Yoga: Flow - Saraswati River TraditionZyrka Landwijt
Year Released: 2009
I’m reviewing this workout after doing all of the routines once each.
General workout breakdown: This DVD contains 2 vinyasa yoga practices (each with two shorter premixes), 1 sun salutation practice, and 1 yoga nidra practice. The two vinyasa practices are meant to be progressive: you’re to start with the shortest A and work your way up to the longest, then start with the shortest B and work your way up to the longest. That said, you can also pick and choose based upon your time and needs for the day.
- A (60 min.) also comes in 24- and 45-min. versions.
The full practice begins seated, then moves into seated forward bend, cat & dog tilt on hands & knees, and child’s, half chaturanga down to mat – cobra – child’s, downward-facing dog, standing forward fold, mountain, half sun salute, several rounds of sun salutes (bypassing lunge right into plank or standing forward fold), high lunge – warrior I – warrior II – reverse warrior – triangle, vinyasa flow (lunge – plank – chaturanga – downward dog), cobra hold into vinyasa, crescent into twisting low lunge, 1-legged down dog – warrior II – reverse warrior – side angle (modified) – revolved side angle – wide-legged standing forward fold – revolved side angle – pigeon preparation (w/ forward bend), vinyasa, 1-legged down dog – warrior II – reserve warrior – side angle (full) – half moon – standing leg split – crescent low lunge – lunge w/ twist, vinyasa, locust, child’s, head to knee pose - half lord of the fishes (modified), forward fold in bound angle, forward fold in seated wide angle, vinyasa, child’s, knees to chest on back, reclined spinal twist, bridge, shoulderstand (alternative: reclined bound angle) – plow – fish – reclined bound angle, knees to chest, and savasana (corpse or final relaxation), before ending in seated.
- B (75 min.) also comes in 30- and 50-min. versions. The main differences between A and B is the addition of the chanting and pranyama plus the inclusion of slightly more challenging postures, including bow, side plank, and wheel. The pace is the same, however, which was a pleasant surprise for me.
The full practice begins seated for chanting (Om 3x, then Ambea Tambea Nadi Tambea Devi Tambea Nama Om Namami x9, if I counted correctly; Zyrka says it speaks to the order of the universe or something, but I can’t find out what this means) and kapalabhati (skull-shining) breathing (3 rounds) before rolling onto back with knees to chest, then up to child’s, table for cat & dog tilt, downward-facing dog – 1-legged down dog – knee to nose – 1-legged down dog w/ hip open, high plank, knees & chest & chin to ground, cobra, standing forward fold, mountain, half sun salute, several rounds of sun salutations, high lunge w/ arms overhead – warrior II – warrior II w/ arm behind head (triceps stretch) – reverse warrior w/ arm behind head – triangle – reverse warrior – warrior II, with vinyasa in between sides and sun salutation finished at end, plank – cobra – downward dog, warrior I – warrior I w/ hands in yoga mudra – intense side stretch – triangle – reverse angle – side angle – half moon – standing leg split – 1-legged down dog, vinyasa into locust, vinyasa, warrior I – warrior II – reverse warrior – side angle – bound side angle (option) & straighten leg – revolved side angle – side plank, vinyasa into bow, child’s, pigeon preparation (w/ forward bend, then up to reach back for back leg) – half lord of the fishes, vinyasa, low lunge – half split, vinyasa, child’s, head to knee, forward fold in bound angle, seated wide angle (side bend and forward bend), child’s, vinyasa, child’s, bridge 3x / wheel (option for the last round) – knees to chest, shoulderstand (alternative: reclined bound angle) – plow – happy baby – reclined bound angle – fish, knees to chest, reclined spinal twist, seated for round of kapalabhati breathing, and savasana, before ending in seated for a final Om.
- Surya Yoga (37 min.), as Zyrka introduces it, is to direct solar energy into specific chakras during specific poses by chanting certain sounds.
This sequence begins with 3 rounds of kapalabhati (skull-shining) breathing before rolling onto back with knees to chest, then into child’s pose, before cat stretch in table into downward dog, moving into standing forward bend, and rolling up to standing. You then move through a number of rounds of 12-point or lunging sun salutations. The relevant chakra is shown highlighted to the left of the screen, while the relevant sound is written in an inset box in the upper right. The practice ends with a brief moment in tadasana imagining the full moon behind the head, then walking back into down dog, with the choice to continue with asana or taking a savasana (to be done on your own or perhaps by selecting the yoga nidra sequence).
- Yoga Nidra (25 min.) is a practice of yogic sleep, or deep relaxation.
The practice is done entirely in corpse pose (lying on back, with arms and legs softly out to the side). After relaxing the whole body, you make a sankalpa (resolve or intention), direct your attention around the body as directed by Zyrka, feel opposites in the body (lightness and heaviness, heat and cold), and work your way up the chakras by visualizing lotus flowers (Zyrka is very specific about the color(s) and number of petals and what you are to notice as you imagine them). The practice ends with focus on the breath, a repetition of the sankalpa, and a gradual reawakening to come up to sitting and seal the practice with a Sanskrit phrase meaning “Let it be so.”
