Vinyasa Flow Master Class 1Stephanie Keach
Year Released: 2007
- Audio Workout
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Disclaimer: I received this audio practice as a free review copy from iHanuman.com.
This 2-hour yoga class features instructor Stephanie Keach. Her teaching does not seem to be consistent with a particular school of yoga; rather, it echoes many different hatha yoga styles. Given this, the content and sequencing of this practice is quite unusual, especially in that it does not include any of the usual standing postures. Instead, Stephanie creates a flow which will help to open various stuck parts of your body, including the upper and lower back, wrists, neck, and hips. Consistent with this being a master class, Stephanie often uses only Sanskrit names for the postures, and she weaves in additional yogic elements such as pranayama (breathing) and bandhas (locks)—she emphasizes the breath in particular throughout the entire session.
The class begins in hero’s pose, where Stephanie has you establish ujjayi breathing and eventually add root lock. This is followed by a cat/cow series with a wrist stretch before returning to hero’s pose for another round of pranayama (3-part breath with retention) and reclined hero. When instructing more challenging poses such as this one, Stephanie encourages you to listen to your body and position yourself accordingly. After reclined hero, it’s back to hands and knees for a second cat/cow series, this time with breath retention, and then a second variation of hero (with neck stretch) and reclined hero. Moving into down dog, you’ll then do a lunge series which includes low lunge and hamstring stretch; the series is performed 3x on each side so that you can really feel the opening and energy created by this flow. At this point (almost 30 minutes into the class), Stephanie has you move to standing to begin sun salutations. She starts with a single OM and then leads four quick rounds of lunge salutations. Next comes several series focused mainly on hip opening, starting in down dog each time. The first is a lunge series which includes a groin/inner thigh stretch (a.k.a. lizard pose) and revolved twist, and the second series moves from splits to lunge-camel. During these series, Stephanie offers you various options, such as performing vinyasas in-between or resting in child’s pose if needed. Some additional backbending work follows with full camel (2x) and seated backbend with toe stretch. Coming back to a standing position, you’ll practice standing forward bend and squat, ending Part 1 of this class (about 1 hour).
Part 2 begins in squat, which is performed 3x, the third time with a twist; in-between the squats, Stephanie adds standing forward bend with a shoulder stretch. Then it’s back down to the floor in a seated position for cobbler’s pose and extended cobbler’s (diamond pose). Lying back, you’ll perform a reclined straddle, move into yogic abs work in this position, and then return to seated for a seated straddle. Stephanie instructs the seated forward bend series which follows as partner work, but it is doable solo (although perhaps not as much fun). Sole-to-sole with your partner, you perform full seated forward bend and then head-to-knee pose, chanting a single OM in each posture. Following this comes a nice supported shoulderstand using a block under your sacrum and then bridge pose with the block between your knees. The last active posture is a reclined twist, and then Stephanie sets you up for an extended savasana (about 12 minutes) while soft music plays in the background (the music can only be heard in brief snippets otherwise). In the last five minutes of this class, Stephanie gradually leads you back to a seated position for final meditation and chanting, which includes three repetitions each of OM and OM-shanti-shanti-shanti.
As the title would suggest, this class is clearly intended for experienced yoga practitioners; both the length of the practice and the flow of the postures provide a challenge to strength and stamina. Stephanie is an easygoing, encouraging instructor whose teaching is infused with a playful sense of humor—she knows she is working you hard, yet she encourages you to hang in there as long as you can. If you enjoy intensive, full-length yoga sessions and prefer a live class setting, this master class is likely to be a valuable tool for your home practice. Personally, however, practicing yoga for this long felt grueling to me, as both my strength and stamina were challenged by this session.
Stephanie's sense of humor shines through much more in her live audio classes than in her videos.