Yoga Challenge II is an intermediate to advanced level practice containing 68 yoga asanas in a total of 15 series. The instructor, Tony Sanchez, was formerly affiliated with the Bikram school of yoga, and thus the practice is based on the Bikram series. I have broken down each series below, including the time and an overview of the poses included. Because the names that Tony uses for poses sometimes differ from what is used in other schools of hatha yoga, I have used the most commonly-known pose names.
1) Pranayama (breathing); 6 minutes. Tony opens with a breathing exercise in which you raise your elbows in front of your face, inhaling as you stretch your elbows back and exhaling as you pull them back forward. After doing this a number of times, you pause briefly and then repeat; this section was longer than I would have liked.
2) Salute to the Gods; 9 minutes. In this series, you do crescent lunge to the four sides of the room, first in a standing position, then a kneeling position; the entire series is repeated once.
3) Salute to the Sun; 6 minutes. These differ a bit from classic hatha sun salutations in that you keep you back rounded in the forward bend and there are no downward dogs.
4) Half Moon; 13 minutes. You begin with a side bend to either side and then move into a series of standing poses, including side angle, twisting triangle, and pyramid with a curved back; the series is then repeated.
5) Awkward; 2 minutes. This short series contains 3 variations of chair pose, the latter two on the toes.
6) Eagle; 10 minutes. This series focuses on balancing poses, including eagle, standing on 1 leg with foot extended, dancer, warrior 3, and airplane.
7) Guillotine; 2 minutes. At this point, Tony introduces the arm balances which dominate the second half of the practice (and most of which I was unable to do). Here, he begins with a wide-legged standing forward bend (fan pose) and then moves the arms & shoulders underneath the legs, balancing on the hands.
8) Transition; 8 minutes. In this section, you transition from standing to floor poses. You begin with tree pose (foot in 1/2 lotus), moving this into a squat and then a knee balance. Next comes crow, crane, and fingerstand (a lifted staff pose).
9) Lotus series; 18 minutes. This series starts with some nice warmups to prepare you for lotus but then moves into some very challenging positions while keeping your legs in lotus. The lotus preps include leg rotations, 1/2 lotus with 1 knee bent, and 1/2 lotus. Then with the legs in full lotus, Tony leads you through a lift, cock, fish, spider, and pregnancy poses; since I'm unable to do full lotus (yet!), I mostly modified with crossed legs. This long series ends with a nice little savasana.
10) Gas Relieving; 2 minutes. This short series contained simple knee-to-chest moves in a reclining position.
11) Cobra; 4 minutes. Variations on cobra, locust, and bow poses.
12) Fixed Firm; 4 minutes. This series starts with a reclined hero's pose (again, I needed to modify) then moves into 1/2 tortoise, camel, and rabbit; it ends with savasana.
13) Stretching; 16 minutes. Another long series of floor poses, starting with seated forward bends: revolved head-to-knee, forward bend, wide-legged forward bend, and frog. You then do heron prep, heron, splits, full king pigeon, and pigeon. Finally, you move to a standing position for standing splits and full dancer (touching foot to head); again, this series conclues with savasana.
14) Double sided; 10 mintues. You begin with seated bow and arrow pose and then move into additional seated and reclining twists.
15) Pranayama (breathing); 3 minutes. This segment includes Kapalbhati breathing--done more quickly than I've ever seen--followed by a brief savasana, although Tony encourages you to remain in relaxation pose for at least 5 minutes.
As you can see, much of this video--particularly the second half--was beyond my current level. However, I felt that this was a video which I could really grow with, and it gave me hope that I can build up to the more challenging poses. Tony moves slowly enough to give the viewer ample opportunity to at least try each new movement, and if you are unable to move on the the more advanced pose, it's easy to remain in the prepartory position. At almost 2 hours, this is obviously a very long video, but I found the format of the asanas arranged into different series made it easy to break down this video into smaller, more manageable segments. It is important to note that Tony does not provide very detailed instruction, so it is vital to be very familiar with a variety of basic yoga asanas before attempting this practice. Similarly, Tony does not offer any modifications, so you need to know how to do this on your own. For those intermediate students ready to take their practice to a new level, this video is an excellent place to start.
Tony instructs via voiceover with a Spanish accent. As mentinoed above, he does not provide detailed instruction, and he does not offer mirrored cueing. Also, his face appears stern during the practice and he is rather dry, but overall, I thought he instructed well.
Beth C (aka toaster)
January 31, 2005