AM PM Yoga for BeginnersBarbara Benagh
Year Released: 2007
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I’m reviewing this workout after doing all premixes at least twice and some as many as a dozen times.
General workout breakdown: This DVD contains 11 premixed yoga practices, 6 of which are designed for the morning, 5 for the evening.
This is a typical Body Wisdom Media (BWM) production, with various poses (and more rarely flows) mixed and matched. 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.
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.
Beth has already described these practices well; I’ll just list out the included main poses. Please note that while Barbara often gives the name of poses, she does not always, and in those cases I have used common or descriptive names.
*Get Up & Go (16): downward-facing dog, quarter dog, cobra flow, child’s
*Sun Salutation Centering (17): sun salute (B), head to knee, short yoga rest, seated meditation
*AM Breathwork (28): revolved belly twist (both legs together) – wave breathing, reclining cobbler’s, reclining leg stretch, reclining belly twist, seated meditation, savasana
*Gentle Wake Up (35): reclining cobbler’s, arm across chest twist, reclining leg stretch, reclining belly twist, simple seated twist (cross-legged), Bharadvaja’s twist, short yoga rest, seated meditation
*Extended Morning (46): frog, downward-facing dog, quarter dog, cobra flow, standing side bend, tree, triangle, side angle, warrior I, reclining leg stretch, simple seated twist (cross-legged), savasana (corpse)
*Wake Up the Spine (34): sun salute (B), triangle, side angle, warrior I, tree, reclining belly twist, simple seated twist (cross-legged), head to knee, short yoga rest (focus on breath)
*Short Rest (11): reclining belly twist, pursed lip breathing, legs up the wall
*PM Breathwork (20): neck stretch (ear to shoulder), half lord of the fishes, seated meditation, complete yoga breath, savasana
*Unwinding Muscle Tension (30): reclining belly twist, half lord of the fishes, standing side bend, neck stretch (ear to shoulder), wide-legged standing forward bend (head to knee), simple seated twist (cross-legged), shoulder alignment, savasana
*Good Nights [sic] Sleep (24): crocodile, pursed lip breathing, complete yoga breath, supported cobbler’s, legs up the wall, savasana
*Energizing Evening (40): sun salute (B) w/ full lunge & locust, wide-legged standing forward bend (head to knee), reclining leg stretch, bridge (prep), half lord of the fishes, open half lotus (w/ forward bend), reclining belly twist, legs up the wall
Level: I’d recommend this to somewhat experienced exercisers with preferably at least a little basic yoga experience under their belts. That said, these practices should be accessible to all but the most absolute beginners to exercise.
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 instruction proves very helpful in those regards. In fact, although this DVD contains very doable practices for a wide range of people, Barbara’s nuanced instruction, intelligently innovative exercises, and effective sequences make this worth while for experienced yogis. I never feel like these practices are too basic or beginnerish for me at all. 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.
Class: Barbara alone, with instruction via voiceover.
Music: instrumentals, ranging from slightly upbeat muzak to sort of classical guitar sounding stuff to some gentle piano riffs. Note that some tunes reappear in multiple segments and may even appear several times in a row. (If you have many of Body Wisdom Media’s productions, you’ve probably heard much of this already anyway.)
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. Note that the voiceover does not always match up perfectly with Barbara’s actions.
Equipment: a yoga sticky mat. You’ll also want 1-2 blankets (something firm, like wool or woven cotton, would be best; in a pinch a towel or perhaps even a flatish pillow might work) and perhaps also 1-2 blocks and a strap, although if you don’t have them you can do without (they or appropriate substitutes are worth scrounging up, for sure, but there’s no need to drop major dough on them).
Space Requirements: enough space to lie down with limbs extended and to do a full sun salutation. You’ll also want access to a wall (or a door through which no one will walk or a sturdy chair / sofa that won’t slide) for legs up the wall pose.
DVD Notes: The main menu options are Discussion of Meditation by H. H. the Dalai Lama (part of a longer video from a lecture – this does not factor into the yoga sessions themselves but appears to be an extra added bonus, and although it appears to be from the same lecture from which the segment included on Yoga for Stress Relief it seems to be a different part of that lecture), AM Routines, PM Routines, and Credits.
Note that there is a bit of an opening introductory montage of beach scenes as the title plays across the screen; you can skip this to head straight into the main menu. Also, there is a short pause as the AM and PM menus load their background scenery, song clip, and title list.
Comments: This is not to be confused with the many other AM and PM yoga programs out there. One advantage (at least in my book) of Barbara’s DVD over others is the amount of practices for both morning and evening; most only have one sequence for one or both times of the day.