Level: When Zyrka recommends this to intermediate yoga students, I interpret that as meaning those comfortable with at least the basic poses and with a decent amount of strength and flexibility. The most “advanced” postures are probably shoulderstand and wheel.
I consider myself a sort of perpetual beginner / intermediate in yoga; I’ve been practicing for almost 8 years now, but because of some physical limitations (a cranky elbow, not so great flexibility, strength that could be stronger) I usually find myself in that low intermediate range, not yet ready for wheel, crow, headstand, and the like, and yet also constantly revisiting the basics. I found this practice appropriate for my level, sufficiently challenging but not overwhelming so by any means. More importantly, it moved at a pace that worked well for me. I have to be able to take a modified chaturanga, and I never felt rushed doing so during this practice. I often avoid vinyasa and related schools of yoga because they move too fast (Eoin Finn’s Power Yoga for Happiness 1 and The Pursuit of Happy Hips are as fast as I can go).
Class: Zyrka alone, with instruction via voiceover.
Music: The back cover describes it as “a rich sound-track of traditional Indian grooves and modern ambient tones.” It alternates between ethnic-flavored and more atmospheric sounds. I found it all right: not too distracting, but not something I fell in love with.
Set: During her introductions, Zyrka is in a white-walled room. During the A sequence and yoga nidra, Zyrka is on the beach by the ocean. Durind the B sequence and surya yoga, she is by a river bank. (I thought I read that these are in California, probably near her home of Santa Barbara.)
Production: clear picture and sound, helpful rather than distracting camera angles. You can see and hear the seams between the segments in the A and B practices, even in the full flow, when you would expect things to be smoothest.
A small inset with suggested variations will sometimes appear in A or B. Also, text appears for chants and stays on the screen for the entirety of that chanting segment.
Equipment: a yoga sticky mat (or equivalent) and maybe a blanket or cushion for the seated portions and/or yoga nidra.
Space Requirements: enough room to perform a full sun salutation for the vinyasa and sun salutations practices plus enough room behind you for plow during the vinyasa practices. You’ll just need enough room to lie comfortably for the yoga nidra practice.
DVD Notes: A quick Real Body Works intro can be skipped to get right to the main menu, which offers a Start Here as well as Credits in addition to the A, B, Surya Yoga, and Yoga Nidra practices. There’s a sub menu for the Surya Yoga that has Introduction, Sequence – Guided, and Sequence – Sounds Only.
Comments: Zyrka describes this DVD as coming out of the Saraswati River tradition of yoginis (both men and women) who live in the world rather than in secluded ashrams. That, the geographical location, and the surya yoga (coordination of tones with moves) are what I was able to take away as special to this tradition. (The back cover says that pranayama, yoga nidra, and meditation are vital parts of this type of practice, but other yogic traditions also include some, if not all, of these traditions. But I’m not up on my yoga history or even the different yoga schools.)
If you’re not so sure about talk of chakras, chanting, or yogic breathing, know that the chanting and pranayama are chaptered separately on the B practices, and the surya yoga and yoga nidra practices are off on their own. Zyrka’s talk during the A and B sequences is fairly straightforward, with nothing more New Agey or mystic or poetic whatever than telling you to lift your heart. She uses both Sanskrit and English names for poses, often using both together.
I think this might appeal to some folks who are looking for flowing vinyasa sequences that are much more straightforward and without the verbalisms of Shiva Rea, for example.
One of the reasons I was interested in this DVD was the yoga nidra practice. I have Shiva Rea’s Drops of Nectar (CD), Betsey Downing’s Yoga Nidra: Moving into the Garden of Your Heart (MP3 available at iHanuman.com), and Jill Miller’s Breathe in Bliss Out (CD). Zyrka’s is kind of in between Jill and Betsey’s. I’m happy I had done Jill’s, which I think is a good introduction to this practice, especially since she takes some time to explain what makes a good sankalpa. Betsey’s is even more comprehensive. Each of them chooses to focus on different types of visualizations while in yoga nidra, so I’m happy to have these several variations. It might take me a bit to warm up to Zyrka’s because of the specificity in the lotus chakra visualizations (thank goodness I have some art background so I can picture the requested colors!).
Zyrka focuses on instructing or cuing the movements, with some form discussion (but not enough for beginners). It’s kind of difficult to say whether Zyrka mirror cues, as she’s often facing to the side, and the camera travels around her. She does cue for her right and left.
Zyrka has a very calm, deliberate manner of speaking. She has a few inflections which sound odd to my ears (for example, she says fore-HEAD, whereas I’m used to the emphasis being on the first syllable there) but no truly annoying habits.