Yoga for Beginners

Barbara Benagh
Year Released: 2006

Categories: Yoga

I am aware of two versions of this DVD. Beth has reviewed the one released under Body + Soul magazine; I’m reviewing the version that simply says “Yoga for Beginners.” I believe Beth obtained her copy before I bought mine, and I see the version I have featured more prominently on Amazon, so it’s possible the Body + Soul version was a limited edition.
As far as I can tell, the differences between the two versions are that the Body + Soul DVD does not have two additional practices sampled from two other recent Barbara Benagh Body Wisdom Media DVDs, does contain some bonus material drawn from the magazine, and has a slightly different cover.

I’m reviewing this workout after doing each routine 1-3 times each.

General workout breakdown: Beth has already broken down and described these well, so I’ll just provide a little more information, if you could possibly want to know anything more!

Barbara moves through the poses at a deliberate pace, never rushing, allowing plenty of time for setting up and experiencing the poses, although not many are held for a very long period of time. In addition to allowing time and providing plenty of instruction and tips to get into exercises, Barbara spends almost as much time bringing you safely out of them and usually into a counter or finishing pose.

A few other notes: I wish the relaxation pose that appears in the longer routines had been included as a separate option here, as these practices do not end in a final relaxation. It would also have been nice to see the Breathing and Centering as a separate option as well.
My favorite practice is the Seated Hip Openers, which actually spends as much, if not more, time lying down and isn’t a straight set of hip openers but rather a great collection of simple, straightforward poses that get at all of the muscles in and around the hips, including the hamstrings, inner thighs, and low back, which contribute to tension and even pain in the hip areas (which reminds me of Gary Kraftsow’s approach to hip openers on Viniyoga Therapy for Low Back, Sacrum & Hips).

Below I’ll break down the two additional practices on my DVD. *Note: These two practices, found under “Getting Started,” are only on some versions of this DVD, specifically the ones that do not have “Body + Soul” on the cover.*
Unlike the other practices on this DVD, these are made from mixed and matched poses, each in their own chapter, rather than a long series of exercises within one chapter. As a result, poses don’t flow directly into each other as one chapter ends and another begins. There are no blank screens during the pauses here, however: as Barbara sits, lies, or stands in a finishing pose the camera simply moves out to a scenic view (e.g. of driftwood on the beach), then begins on Barbara in the next beginning posture.
- Gentle Unwind (28 min.) covers the following postures: meditation on the out breath, reclining cobbler’s, frog, supported child’s, simple cross-legged seated twist, complete yoga breath, and complete yoga rest. This is a shortened version of Letting Go of the Day from Yoga for Stress Relief (missing only the supported head to knee and half lord of the fishes poses).
- Letting Go of the Day (25 min.) coveres the following postures: reclining belly twist, half lord of the fishes, standing side bend, neck stretch, easy seated twist, arm alignment, and savasana (simple yoga rest). This is a shortened version of Unwinding Muscle Tension from the PM section of AM PM Yoga for Beginners (missing only the standing wide-legged forward bend).

Level: I’d recommend this to somewhat experienced exercisers, preferably with at least a little basic yoga experience under their belts. That said, these practices seem like they could be accessible to all but the most absolute beginners. This DVD would be an excellent complement to a beginning yoga class, and it would also be a good refresher for those who have been away from yoga for a bit for whatever reason.
I’ve been practicing yoga for 7 years or so now, although I’ve never gotten into fully intermediate postures like headstands and simple arm balances, but that’s not an issue here since there aren’t any. I’m still working on flexibility and strength in a few areas, and Barbara’s nuanced instruction and effective sequences, although basic, make this worth while for more experienced yogis. When I’m in a back to basics mode, I appreciate instructors who instruct poses in a way that appeals to both yoga newbies and experienced yogis (Erich Schiffmann is another who masterfully demonstrates that not only does “beginner” or “basic” not need to be boring or pedantic but it can also have a lot of value for those who think they know what they are doing already). I’m regretting not getting this one sooner than I did, when I could have used it to work back up to my normal yoga routines after a recurring battle with a long-term illness.

Class: Barbara alone, with instruction via voiceover.

Music: ocean waves gently splashing onto the shore.
For the two premixes from AM PM Yoga for Beginners and Yoga for Stress Relief you’ll have instrumentals, ranging from slightly upbeat muzak to sort of classical guitar sounding stuff. Note that a few tunes reappear in more than one pose. (If you have many of Body Wisdom Media’s productions, you’ve probably heard much of this already.)