For those who are comfortable with or ready for slightly stronger and faster sequences, Rodney Yee’s AM Yoga for Your Week might be a good choice; he offers 5 focused practices that clock in under 30 min. each.
Comparison of Barbara’s most recent three BWMs: There is some overlap of footage on Barbara’s other recent BWM releases, Yoga for Beginners (Y4B) and Yoga for Stress Relief (YfSR). In particular, some tracks on AM PM and YfSR are identical, some use the same voiceover but different footage (the AM sequences all feature Barbara in a different blue outfit, and it appears that even though the same poses appear the footage has been refilmed for these, although this could be fiddling with the color filters), and some use the same footage with different voiceover (which range from the insertion and/or deletion of a few phrases to a complete overhaul). Also, if you have a copy of Yoga for Beginners that does not also say Body + Soul on it, you will find one full premix lifted from AM PM. Each DVD has a clear focus, however, with AM PM split between short practices for the morning and evening, Y4B containing explorations of the elements composing a more general yoga practice and often being more active, and YfSR featuring, as Beth points out, focused routines that are geared towards the time of day or specific physical or emotional issues and including more gentle and/or passive poses. Those who like AM PM may find YfSR worth investigating, as it has additional morning and evening practices (although I have to admit I like the am routines on AM PM better) plus some different breathwork exercises. Or if you like Barbara’s method of instructing poses like cobra and the standing series (triangle, side angle, the warriors) and/or prefer flows rather than sequences of individual poses, you might like Y4B, where Barbara walks you through basic yoga poses and sequences in a way that’s accessible to beginners while still providing new insight into poses to experienced yogis. 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 clear second.
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. Barbara isn’t just concerned with the physical, even though she gives excellent tips on form and alignment, but she talks you through the mental and even emotional, too. She places a subtle but important focus on listening to yourself, developing your body awareness and intuition.
When she includes directional cues, she cues for her right and left rather than the viewer’s; other times, including when she is facing the viewer, she leaves it up to you which side to do first.
Except for savasana and Namaste, Barbara uses only English terms, 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.
This DVD by renowned yoga instructor Barbara Benagh is similar in format to her previous DVD, Yoga for Stress Relief. However, whereas the latter offers practices for different conditions (back pain, headaches, digestive issues, etc.), in the AM/PM DVD, Barbara offers practices designed for morning or evening. These practices, which are slow-moving and quite gentle overall, range in length from 15 to 45 minutes, making it easy to fit yoga into even your busiest days. Barbara frequently uses props: in addition to a yoga mat, I would recommend that you have at least one blanket on hand (preferably 2-3), with pillows and an eye bag being optional.
A breakdown of the DVD is listed below. The headings are the items found on the main menu, and the bullets indicate submenu items (the times for each practice are given as they appear on-screen). I've included brief notes describing each of the practices.
Discussion of Meditation by HH The Dalai Lama
*Get Up and Go (15m)--a simple flow of upper back openers, including down dog and cobra
*Sun Salutation Centering (15m)--a single slow lunge salutation combined with seated forward bends
*Breath Work (30m)--an all-lying/seated practice that twists, supported poses, and seated meditation
*Gentle Wake Up (35m)--consists almost entirely of reclined postures plus two seated twists; would be a nice evening practice as well
*Extended Morning (45m)--one of the most active practices; begins on the floor but then moves on to standing postures including side stretch, tree, triangle, side angle, and warrior 1, but then returns to the floor for relaxing poses
*Wake Up the Spine (35m)
*Short Rest (10m)--this brief practice offers a reclined twist, pursed lip breathing, and legs-up-the-wall pose
*Breath Work (20m)--starts with two poses to stretch the shoulders then moves on to seated meditation and savasana
*Unwinding Muscle Tension (30m)--this practice features mainly twisting postures in reclined, seated, and a standing position
*Good Nights Sleep (25m)--another simple practice with crocodile pose, pursed lip breathing, seated meditation, and reclined postures
*Energizing Evening (40m)--this more active evening opens with the sun salutation series from above, features simple locust and cobra backbends, includes seated postures (half lord of the fishes and open half lotus), and ends with reclined postures and legs-up-the-wall
As in her previous videos, Barbara is practicing alone against the backdrop of a beautiful beach at Half Moon Bay Resort in Antigua. This DVD does feature some of the same posture sequences as in Barbara's prior Yoga for Stress Relief, but the footage appears to be new. Overall, this is an excellent yoga DVD well-suited to a wide range of practitioners, from those fairly new to yoga to more experienced yoginis like myself--definitely recommended.
Barbara speaks with a warm southern accent. She is very slow-moving, which might get on some people's nervous, but her manner is perfect for these gentle practices.