Video Fitness

Hot Body Cool Mind - Level 1

Jennifer Kries

This is a new video by Jennifer Kries, a ballet-trained fitness instructor who is well-known for her The Method Pilates videos. Here, Jennifer takes some elements of her past workouts--ie, combining Pilates and dance--and adds a new element, the concept of Yin (cool) and Yang (hot). Thus, the workout segments on this DVD are designed mainly to relax, energize, or both. There are a total of 7 different workout styles, each of which are Yin or Yang; Jennifer has combined these into 7 premixes, or you can choose to mix and match on your own, which is what I did.

Here is the main menu for the DVD:
*Welcome to Hot Body Cool Mind
*Full Life Force Workout
*Life Force Workout Segments
*Hot Body Cool Mind Workout Combinations
*The Yin Yoga and Meridian Theory Integration
*About Jennifer

As I mentioned, I didn't try any of the premixed workout combinations, as most were a bit too lengthy for me (2 of the 7 were 30-40 minutes, the remainder were 55 minutes and more, up to 91 minutes). When you select the option for the individual segments, the breakdown is as follows (note: the times are all as given on the DVD insert, and the 5 segments labeled "on the go" are less than 20 minutes each):

*Waking Energy Introduction
*Waking Energy "Before You Begin"
*Waking Energy Sitting (17 minutes) -on the go
*Waking Energy Standing (13 minutes) -on the go
*The 5 Tibetans Introduction
*The 5 Tibetans (9 minutes) -on the go
*Pilates with Introduction (34 minutes)
*Pilates without Introduction
*Yoga Intro
*Yoga (22 minutes)
*Ballet (18 minutes) -on the go
*Jazz (14 minutes) -on the go
*Yin Yoga and Meditation (21 minutes)

Okay, now I will provide my impressions of each of the above:

Waking Energy Sitting. This was a unique seated warm-up based largely on Chi-Gong. Jennifer focuses on awakening chi, or life-force, from rubbing the hands together to actually slapping and punching the body (she provides detailed instruction on this both during the DVD and in the accompanying booklet to insure that it is pleasant). Self-massage is also performed, and Jennifer says that this segment is intended to provide spinal mobilization. Overall, I found it to be pleasant, but that's about it.

Waking Energy Standing. This segment is also based on Chi-Gong as well as Makko-Ho (active meridian stretch). Performed standing, I found it to be more energizing and stretching than the seated version. I think this segment would make a nice wake-up to start the day.

The 5 Tibetans. These 5 exercises are known as the "Rites of Rejuvenation;" they are practiced by Tibetan Monks and are supposed to stimulate the chakra system to provide age-defying benefits. Some of the moves are recognizable from yoga, such as camel pose and down dog, but all are performed in a series of flowing repetitions with breath. The goal is to work up to 21 repetitions, but Jennifer does only 7 of each here. Despite my prior experience with both yoga and the 5 Tibetans themselves, I found it a bit difficult to keep up with Jennifer's fast pace, although she does instruct you to relax with two full breaths between each exercise set.

Pilates. This segment starts with an overview with basic Pilates principles such as breathing and form. This is a must if you are new to Pilates, but if (like me) you have prior Pilates experience, you can go directly to the version without the introduction (about 28 minutes). Jennifer leads a fairly standard mat practice which mostly follows classical Pilates sequencing, although she adds some stretches, decreases the repetitions, shows modifications, and performs only 3 of the series of 5. This is definitely a beginning-level Pilates workout, although I found there to be some good form reminders included.

Yoga. Again, this is a pretty standard vinyasa flow yoga practice. Jennifer begins with sun breaths and then goes into two rounds each of sun salutation A and B. Standing postures include warrior 2, triangle, tree, and wide-legged standing forward bend; seated poses are supine boat, child, table, seated forward bend, and sage twist. The practice finishes with a final down dog and forward bend before rolling up to standing (there is no final relaxation). Although not ideal for someone with no prior yoga experience, this segment would probably be doable after reviewing both the introduction and the practice before attempting them.

Jazz and Ballet. I'm reviewing these two segments together because I found them to be similar as well as my least-favorite aspects of the DVD. Although these two dance styles are intended to provide some cardio, I found both to be too slow-moving to significantly raise my heart rate. I also found it very difficult to follow Jennifer's cueing in both sections: she does not mirror-cue, so it's very easy to get confused left vs. right, and in both workouts, she uses many different ballet terms without explaining ahead of time exactly what these exercises involve. As a result, I needed to watch my television constantly during both segments and had to try very hard to match what Jennifer was doing as closely as possible. She also puts together little combinations; these were a bit easier to follow in the Ballet workout, as in the Jazz workout, you do not even know that you are doing a combination until Jennifer tells you to go back to the beginning. Those who enjoyed Jennifer's dance instruction in her prior The Method series might like these segments, but they didn't click with me at all (and I do generally enjoy dance workouts).

Yin Yoga and Meditation. This is much different from the previous yoga segment: the concept behind yin yoga is to perform just a few yoga poses held for very long periods, up to 15 minutes or more. Jennifer calls this the "un-workout" and talks about how each posture is designed to stretch the meridians of the body (for more on this, you can check out the "Theory Intergration" segment from the main menu, where Jennifer interviews a shiatsu practitioner). Jennifer does NOT hold the postures for the recommended length in this segment; instead, she encourages you to hold the poses longer on your own or to complete approximately 10 breaths here. The postures are performed entirely on the floor and include cobbler's pose, seated forward bend, child's pose (Jennifer recommends performing this between all of the postures but only shows it the one time), wide-leg seated forward bend, thread the needle, reclined twist (aka revolved stomach pose), savasana (relaxation), and final meditation.

In summary, this is generally a very well-done DVD with a variety of practice otpions. Although the DVD case suggests that the workout is appropriate for all levels, as a high intermediate, I felt that most of the segments were to easy for me. However, a beginner will certainly appreciate the more detailed instruction (in many of the segments, Jennifer talks quite a bit between exercises) and will most likely enjoy the slower pace of the waking energy and dance segments. I think this DVD would be best suited to an advanced beginning exerciser who is interested in trying some of the unique styles presented here.

One final note: according to Jennifer's reps, this Level 1 DVD is subtitled "Embark on the Journey" (Jennifer sometimes uses this name during the workouts, but the name does not appear anywhere on the DVD case). There are two follow-up DVDs planned for release later this year, Level 2, "Harness the Power," and Level 3, "The Life Force Power Workout." The other video that is currently on the market, "Waking Energy" is a stand-alone DVD from this series which includes instruction on "Pilates Toys."

Instructor comments: Some people, including myself, have found Jennifer to be a bit pompass and show-offy in her previous videos. I definitely thought that she was more down-to-earth here, although she has continued her habit of doing a lot of talking between exercises, so you're often left standing there while she is explaining (this was not true of the waking energy or dance segments, all of which are performed in a continual flow). Also, she tends to be a bit over-the-top (to me, anyway) with all of her talk about how this workout will be "life-changing." Finally, as mentioned in the body of my review, Jennifer's cueing is sometimes lacking, although this only was an issue for me in the Jazz and Ballet segments.

Beth C (aka toater)

January 10, 2007

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