sides, step three feet to the front, then kick out right leg; step three feet back, then kick out left leg (reverse movement of arms). Repeat three times, then switch sides)

She preteaches one or two elements, then puts them together with the preceding elements. She repeats the mini-routine 1 to 3 times, then preteaches another element. About 25 minutes into the tape (this is just a guess as I didn't time it), you establish the complete routine and perform it twice.

After the form is complete, she takes you through about five or six yoga-inspired stretches and balance work, including Tree (balancing on one leg while your arms are above your head) and Balancing T/Stick (hip hinge with arms ahead). Finally, she finishes with some more Tai Chi moves, Embracing the Moon and one I don't have the name for but which has you imagine that your holding the sun, moon and a rainbow between your hands, then gathering the energy into your lower dantian (your lower belly).

You're not going to get a lot out of this workout if you don't use your imagination. In some cases, as in Gathering Stars and Throwing Pearls, it will help visualize what you have to do. In others, such as Cloud Hands and Bow and Arrow, it really does help you to follow her visualization clues and you do, I think, feel the energy going through to the parts of the body you direct them to. (That may be a little too far out there for some, and perhaps that's why there is a distinct love it or hate it split.)

Again, this is a good workout. It looks like they break filming several times to dry off her sweat- I kid you not- and it is much more taxing than it appears to be, especially since it is done in bare feet.

This is absolutely one of my favorite all time workouts. There are days when I'd love to see a mini Pilates routine incorporated, or other days when I wish there was some more resistance training including, but mostly I love it. Definitely an A+.

Instructor comments: Petra is one of my favorite instructors. She breaks down (what I consider) complicated moves in an easy to understand format, and her combinations are a lot of fun. Her attitude and smile both seem real, not forced. She has a believable "low pressure" attitude that isn't condescending.


This is an unusual, tai-chi-inspired routine with lots of flowing movement that I enjoyed a lot. Petra teaches a couple of movements at a time and then adds more movements on one by one, so by the end of the session you are doing one complete routine. This is a great thing for choreography-challenged types like me.

Though Collage labels this tape a beginner/intermediate level, I barely broke a sweat, and I'm a rank beginner. The constant arm movements and squats kept my heart rate at a somewhat elevated level. I will probably save this tape for days when I need to take it easy but still get in some cardio.

Instructor comments: Petra is pleasant, low-key and encoraging. Her cuing is pretty good, and her movements are so graceful they're a joy to watch.

Kate Hedstrom

I finally got around to doing this three times. Each time I did this it got more vigorous for me (probably because I wasn't tripping over the choreography). It's enjoyable enought that you're thinking, "Oh, done already?" but you've still raised your heartrate.

I want to say that if you liked BREATHE 1 you'll like this, but so much more balance is integrated throughout the workout that I think people with hip and/or knee problems might have a hard time with this. Also, like BREATHE, you're moving your arms around quite a bit. My shoulders were talking to me towards the end of the workout.

After a very brief breathing exercise with arms raised over head, we jump to the body of the workout. As with BREATHE, there is a lot of TIFT'ing- I like it, but people who can handle more advanced choreography may chafe. I had originally thought there were something like 15 blocks of choreography, but I counted this morning and there are only 12. They are, however, more complicated than BREATHE.

+ Arms over with Lunge
+ Arms out front with Lunge
+ Figure 8 arms with w/squat
+ Grapevine with leg and arm swings
+ Squats with calf-raises then leg raises, arms circling up and back and then down and front
+ Part the wild horse's mane (the only block I have a name for!)- one leg does a half-moon on the floor as the same arm follows (hard to describe)
+ One-legged chair while lifting the chi (you sit back on one leg, lift the other, and then lift the arms up and down in front of the torso)
+ T-step with Push and Pull. Another hard to describe move, but I've seen it in "real" tai-chi videos and books. You step one foot out, heel first, then shift weight forward on that foot as you push hands forward; then pull back with arms, shifting weight to back leg, keeping front heel on the floor.
+ Progressive Arm Circles to T-Stand. You roll shoulders, then elbows, then arms, swing arms, lift one knee, then swing arms back and extend leg to go into a Yoga T-Stand.
+ One-Legged Walk. I hope someone has a better name for this! You bring one leg up with bent knee, then extend leg forward, hands pushing forward as well. Then you lower leg slightly in front of you.
+ One-Legged Chi Sit. Once again, I'd love an alternate name. From the last move, you step one leg back, swing arms underneath in a circle, then sit on back leg and lift front leg (knee bent). Hands are in a very tai-chi position, but I can't describe.
+ Chair with Twist and then Squats to the side.

After, there is a brief cooldown similar to BREATHE, including Embrace the Moon.

As you can see, the choreography is more complex and interesting than BREATHE 1, but it might not be enough for choreo-hounds.

The music is very cool here, what I'm going to describe as New Age Techno. The set and lighting are more abstract, with columns and a blue-green light in the background.

Overall, it gets an A.

Instructor comments: Petra looks very toned and relaxed in this video. As usual, she is encouraging but constantly reminds the viewer to take things at their own pace.

Deb (aka dnk)


I usually avoid aerobic-type videos, as I prefer to use my recumbent bike for cardiovascular workouts. However, I was looking for something I could do occasionally as a change of pace. Unfortunately, this video just did not fit the bill for me. I guess the main thing that I didn't like was the frequent "take it from the top"--ie, Petra introduces new movements one by one, and then you go back to the beginning and perform the whole series. The repetitions were so frequently that I found myself getting bored, and the series got so long that it was hard to remember how to perform each movement. This workout also requires a very high tolerance for the "woo-woo" factor, as almost every movement has an associated visualization. I recently tried another Tai Chi-inspired workout, Tantric Toning, which I liked much better, as the movements are more varied and interesting and the "woo-woo" factor is much lower (although still present).

Instructor comments: Petra is a good instructor, but I didn't like her method of teaching long series of movements with frequent returns to "take it from the top."

Beth (aka toaster)

February 24, 2004

Video Fitness copyright © 1996 - 2009 Wendy Niemi Kremer    All rights reserved