"Free Flow Yoga" is part of Yoga Journal's Great Instructors series, a series of DVDs filmed at the annual Yoga Journal Conference in San Francisco. It features Shiva Rea, a internationally known yoga instructor who incorporates more creative, dynamic movement into her vinyasa flow practice. Here she presents a 90-minute class which is quite non-traditional in nature; there are certainly some classic yoga postures here, but Shiva focuses more on fluid movement rather than static holds of the poses. Many sequences take the form of mandalas and involve a flow of poses which revolve in a circle, sometimes causing you to fact the back of the room; Shiva maintains that this is a positive thing for moving out of your comfort zone. Throughout the practice, Shiva also emphasizes the bandhas, namely mula bandha and uddiyana bandha.
For the most part, Shiva practices along with the class, but she also sometimes moves around the room along with her assistants. Shiva uses mainly Sanskrit names for the postures, but there is also a "yoga demonstrator" on a dais at the head of the class for easy reference. This DVD is well-chaptered, and the introduction suggests that each chapter can stand alone as a shorter practice if necessary. The chapters are as listed below; I have added in approximate times as well as brief descriptive information.
Movement Meditation (14m)--Much of the warm-up here consists of standing in mountain pose while raising and lower the arms in a flow. Shiva encourages the class to step off their mats to "get out of the box" and then continues with arm flows in a warrior stance as well as some more free form movements. Shiva also incorporates lion's breath and chanting Om.
Mandala Namaskar Prep (9m)--This segment consists of traditional postures such as down dog, lunge, and squat, but each are performed as flowing movements.
Mandala Namaskar (9m)--This sequence begins in down dog and incorporates some lunging side turns which help to open the hips in unique ways.
Jala Namaskar (14m)--Shiva notes that this series honors the water element. It incorporates spinal waves into down dog and returns to the flowing arm movements in warrior stance. Lying face down in a cobra position, there are also some shoulder-opening flows as well as fluid hip movements.
Core Cultivation (7m)--Moving to a back-lying position, Shiva first has the class perform some flowing arm and leg movements. She then does some crunch-type work with the legs in a raised supta baddha konasana position; she finishes this section with some knee circles as well as brief work with the legs straight.
Rock 'n' Roll (1.5m)--This is a short transitional segment in which Shiva instructs those who are able to roll from their backs smoothly into a squat position and continuing forward to balance on their hands briefly.
Mini Vinyasa (7m)--This segment consists of some continued standing flows as well as an arm balance (bhujapidasana) and a standing forward bend (hasta padangusthasana).
Backbend Mandala (11m)--Here Shiva performs some more traditional standing postures for the first time, flowing from warrior 2 to reverse warrior to triangle. In a wide-legged standing position, she also does a forward bend with eagle arms (adding lion's breath), and she finishes with a wide-legged bekasana.
Open Practice (5m)--In this section, Shiva encourages the class to listen to their bodies and spend 5 minutes performing their own flow. She suggests that beginners might want to simply repeat some of the earlier moves while others might want to incorporate their own postures.
Advanced Sequence (7m)--This section is not advanced per se, but it is an ongoing sequence of movements with little instruction. Shiva and her assistant first demonstrate for the class a sequence which includes eagle pose, a hip opening side squat, and a seated side bend.
Om Shanti (4m)--Shiva first has the class spend several minutes in baddha konasana, adding a forward spinal roll. She finishes seated in a lotus or half-lotus position with a chant of Om-Shanti-Shanti.
The Main Menu on the DVD lists a Play All option, an Introduction, Chapters, and Special Features. The Special Features include an Interview with Shiva(10m) as well as Yoga Journal advertisements. During the Interview, Shiva reveals that she started practice yoga at the age of 14 as a means to explore the name given to her by her father (she also mentions that she will be turning 40 this year). She stresses the importance of incorporating both self and service into her yoga practice, and she talks about her evolution into more circular patterns (hence the mandalas).
This practice is definitely not for everyone; those looking for a traditional vinyasa practice will not find it here. Although I was wary myself of doing a more free form style of yoga, I have to admit, after completing this workshop, I felt great--very open and fluid. This is certainly a nice change of pace for those who are open to adding a more improvisational element to their usual yoga practice.
Shiva comes off as very genuine, wholesome, and joyful here. She is extremely encouraging in emphasizing that you know what is best for your body and that you can connect with your innate sense of flow and self.
Beth C (aka toaster)
December 6, 2007