Video Fitness

Ashtanga Yoga "The Practice" First Series

David Swenson

I am a new practicioner of Ashtanga Yoga (also known as Power Yoga). In my research I found two choices: the more glitzy Power Yoga tapes and the more traditional teachers. I decided on the latter and went out and purchased David Swenson's two part tape series titled "Ashtanga Yoga 'The Practice' Series.

While lacking the glitz of other Power Yoga tapes, David's tapes are well done and does an excellent job of not only teaching yoga. David reviews the asansas (postures) in excellent detail. His style of teaching is friendly and thorough. First, David carefully demonstrates the asanas describing the form and movement and breath associated with each one. Second, he goes through the movements non-stop. Ashtanga yoga is complex since the asanas are meant to flow smoothly.

According to David, the key to this form of yoga is the breath. He continually emphasizes the breath as the foundation of yoga. And that is perhaps the neatest thing about David's tapes. The tapes are no-nonnense productions that emphasizes the fundamentals of a traditional, but still unknown and exciting style of yoga.

David is probably the most thorough yoga instructor around and it shows. He continually emphasizes breathing, which is the foundation of yoga practice. Ashtanga yoga, at least for me, is not the easiest practice around. I really wish he had a manual to go with this tape. But that's okay. In addition to being thorough, David's style of teaching is centered around slowly learning the basics of breathing and form.

Instructor comments: David Swenson is a nationally recognized Ashtanga Yoga (also known as Power Yoga) who studied with K. Pattabhi Jois. David's 26 years of practice show in his style of thorough yet simple teaching.

Jose Meras

I watched the Advanced A and B series video (a long time ago before they were divided into 6 series, they were the Primary Series, the Intermediate Series, Advanced Series A and Advanced Series B, so A/B sort of encompass what we now call series 3-6) the other day and I highly recommend it for those of you who are interested in the history of Ashtanga Yoga or just want to watch people do jaw-dropping poses.

This 90 minute tape starts with a disclaimer that this is NOT an instructional tape and is strictly for demonstration/entertainment purposes only. Well no wonder, a person could seriously hurt themselves doing some of this stuff.

Filming begins with David and his 4 fellow yogis (including his first Ashtanga teacher, David Williams) sitting on the grass in Maui (the scenery in this video is *gorgeous*) and chatting about how they came to Ashtanga yoga. It's neat to see them reflect on their history and tell some anecdotes.

Next the video moves on to the 5 of them in a row of mats on the beach as they start going through the poses for series A. (They skip the standing sequence and the finishing sequence so that they could fit both A & B on the same tape.) One of the women is wearing light blue shorts and we are once again reminded that legs pits sweat, too. I felt a little bad for her; It was *very* distracting.

After Series A, they reappear in different outfits on a grassy hill for Series B.

The videography is interesting. Sometimes you see all 5 of them, sometimes it cuts to just David, sometimes it focuses in on one of the other guys, sometimes it's on David and the two women. My guess is that they wanted visual variety, and also that people's schedules and endurance factored into who was going to be in which shot.

Throughout each series David does voice over narration in which he tells the name of each pose and the origin of the name/how the name relates to the pose.

I also found it very interesting that scattered among the less attainable poses are a lot of familiar poses from the various power yoga videos.

At the end of the video past the credits are 2-3 outtakes from filming. In one, the woman couldn't stay balanced on her knees (her legs were in lotus) and just started laughing. In the second and third, David falls out of two arm balance poses. In one he lands smack on his chin and on the other he rolls outward and falls (laughing) right off the mat onto his back. Make sure you don't rewind before you get to this!

Renee Drellishak

The first 25 minutes of this video is a fantastic instructional segment by David. He demonstrates and explains Sun Salutations A and B, showing several modifications if you’re not ready for the full thing. He also demonstrates the “jump-through” – where you’re sitting on the ground and it’s time to float/jump back into Chaturanga. As anyone who has tried to do this knows, it is extremely tough. He gives a great tip for working up to it. He says that no modification will get you ready for it, unless you’re using the muscles that are actually used in the move. Makes sense. His move which will get you ready for it is hard to explain, but it’s the one you see in Ashtanga between boat poses – you get into a cross-legged position, roll your torso just slightly forward, then lift yourself (and your legs) off the ground. I don’t know the name of it. This moves uses the same arm and core muscles that the jump-through uses.

The next 1-1/2 hours is a full Primary Series Ashtanga workout. He doesn’t modify either the moves or the speed of it, but he does offer verbal advice on how to change things to suit yourself. Cueing is perfect. Unlike his Short Forms video, this one is shot indoors instead of outside. The production quality is good.

I was really impressed with not only the workout but also the instructional segment. If he did an instructional video for the entire First Series, I’d definitely buy it. Grade A for the workout, A+ for the instruction (the jump-through tip is worth it’s weight in gold!).

Annie S.

Video Fitness copyright © 1996 - 2009 Wendy Niemi Kremer    All rights reserved