Yoga in the Garden of Serenity

Kathleen Anderson
Year Released: 2001

Categories: Yoga

I've had my eye on this video for a long time because I had heard it includes a great segment of neck stretches--as with many people these days, my neck and shoulders get very tight from sitting at a computer all day. Yoga in the Garden of Serenity did not disappoint: since getting it less than a week ago, I've already done the neck segment three times, and I love it more every time.

The first great thing about this DVD is that not only is it chaptered, but also it is completely programable. The main menu allows you to select the five chapters in any order you prefer; if you have less time, you can do a few chapters only (the sole limitation is that you can't select the same chapter twice). As the name would imply, instructor Kathleen Anderson leads the practice in a garden setting, providing mirrored voiceover instruction with soft piano music playing in the background. The entire practice is performed in a seated or lying position; some of the stretches are recognizable yoga poses, some are not, and many are performed in a flowing, almost dance-like manner. I have provided short descriptions of each of the five chapters below (times are approximate):

Three Part Breath, <6 minutes. Here Kathleen leads you through a breathing sequence, encouraging you to expand your abdomen, ribs, and lungs with air.

Neck and Shoulders, 10.5 minutes. In this wonderful segment, Kathleen thoroughly stretches the neck and upper shoulder area. Although she performs traditional moves such as rolling the neck and turning the head from side to side, she adds unique twists--for example, holding one ear with the opposite hand and circling the elbow of that arm. It's absolutely amazing how much more open my neck feels after doing this segment.

Torso, 15.5 minutes. This is probably the most flowing of the five segments. From a seated position, Kathleen opens up the torso with side bends and twists, adding shoulder circles to enhance the stretch. She also opens the hips with double pigeon (although this is done a bit too quickly) and additional stretches in a wide-legged seated position.

Gate Series, 15 minutes. Here Kathleen does what she calls "passive spinal twists"; "passive" seems to be a misnomer though, as I felt this was the most active segment. She also performs a pigeon series on the knees that is a bit more challenging than anything else on the video.

Prepare for Relaxation, 11 minutes. Kathleen prepares you for relaxation pose by first performing knee circles to release your lower back, then tensing and releasing your arms and legs to fully relax the body. She encourages you to remain in relaxation pose for 8-10 minutes, and the music continues to allow for this.

The complete practice comes in at about 58 minutes; I've enjoyed doing the practice in its entirety as well as individual segments. This video would be perfect for someone who is looking for a yoga practice mainly to provide relaxation and very gentle stretching. I don't think any prior yoga experience is necessary; all levels of yogis, from beginners to more advanced, can benefit from this practice. As an intermediate myself, I loved it and know that I will use it often.

Instructor Comments:
Kathleen provides voiceover instruction in a soft, soothing voice. Her mirrored cueing is generally very good, although she doesn't always cue transitions ahead of time. She also has a habit of repeating certain cues (eg, "move in the opposite direction...opposite direction"), but this didn't bother me. According to her introduction, Kathleen is certified in Kripalu yoga, and she blended both Kripalu and Iyengar in this practice. Finally, she has a background in various other disciplines as well, including dance, Pilates, and the Alexander technique.

Beth C (aka toaster)