Anusara Yoga Grand Gathering (Yoga Journal)John Friend
Year Released: 2009
I recently ordered this set from TotalFitnessDVDs, and am very happy with the practices. They will be a good addition to my John Friend library.
Each practice starts with a warm-up of slow Sun Salutations, then Standing Poses, Balance, Back Bends and Twist and Forward Bends. There are no inversions. The 3 sessions build on each other, and increase in length, detail of alignment instruction and challenge of poses.
Day 1. This the easiest and shortest of the 3 days. I think that because this is at Estes Park, altitude 8,000 ft., this practice is quite a bit less vigorous than his usual practices, eg. Omega DVD's. Lots of mindful pauses in Uttanasana or Down Dog, while he chats about the flow of shakti, etc.
As usual, I like his sequencing, and how he goes deeper and deeper. Not as much alignment instruction as the Omega DVDs, but there always a few new and useful tips. It's a practice I would do on a low energy day, because the pace is slower than usual, and nice long holds. And a well balanced practice, though no inversions.
The camera is mostly on John or the Tanya, the demonstrator--who has beautiful form. There are no audience shots or celebrity sightings, so you have a feeling it’s a private lesson.
I skipped the Introduction and Invocation, 22 minutes. After the asana practice there is 10 minutes of Kirtan with Shantala—Benjy and Heather Wertheimer, which I listened to during my Savasana.
Here's Day 2. Forget the gentle practice for high altitude. This is almost 2 hours, building on the 1st day, but much more vigorous and challenging. John give more alignment instruction, on setting your foundation, and "then moving playfully from there, so the pose can sing".
I really enjoyed watching the demonstrator, Tanya, because she goes beyond roboting what John says. Her actions are mindful and deliberate while going into and out of poses. She’s very focused, but smiles and laughs easily, and radiates joy in the practice. She is very flexible and strong. Also, John does a few demo's, mostly to illustrate funny actions.
Day 3. This is the finale, where he integrates all his teachings into one big offering to the divine. The practice is just under 2 hours and I think it’s my favorite of the 3. Some very challenging asana, but his sequencing, instruction and watching Tanya, give good preparation. (I watched 1st, then did it later in the day). I can't do all the poses in hand balances and back bends, but I think you still get alot out of doing the prep.
Today, the band accompanied most of the practice, improvising to support the asana, like they did in the Friend Workshop I took 5 years ago. There are pan shots of the audience, all 800 of them, assistants scurrying around, and the big screen TVs overhead, which gives the feeling of "grand gathering". And a few times times the mics are turned on, so you can hear the audience reaction and buzz.
There is an excellent demo of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana with Tanya, Benji from the band, an audience member, then he talks everyone through doing it with a partner.
During the final chapter of forward bends, he talked about our teacher--"the one who led us to where we are. You cannot give back fully, it's impossible, but what we can do is to be a shining symbol of everything they've given you. That's the best way to give back."