Dharana Aligning the Upper BodyLauren Mones
Year Released: 2006
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This DVD is led by Anusara-trained yoga instructor Lauren Mones. As she explains in the included interview, when she was a college student, she experienced a car accident which left her in chronic pain. Unfortunately, yoga and other forms of alternate therapy provided her with only temporary relief. Finally, on the recommendation of a friend, she attended a workshop with Anusara yoga found John Friend, and for the first time in years, she found herself to be pain free. Therefore, in this DVD, Mones first teaches the four Anusara principles to aligning the upper body, then applies these steps to a full yoga practice.
The Main Menu of this DVD reads as follows (my notes are in parentheses): Start Video--Choose Chapters--Instructional Segment Only--Demonstration (a 6.5 minute performance by Mones to music)--Interview (8.5 minutes). The Instructional Segment forms the main practice and is just over 60 minutes in length. I have broken down the various chapters including which make up this segment below.
Standing Poses (25.5 minutes). Mones starts here by introducing the four steps while in tadasana pose. These steps, in brief, are as follows: 1) lengthen the sides of the body, 2) bring the shoulder blades onto the back, 3) draw the shoulder blades down the back, and 4) lift the chest up. She continues to emphasize the four steps, also showing common errors, in down dog, cobra, side angle, wide-legged standing forward bend, triangle pose, warrior two, and warrior one; she ends by resting briefly in child's pose.
L-Shaped Handstand (2.5 minutes). In this segment, Mones uses a wall to perform a handstand prep pose.
Backbends (13.5 minutes). Mones spends a lot of time with the easier backbends, again really focusing on the four steps in these postures. The poses in this segment include locust, upward dog, bridge, and upward bow.
Sitting Poses (19 minutes). Here Mones begins with a lunge variation commonly known as lizard pose; she stresses the importance of not collapsing into the shoulders and upper back. She continues with seated poses: head-to-knee, half Lord of the fishes, and full forward bend. This section concludes with an approximately 4-minute savasana and then finishes in a seated position.
In addition to the above, one more segment that is accessible from the Chapter menu is the Student Segment (12.5 minutes). Here Mones points out the imbalances of two different students in turn; she shows how having them perform the four steps serves to re-balance their postures, and she leads them each through several poses using the correct alignment.
A few other things to note. First, Mones uses mostly Sanskrit terminology, so some prior familiarity would be useful; in fact, this practice is probably geared mainly towards those with previous yoga experience. Also, Mones does not mirror cue the postures. What is very helpful is that when she describes the key alignment points, simple graphics appear on screen (eg, small arrows) which I found very useful. Overall, this practice reminded me of a workshop I attended with Anusara yoga instructor Desiree Rumbaugh which I enjoyed very much. I think this is a very valuable and important primer on the principles of upper body alignment in Anusara yoga, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone who is either unfamiliar with these concepts or who needs a refresher in this area.
Lauren is very low-key and straightforward; other than the fact that she does not mirror cue, I didn't have any problems with her instruction.
Power yoga this is not! All poses are slow and deliberate. This makes them very safe and effective. The practice is great for increasing upper body flexibility and alleviating tension from everyday stress. (most individuals hold tension in the neck/shoulders and the emphasis in this area will help relax those kinks) Lauren's precise instruction and her emphasis on alignment will help you get the most benefit from the poses (and also help you develop better posture). She uses the 4 steps of proper alignment as the focus throughout (with the shoulders as the main focus point). The chapters are as follows:
Standing: In tadasana, Lauren begins by demonstrating the 4 steps she'll be using for every pose. (very detailed so you'll be sure to get it) Parsvakonasana (side angle) begins the standing poses. Prasarita Padottanasana (wide legged forward bend), trikonasana (triangle), virabhadrasana II & I follow and then child's pose to finish.
L-Shaped Hand Stand: Done against a wall, Lauren shows you how to position yourself properly to complete the pose.
Backbends: The poses include salabasana (updog), ustrasana (camel), bridge, urdhva dhanurasana (wheel). Lauren then rests in child's pose before moving onto the seated poses.
Sitting Poses: Hip opener/lunge sequence begins. Janu sirsasana (forward fold with one knee bent), ardha matsyendrasana (seated twist), paschimottanasana (forward bend) and then end in final relaxation.
The full practice is an hour in length. Lauren includes an instructional segment, a demonstration segment and an interview.
Music: the music was nice and flowed well with the practice.
Setting: Very serene/relaxing with white floors and white flowing curtains in the background.