Set: Barbara is on a canopied platform overlooking the ocean in Half Moon Bay, Antigua.

Production: clear picture and sound, helpful and never distracting camera angles. Barbara’s voice comes through clearly, never overpowered by the wave sounds. Note that the voiceover does not always match up perfectly with Barbara’s actions; in other words, every once in a while you’ll look up and see Barbara already or not yet moving into the next pose.

Equipment: a yoga sticky mat. You’ll probably also want 1-3 blankets (something firm, like wool or woven cotton, would be best; in a pinch a towel or perhaps even a flat pillow might work), a strap (substitute: tie, dressing gown belt, etc.), and perhaps a block or two (substitute: a thick book).

Space Requirements: enough space to lie down with limbs extended and to do a full sun salutation.

DVD Notes: Again, I have the version of the DVD without Body + Soul on the cover; as a result, I am missing the Body + Soul bonus material mentioned in Beth’s review.
The main menu on my DVD has How to Use This DVD: Important Information (text explaining what “beginner” can mean plus 5 pointers on how to use the DVD and advice about practicing), Learn: Interview (I’m pretty sure this is the same for both versions), Getting Started: Targeted Routines (same as the ones Beth lists out with the addition of the two I broke down above), As You Progress: Extended Routines (same as the ones Beth lists out), and Credits.
As an aside, “8 Easy to Follow Routines” appears in several places on the DVD cover, yet I count 12 routines on my DVD (the Body + Soul version would have 10). So often do companies oversell the contents it’s odd to see one do the opposite.

Comparison of Barbara’s most recent three BWMs: While there is some overlap of footage on Barbara’s other recent BWM releases, AM PM Yoga for Beginners (AM PM) and Yoga for Stress Relief (YfSR), the footage on Y4B is different, but many of the same poses reappear. Barbara also tailors her instruction to each audience. And, as mentioned above, the non-Body + Soul version of Y4B has premixes with material from AM PM and YfSR.
Each DVD has a clear focus, however: AM PM is split between short practices for the morning and evening; Y4B explores the elements of a more general yoga practice and is often more active with more flowing sequences; and YfSR features routines that are geared towards the time of day or specific physical or emotional issues and includes more gentle and/or passive poses. I would highly recommend AM PM as a complement to Y4B, as AM PM puts the poses you learn in YfB into nice little mixes that are easy to fit in, plus Barbara goes into more detail, including more discussion on things like the foot alignment in warrior that Beth pointed out are somewhat cursory in YfB. I also find the many twists and more shoulder openers in AM PM balance out the routines that pay a lot of attention to the lower body and backbends in Y4B. (I found my shoulders still feeling a little tight after my run through all of the Y4B routines, something I hadn't experienced when running through all of the YfSR and AM PM routines.)
I like Barbara’s teaching and techniques enough to feel justified in owning all three, as they each bring something different to the table, but YfSR remains my most used and favorite of hers, with AM PM a strong second. Y4B just doesn’t have as clear a place in my regular rotation right now, although I appreciate having it in my collection.

Instructor Comments:
Barbara speaks clearly and concisely, with straightforward language. She has a wonderful way of giving instruction that covers the basics yet at the same time contains many tidbits that upon repetition bring new insight into the poses. In other words she won’t overwhelm those with limited yoga experience, yet each time through you might hear something you didn’t hear before or something might click with you to make sense finally. She places a subtle but important focus on listening to yourself, developing your body awareness and intuition.
When she includes directional cues, Barbara cues for her right and left rather than the viewer’s; otherwise she’ll leave the choice of which side to do first up to you.
Barbara uses English terms (with the exception of Namaste and one or two other Sanskrit words), yet she is clearly steeped in a deep respect for yoga’s traditions and various teachings. Barbara has her own style that comes out of her many years of practicing, studying, and teaching yoga (she mentions Iyengar as an important early influence and Angela Farmer as a more recent one) as well as her own health issues and life experiences.
Barbara speaks with a soft southern US-inflected accent. It did take me a few times to warm up to her voice and manner of speaking, but now I just notice her great instruction. Her attitude is patient, sympathetic, understanding, and gently encouraging while never patronizing.