Yoga in the Garden of Serenity

Kathleen Anderson
Year Released: 2001

Categories: Yoga

I’m reviewing this workout after doing this several times in the few months I’ve had it.

General workout breakdown: This is an approximately 55 minute yoga-based workout that focuses on releasing tension and increasing flexibility. Kathleen is a Kripalu-certified instructor who has studied the Iyengar method a little and also has experience with dance, Pilates, and Alexander techniques; she fuses all with athletic stretches into a flowing workout that is unlike anything else I have seen.
The video is done almost entirely seated; there are a few poses where you sit on your shins, though, and you lie on your back for most of the relaxation segment. The video includes the following segments: Three Part Breath, Neck & Shoulder [sic] (which is more for the neck, although there are some nice hand massages), Torso, Gate Series (i.e. lower body), and Prepare for Relaxation (gentle twists leading into savasana). The savasana is fairly short if you come up when Kathleen says good-bye, but the quiet after that allows you to stay down longer if you want.

Level: I’d recommend this to someone with at least a little experience with yoga and/or stretching and a decent level of flexibility since Kathleen doesn’t include a lot of form instruction or tips or many modifications. While this may be best suited for an experienced beginner through an intermediate, there’s no reason why someone who’s more advanced couldn’t use it for a rest day. I consider myself a low intermediate in yoga; I have over three years of experience but am still working on my strength and flexibility. I found this video appropriate for me, although I modified one or two poses based on my inability to reach as far as Kathleen or to balance as well as she does.

Class: Kathleen alone, with instruction via voiceover.

Music: Soft, beautiful harp music.

Set: Kathleen sits in various corners of a garden, with lush green grass and flowers; trees block some of the afternoon sun. (Kathleen assumes you’re also in a garden. Since the university would object if I sat in their flowers, I have to settle for sitting in my apartment and gazing longingly at hers.)

Production: Decent picture and sound. The camera generally remains steady and on all of Kathleen. The voiceover matches up with the moves well.

Equipment: sticky mat (or equivalent), although Kathleen just sits on the ground. Kathleen performs barefoot.

Space Requirements: enough room to stretch your arms and legs out fully while seated or lying down.

DVD Notes: The DVD allows you to select a chapter (see the segments listed under General workout breakdown) and/or program the chapters in any order you want. The main menu pops right up; the warnings, etc., play once you hit “Play Program” unless you program your own routine.

Conclusion: I’m keeping this one. It’s great for those days when you just don’t feel like doing more than sitting around, and it’s great for the neck.
Yoga in the Garden of Serenity’s not quite like anything else I have, although I have several other yoga stretch programs that are all seated: Karen Voight’s Yoga Focus (now Yoga Power; also the stretch segment on Sleek/Slim Physique), Rainbeau Mars’ Pure Tranquility, and segments from Body Wisdom Media’s Yoga for Every Body and Yoga for Inflexible People. If you especially enjoy the neck stretches, Ana Forrest provides the best instruction I’ve come across on how to release tension in the neck; I apply her principles from Strength & Spirit and Pleasure of Strength to this video and feel that I get more out of it. Actually, my neck tensed back up the first time I did this; after applying Ana’s lessons and then reprogramming the sequence so that the neck & shoulders sequence come last I don’t have that problem any more. If you want more shoulder stretches, I highly recommend Erich Schiffmann’s series, found in his Backyard Series: Beginning Yoga or in Moving Into Stillness.
This video contains little reference to anything spiritual or New Agey, although it is a mindful and perhaps even meditative practice. I don’t think most people would feel uncomfortable with what Kathleen says.

Instructor Comments:
Kathleen has a soft, calming voice and pleasant, gently positive persona that is perfect for this video. She does have a habit of repeating a word or phrase which is obviously meant to be calming, which generally works except when she says, “This pose is said to be good for insomnia…[pause]…insomnia.” Kathleen, a Boston area resident, gently drops her “r”s, but she enunciates clearly. She cues well and mirror cues, but she doesn’t spend a lot of time describing form, which I wish she had done for some of the less common stretches, particularly in the Gate Series. She spends about an equal amount of time on each side, but one or two small moves are not repeated on the other side. Kathleen’s philosophy may be best summarized by this statement from the video: “Yoga is a work in, not a work out.”