Video Fitness

Backyard Series: Backbends

Erich Schiffmann

I tried Backyard Backbends last night, after a long day at work, and could not have had a more satisfying experience. The opening and wind down are both perfect. I particular enjoyed the instruction for the locust sequence -and the repeats of locust - not an asana I'm ordinarily so wild about. I also really enjoyed the bridge and wheel pactice. Erich's sequencing and first rate instruction got me very deep into my backbends.

There are two camera angles, the signature Kirby Shelsted, and I'm reliably informed that Fig the cat makes an appearance. Erich's yogasana practice is so so beautiful to watch.

Erich describes the level as intermediate. The pinnacle posture is full wheel, With Erich's Inversions and Lotus dvds, there is a fair amount of material that is not within my present level of ability. Backbends is well suited to my practice level. I think its a terrific dvd.

Two mudras up!

Instructor comments: Erich is one of the most gifted, and experienced, yogis around. His sequencing is legendary. Visit his website:

Jane C

October 13, 2005

This is such an incredible practice. Beautiful music - simply beautiful, and the practice itself is challenging - yet reachable, as Erich encourages you to really go to the level where you realistically can go.

When I did this workout I didn't feel like the clumsy person I often feel when doing a lot of fast vinyasas (sun salutations).

I managed wheel twice, but didn't hold it as long as he did by any means. Thanks to Erich's wonderful teaching, I felt utter joy in what my body could do and absolutely no disappointment in what it couldn't do.

Instructor comments: Erich is wonderful. A joy to watch and his voiceover is so soothing to the ear.

As a fellow VFer pointed out, he doesn't ever talk down to anyone.

Erich's form and strength are inspiring. He reminds me of a cat - the way he moves (and talks)


I took the poses listed on Erich's web site and on the back on his dvd and have listed dvd chapters and times next to them.

Chapter 1-0:00-disclaimers and opening statements
Chapter 2-1:51-titles
Chapter 3-2:15-opening #4
Chapter 4-15:25-half salutes
Chapter 5-18:09-triangle/high lunge
Chapter 6-21:06-dog/bent knee side stretch/twisting bent knee/low lunge
Chapter 7-25:43-cobra vinyasa
Chapter 8-26:38-pigeon cycle
Chapter 9-32:27-double pigeon
Chapter 10-37:45-locust
Chapter 11-41:39-cobra
Chapter 12-45:35-bow
Chapter 13-49:48-cobra from cat
Chapter 14-52:47-cobra from dog
Chapter 15-55:00-hero pose
Chapter 16-56:53-reclining hero
Chapter 17-57:59-camel pose
Chapter 18-60:58-half dog
Chapter 19-62:09-bridge pose I, II, III
Chapter 20-66:02-wheel pose
Chapter 21-73:05-knee to chest\abdominals
Chapter 22-74:53-reclining leg stretches
Chapter 23-79:19-twisting reclining leg stretches
Chapter 24-82:31-reclining sage twist
Chapter 25-84:48-relaxation pose

Instructor comments:



This is the fourth volume in Erich Schiffmann’s Backyard Series, and it is labeled as being for intermediates. Although the DVD itself does not have a chapter menu, on the back of the DVD case, Erich lists the chapters as follows: Opening #4—Half Salutes—Triangle—High Lunge—Dog—Bent Knee Side Stretch—Twisting Bent Knee—Low Lunge—Cobra Vinyasa—Pigeon Cycle—Double Pigeon—Locust—Cobra—Bow—Cobra from Cat—Cobra from Dog—Hero Pose—Reclining Hero—Camel Pose—Half Dog—Bridge Pose I, II, III—Wheel Pose—Knee to Chest Abdominals—Twisting Reclining Leg Stretches—Reclining Sage Twist—Relaxation Pose.

Surprisingly, I actually tried the DVD because I don’t really enjoy backbends; I was hoping that Erich’s master instruction would make these postures more accessible to me. I was certainly correct in assuming that Erich would make sure I was thoroughly warmed up before leading me into challenging backbends such as camel and wheel pose. His opening series starts with general stretches, including shoulder-opening work (which is also integrated throughout the practice). He continues the basic opening process by moving slowly and methodically through half salutes, a few standing postures, and various flows from dog pose. The initial backbends are extremely gentle and include cobra, bow, and locust. Erich then stretches the body further with full reclined Hero’s pose (which I couldn’t do) before moving on to the first more demanding backbend, camel. He had a unique way of getting into this pose which involved revolving one arm forward and then behind the body, but I actually found this to make the pose more difficult for me. After a half dog shoulder stretch, Erich continues the backbending with several variations of bridge pose. He offered yet another novel approach here, this time to help you keep your shoulders down: he has you roll your knees first to one side, then to the other, rolling each shoulder under in turn—this really worked! However, I found that once we got to wheel pose (which is repeated THREE times at increasingly difficult levels), my legs were so pre-exhausted by the practice up until this point—which has seemed deceptively gentle—and so I was not able to hold wheel nearly as long as Erich. Therefore, I was extremely grateful that Erich moved on to stretches next. He does a reclined leg series here plus some really unique reclined twists which felt absolutely wonderful! A short savasana follows, bringing in the entire practice at around 85 minutes.

By the end of this DVD, I felt nice and stretched, with my back and shoulders in particular feeling nice and open. Unfortunately, however, this practice did not serve to increase my love for backbends, and the things I liked about it are not incentive enough for me to purchase the DVD (I tried it on loan). I should clearly state that I do not blame Erich for this; I think certain inflexibilities in my body just make backbending postures extremely difficult and even uncomfortable for me, and so I’m just not motivated to spend a lot of time working on these poses, even with Erich. But I expect that unlike me, most intermediate and even advanced yogis will love this practice, especially if they have back issues and/or enjoy working on backbending. Therefore, despite the fact that this DVD did not click with me, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to others.

Instructor comments: Erich is wonderful in his slow, methodical instruction. He provides extremely detailed form pointers and is constantly encouraging you to relax, to be in the moment, and to enjoy your practice.

Beth C (aka toaster)

July 17, 2006

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