Element Yoga for BeginnersElena Brower
Year Released: 2007
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I’m reviewing this workout after doing it twice.
General workout breakdown: This is a 48-min. well-rounded yoga practice.
It begins with reviewing breathing (ujjayi breath) in simple cross-legged seat before connecting breath to movement with simple arm movements, moving twist, and rounding back / expanding chest. You then stand in mountain, arm movements with the breath, standing forward bends, lunge, intense side stretch, downward-facing dog, cat / cow on hands & knees, and down dog (bending one leg, then the other), before returning to mountain. Next come 2 rounds of sun salutations (plank – chaturanga – cobra – child’s pose – down dog). Next come a twisted lunge, warrior I , warrior II – goddess warrior (a reverse warrior) – side angle, and triangle (done on both sides before moving onto the next pose or mini series, with plank – chaturanga – cobra – down dog vinyasas in between some), returning to mountain at the end. You then start a sun salutation before moving into pigeon prep, with a forward bend and twist variations, down dog, low lunge into a low lunge w/ twist into a hip opening low lunge (sometimes called lizard), and another down dog, before moving onto belly for backbends. After aligning your feet while in sphinx, you do locust and cobra before rolling onto your back for a few bridges, with a short relaxation in between. Then you do knees to chest, supine pigeon, knee into chest - supine leg stretch, and supine twist (revolved belly twist w/ both legs bent), before moving into relaxation (savasana) for a few minutes. The practice concludes in simple cross-legged with a quick meditation and closing.
Elena teaches a more fluid style of yoga; instead of moving quickly into a pose and holding it for a while, you might move within it. For example, you’ll round your back slightly before opening your chest in full expression of the pose, or you’ll straighten your leg before bending it back into a full warrior pose. The pace is deliberate, never rushed.
Level: I’d recommend this to experienced exercisers preferably with some prior yoga experience, such as a beginning yoga class or work with beginner-level yoga media and/or books, although those new to yoga should appreciate Elena’s attention to instruction and details plus the modifications she sometimes provides. The practice is rather strong in places, however, so those without some preexisting strength (and maybe also flexibility) may grouse with the “beginner” label.
I took my first yoga class 7 years ago now but have been in a back to basics funk for a while, thanks in part to series of illnesses plus a few physical limitations that keep me from progressing to many of the advanced (or even intermediate) poses, so I’m enjoying the subtleties of poses through “beginner” DVDs that actually offer a lot to more experienced practitioners, too (e.g. Erich Schiffmann, Barbara Benagh).
Class: Elena alone, with instruction via voiceover.
Music: gentle instrumental or vocal (not really anything with words) over more atmospheric sounds.
Set: Elena is outdoors on a sunny day. She’s on a hill with lush green grass and landscaping that overlooks the ocean.
Production: very clear picture and sound, no distracting camera angles. Elena is always clearly audible over the music.
Equipment: yoga mat (or equivalent). You may want a towel or blanket if you need extra padding for kneeling or seated positions.
Space Requirements: enough room to lie down with arms and legs extended and do a full sun salutation.
DVD Notes: The DVD heads right to the main menu, where you can pick Chapters (Breathing and Warmup, Standing Poses / Sun Salutes, Twists / Hip Openers, Backbends, Forward Bends / Stretch) or Play. Elena’s introduction is in a separate chapter.
Comments: This is a lovely practice very well executed at so many levels, and Elena’s a great instructor. I’m still relatively new to the Anusara method and have enjoyed my exploration of it so far. So I can’t figure out why this doesn’t click with me; for whatever reason I’d rather reach for Barbara Benagh’s stuff instead. Maybe I’m just in one of my unnecessarily picky phases.
Element Yoga for Beginners vs. AM & PM Yoga for Beginners: The biggest difference between the two is, of course, that the original has one longer practice while the second has two shorter sessions (that could be combined for an even longer practice). AM Yoga shares a number of poses in common with the original, although it’s not quite just a shortened version of the full practice. And thus PM Yoga is the most different of the three practices. Elena offers similar instruction and postures in both discs, however, and you don’t have to do one before the other to get the most benefit.
Elena has a very pleasant, calming, and gently encouraging voice that leads you through detailed (but not overwhelmingly so) instruction. She cues for her right and left.
Elena is a certified Anusara instructor, a style that focuses on alignment as well as heart-opening and spirit-brightening (OK, that’s not the best description of John Friend’s complex, lively, and lovely style); while Elena definitely honors these aspects, especially with some great form tips, she doesn’t overdo the instruction or flowery language (although expect to be asked to set an intention, express gratitude, feel light and expansive, etc.). She doesn’t name every single poses, but when she does she’ll use the English name first, then the Sanskrit one, which will help beginners become familiar with them.