Om Yoga & Meditation Workshop

Cyndi Lee, David Nichtern
Year Released: 2005

Categories: Instructional / How To Videos , Yoga

I was interested in this set for a couple of reasons. First, it includes a CD of yoga music. I'm a yoga instructor, and I'm always looking for new music to play in my classes. Second, although I've practiced yoga for over 15 years, I've struggled to adopt a regular meditation practice, and so I had hoped that the the practices on the included DVD would be helpful with this. This "workshop" includes the music CD, the DVD with the meditation and yoga practices, and a detailed information booklet, all in eco-friendly cardboard packaging (I liked this!).

I'll start with the CD, which is my favorite part of this set. It offers a mix of vocal and instrumental tunes. Prior to acquiring this set, I could not find a list of the tracks anywhere, so I'll put them here as the appear in the included booklet.
1. "Memories of Summer as a Child" - David Nichtern (9:10)
2. "Wondrous Skies" - Emilia Sosa (4:33)
3. "Phoenix Rising" - David Nichtern (8:26)
4. "Tuesday" - tj Rehmi (4:19)
5. "Blues for Baba" - Krishna Das (9:10)
6. "The Sunrise" - tj Rehmi (6:11)
7. "Mesa Mocha Grande" - David Nichtern (6:49)
8. "Don't Run Away" - Sultan Khan/Rare Elements (5:22)
9. "Cassiopia" - Michael Hewett/Ally (4:17)
10. "Breeze of Delight" - Steve Gorn/Jamie Lawrence (6:40)

I was significantly less enamoured with the DVD. First, I do not feel that it is described accurately, either in the product description or on the product case. The case states that there are 4 yoga and 5 meditation sessions. It is true that there are 4 short yoga segments, but there are actually only 2 meditation sessions--the other three segments are meditation "talks" (see below for more details). Furthermore, the product case states that the yoga sequences are appropriate for beginners/intermediates, but I would absolutely NOT recommend the yoga practices on this DVD for beginners!

Below are the sequences as described on the DVD Main Menu. Following this, I will provide more descriptive information.

1. Making Friends with Yourself
--Meditation Instruction
--Yoga Sequence
2. Dynamic Equilibrium
--Meditation Talk
--Yoga Sequence
3. Obstacles as Path
--Meditation Talk
--Yoga Sequence
4. Opening Your Heart
--Section A: Meditation Talk
--Section B: Guided Meditation
--Yoga Sequence

MAKING FRIENDS WITH YOURSELF starts with a 12:54 introduction to meditation lead by David Nichtern, who leads all of the meditation segments. Nichtern is in front of a small class of students who are sometimes seen by the viewer. The video quality is poor--as if someone sent up a home camera in the back of the room--and the some is sometimes out-of-sync as well. He talks about the basic shamatha meditation from Tibetan Buddhism, which he translates as "calm abiding." The last few minutes of this intro are a brief practice. All of the yoga sequences are led by instructor Cyndi Lee, who cues via voiceover with two students present. The first routine is 14:17 minutes and starts with a seated vinyasa (cat-cow, twist, lateral stretch) that moves fairly quickly. Lee then goes through two rounds of sun salutations, chair pose, a reclined twist, plow, shoulderstand, and an extremely brief relaxation pose.

DYNAMIC EQUILIBRIUM is supposed to be focused on finding balance. Nichtern's lecture here is short (6:37). He talks about how are expectations are "traps," and he describes use of a "touch and go" technique. For the yoga practice (14:01), Lee starts with a balanced breathing exercise. Rocking on the spine, she comes into boat pose, table, and a simple twist. From downward facing dog, she moves through crescent lunge, warrior 1, warrior 2, and half moon. She finishes with the balance poses tree and eagle, and again offers a very brief relaxation.

OBSTACLES AS PATH again features a meditation talk by Nichtern (10:45). He maintains that while practice is actually simple, meditation can require bravery and courage to stay with it. For the yoga practice (14:04), Lee states that the focus will be on standing hip openers. She starts seated in hero's pose but quickly comes to standing for warrior 1, warrior 2, side angle, triangle, and lizard lunge. Returning to the floor, she performs a seated side saddle twist, wide angle lateral stretch with twist, forward bend, and brief relaxation.

OPENING YOUR HEART is the final segment, and it includes both meditation instruction and practice. Nichtern starts (10:52) by talking about the idea of moving from practicing for oneself to practicing for others by direction one's thoughts in meditation. He introduces maitri practice, which is another name for metta or lovingkindness meditation. Nichtern describes the four slogans of goodwill used as part of this practice as well as how to send the loving thoughts towards a benefactor, self, and a neutral person. A 10:14 minute practice of this technique then follows. Lee begins the 14:23-minute yoga session lying over a blanket roll. She then moves into down dog and a lunge series, including lunge with a lateral side stretch. Next, she comes seated for a full cow-face pose (no modifications show). This is followed by half-wheel (aka bridge pose) and then two repetitions of full wheel pose. Lee concludes with supported shoulderstand using a block (aka L-pose).

I was disappointed to find that I did not like the instruction of either Nichtern OR Lee. Nichtern comes across as VERY dry, not really connecting with the audience at all. Although I actually LOVE lovingkindness meditation (please read Sharon Salzberg's wonderful book Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness for more on this), I did not enjoy this sequence from Nichtern AT ALL. As noted above, I definitely did not find Lee's practices appropriate for beginners, as she includes poses that are intermediate and above, offers no modifications, and moves extremely quickly. Even though I have many years of yoga experience and teach as well, these factors made Lee's routines much less enjoyable for me, also.

In the end, I am glad to have this set for the music, but I am guessing that most people will not want to purchase it for that reason alone. I certainly can't recommend it for the meditation and yoga segments.

Instructor Comments:
Cyndi Lee is such a respected name in the yoga field that I was really surprised her instruction was not better. Perhaps there was just something that did not translate to the video setting, but as noted above, I found that she moved too quickly, and the lack of modifications was disappointing. I liked David's music, but his lectures simply were not engaging, at least not to me.

Beth C (aka toaster)