This is, according to Tony Sanchez, a beginner-level Hatha yoga workout. I think a true beginner would find it rather intimidating, and I'd call it more of an intermediate or experienced-beginner workout. Even if you're at an intermediate level, there will be portions of the workout that are extremely challenging. There's no strength work to speak of -- except for one part where you're sitting cross-legged and you lift yourself off the floor with your fingertips (ouch). I guess that would be considered strength work for your fingers :) The real challenge, in my opinion, was with some of the balancing poses.
You start with some breathing and flexibility moves before you go into the balancing. The breathing section is 6 minutes, and you do the same thing over and over. The first time I did this, I thought that part was much too long, but I don't really mind it as much now. (But I still would prefer it a little shorter.) After that, you do standing flexibility poses -- variations of side angle, forward bend, etc. There are no sun salutations, up/down dogs, and the other things we've come to expect.
Next is the balancing. I don't know how long this part is, but I'm always relieved when it's over. It's not that it's too long, but that it's tough. Although I sort of dread this part, I do like it and I'm glad I did it when I'm done.
Finally, you go to the floor for sitting/lying down poses. The rest of the workout is pretty easy compared to the balancing. The total workout length is an hour and 6 minutes.
I'm more of a power/Ashtanga person, but I like this one anyway. It's at a slower pace and you don't sweat nearly as much as with a power workout, but I find it a nice change of pace, and will most likely buy Yoga Challenge II. There are 4 in the series, but you would probably have to be a contortionist to do III and IV!
By the way, I got this one from Amazon.com. I think volumes 2-4 are available only at Tony's web site (www.usyoga.org). There are clips available to look at at his site.
If you are looking for Bikram and are sick of waiting for Choudury to knock out his own line of DVD's, this is the video to get. It is not pure Bikram, but about as close as I have seen on video. This is an old tape, from 1995. Tony Sanchez is known as Bikram's prodigal son, number one pupil, etc.
The tape has a spare set, just three models (Tony and a man and womaan) with no backdrop, standing on a plain rug. The music and lighting are extremely subdued. Tony demonstrates the advanced versions of poses, while the other two models show variations on the basic pose.
The practice starts with a pranayama exercise called bellows breathing, that acts to warm the body. It is taken at a slow pace and most practitioners (especially type A ones) will find this warm- up either puzzling or irritating or both. If you do it with some patience, you will find that it does warm the body, and in the absence of sun salutations, this is essential to prevent injury. So do the pranayama!
The rest of the poses are done in clusters of four or five, then repeated for the other side of the body. Bikram always features two sets of each asana whether it is a bilateral move or not, and Tony keeps relatively faithful to this. It starts with a variety of standing postures that include awkward pose, eagle, dancer's pose, and warrior 3. Anyone with experience of Baron B's tapes will be familiar with a lot of these poses, which focus heavily on balancing to strengthen the legs. There are not a lot of the lunges that are featured in Power Yoga, but the balancing series is challenging.
Once the standing work is done, floor work includes a lot of belly down spinal work and forward bends, interspersed with yogic sit ups and mini, open-eyed savasanas (also known in the west as resting...) The practice ends with more pranayama, this time fire breath, and then extended savasana.
I think that the Bikram sequence is a great addition to any regular yoga practice, although I have to say this video was a bit short on charisma; it is all business. Althoug I personally love it, I am not so sure that doing this practice or any practice in a hot room is essential, but I would not skip the opening pranayama (or do some sun sals instead) as this is a rigorous workout for the body.
Tony only demonstrates advanced versions of the asanas, has very little voice over. The voice over instructor does provide some good instruction and consistent descriptions of each asana so you don't have to look at the tv (too much).