Yoga for Beginners

Barbara Benagh
Year Released: 2006

Categories: Yoga

I've been enjoying yoga instructor Barbara Benagh's other recent DVD release, Yoga for Stress Relief, so I decided to take a look at this one as well. This DVD, released by Body+Soul magazine, is intended for those new to yoga. There are a total of 5 shorter (<30 minutes), targeted routines which provide detailed instruction in basic yoga postures. These sequences allow the beginning yoga practitioner to build a solid foundation by learning proper alignment and taking the time to focus on form. In the second part of the DVD, Barbara combines the targeted practices to form five extended routines. These longer (30-70 minutes) practices utilize mostly the same footage (warm-up and relaxation sequences are added) to provide a more comprehensive, in-depth yoga experience. Barbara uses a yoga mat and occasionally makes use of a blanket as well.

A breakdown of the DVD is listed below; I've first listed the main menu items and then have broken down the two submenus, "Getting Started" and "As You Progress." The times for each practice are given as they appear on-screen, but I've added adjusted times in parentheses based on my own review. I've also included brief summaries of the composition of each segment; these summaries are meant to provide an overview rather than to be all-inclusive.

Main Menu
* Learn: Interview (8)
* Getting Started: Targeted Routines
* As You Progress: Extended Routines
And More...
* About Body+Soul: Meet the Editor (2)
* Articles: Articles and Advice - five PDF file reprints of Body+Soul magazine articles on yoga and related topics
* Credits

Getting Started: Targeted Routines
* Backbends, 10m (22.5)- locust, seated backbend/shoulder stretch, cobra, bow; slow but building intensity
* Standing Poses, 20m (22.5) - tree, triangle (long, slow setup process), side angle, standing side stretch, warrior 1, wide leg standing forward bend
* Strength and Balance, 20m (20.5) - teaches
"core strength breathing" used with boat prep work, half boat, modified side plank, and plank pose; finish in child's pose
* Sun Salutations, 20m (22) - very slow flow; begins with 2 sun breaths, 2 half salutes, and then a total of only 2 rounds of sun salutations, the first more modified than the second
* Seated Hip Openers, 30m (28) - performed entirely on the floor (seems to target hamstrings more than hips): reclined cobbler's, lying shoulder stretch, reclined leg stretch, thread the needle, seated easy pose twist, cobbler's, head-to-knee, wide legged seated forward bend, finish in cobbler's

As You Progress: Extended Routines
There are three new sequences included in the below practices. The first is Breathing and Centering (12.5 minutes), which includes breathing deep and centering the mind while lying on your back, breathing in rhythm with pulling the knees in and out, and breathing during a simple lying twist (revolved stomach pose). The second is a Restorative sequence 11.5 minutes) made up of three separate segments: supported reclined cobbler's pose, upper back opener reclining over bolster, and legs up the wall pose. Finally, there is a 5.5 closing Relaxation sequence.
* Basics: Wonderful Place to Start, 70m (68.5) - Breathing and Centering (12.5), Standing Poses (22.5), Seated Hip Openers (28), and Relaxation (5.5)
* Energizing: Wake Up Your Body and Mind, 40m (40) - Sun Salutations (22), Backbends (12), and Relaxation (5.5)
* Strength: Challenging Extended Routine, 70m (71) - Sun Salutations (22), Standing Poses (22.5), Strength and Balance (20.5), Relaxation (5.5)
* Rejuvenate: When You Need to Catch Your Breath, 30m (30) - Breathing and Centering (12.5), Restorative (11.5), Relaxation (5.5)
* Quieting: Great for the Evening, 55m (56) - Standing Poses (22.5), Seated Hip Openers (28), Relaxation (5.5)

Overall, this is an extremely well-done DVD. Although it's definitely appropriate for those new to yoga, I'm not sure if I'd recommend it as a very first yoga video; because Barbara is practicing alone (on a beautiful beach at Half Moon Bay Resort in Antigua), she is unable to show modifications, although she certainly does offer plenty of suggestions for going at your own pace. I am not new to yoga myself: I started dabbling about 6 years ago, have been practicing regularly for the past 3, and would rate myself at about an intermediate level. While Barbara's detailed teaching certainly provides me with an excellent opportunity to achieve a greater level of proficiency, I do find that the practices move a bit slow for where I am at present. In addition, given that I usually have less than an hour at a time to devote to yoga, I'm wouldn't get much use from the extended sequences, although I could see myself mixing and matching to create my own practices.

In summary, I do believe that most beginning and intermediate yogis will be able to find value in this excellent video, but I've decided to get rid of this DVD and hold on to Benagh's Yoga for Stress Relief, which is similar but more versatile for my own needs.

Instructor Comments:
I definitely like Barbara, but she has a slow, drawn-out way of speaking that might be annoying to some. Also, I'm not sure that her cueing (non-mirrored) would work for those completely new to yoga; she does give precise form details in some ways, but also she fails to provide other alignment details (eg, how to align your feet in warrior poses).

Beth C (aka toaster)