Element AM & PM Yoga for BeginnersElena Brower
Year Released: 2008
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I've been interested in this DVD for some time, as it's one of the few routines on video taught by an Anusara Yoga-trained instructor. This DVD is led by Elena Brower, a senior Anusara instructor at the time that this video was filmed. She is featured alone here, instructing via voiceover in a beautiful flowered garden overlooking the Pacific that is the standard setting for most of the Element DVDs I have tried.
As the title would suggest, ELEMENT AM & PM YOGA FOR BEGINNERS offers two routines, one for morning and one for evening. Both are quite gentle, and both would be appropriate for MOST beginners, but I always believe that some prior experience and familiarity with yoga is helpful before using a DVD. I have broken down each of the routines (which are chaptered off the main menu) in greater detail below.
AM ROUTINE (35.5 minutes)
*tadasana (mountain pose) with several cycles of breathing/circling arms
*step back into cat/cow pose
*downward dog to down dog/plank vinyasa
*step forward/set intention
*2 slow sun salutations
*warrior 2, moving in/out
*side angle pose, bowing/expanding
*wide angle forward bend
*warrior 1, moving in/out
*warrior 3, balance only briefly
*modified side plank (odd entry to this)
*return to seated (<1) - no shavasana!
PM PRACTICE (28 minutes)
*start seated/2 moving meditations
*down dog/1 vinyasa
*pigeon prep, moving into twist
*down dog to child to seated thuderbolt
*stick pose (aka staff)
*stick pose #2
*seated forward bend
*stick pose #3
*sukasana (simple seated)
*janu sirsasana (head-to-knee)
*shavasana (3m) - end seated
I enjoyed these practices. In the AM routine, I particularly liked how Brower added movement to the standing postures; this had a Viniyoga feel to me. The PM practice was entirely on the floor and was relaxing (although not necessarily sleep-inducing). I also liked Brower herself, as I found her to cue well and to have a calming, soothing voice. I would definitely recommend this DVD.
As noted, I liked Elena; she gives off a good vibe. :) She does not mirror-cue, but then very few of the Element instructors seem to do so. Otherwise, I found her cuing quite good.
I've had this DVD for quite awhile, but used it for the first time today, choosing the AM practice. I didn't think I would like the voiceover instruction, but Elena was pleasant to listen to. The background music was at a nice level, not too soft or overpowering. The setting was beautiful, although I didn't spend much time looking at the television as her queueing was excellent. There was only one point where I got confused and had to come out of a pose to see what she was doing. She used English terminology, but sometimes followed it up with Sanskrit names, which made for a nice learning opportunity. The pace felt perfect to me; I was neither struggling to keep up nor bored to tears and wishing things would move along. The selection of poses were all attainable - she didn't suddenly throw in anything that would be impossible for the average person to achieve. Yet it still felt like there was room to grow.
I would say that I am an intermediate level exerciser with fairly good balance, but who needs to work on flexibility. My yoga knowledge is minimal. I've been to one class and dabbled with a few DVDs, most of which have been too advanced and frustrating for me. Element AM PM Yoga for Beginners seems like a very good fit for my present capabilities.
I’m reviewing this workout after doing each workout twice.
General workout breakdown: This yoga DVD contains 2 different practices: 1 meant for the morning, 1 for the evening.
In the morning practice, Elena teaches a more fluid style of yoga; instead of moving quickly into a pose and holding it for a while, you’ll enter the pose in stages, then once in it move in and out of it slightly. For example, you round your back slightly before opening your chest in full expression of the pose, or you straighten your leg before bending it back into a full warrior pose. In the evening practice, Elena holds poses for a few breaths. The pace in both practices is deliberate, never rushing.
*AM Yoga (35.5 min.) is a more vigorous practice designed to build strength. It begins standing with arms raising and lowering with the breath and a forward bend, then moves onto hands & knees for cat & cow before moving into downward-facing dog and then child’s pose. After exploring down dog and plank, you do a down dog - plank vinyasa (i.e. flow). The second round of cat & cow on hands & knees reverses the breathing pattern of the first. Next comes a twisted lunge before moving to standing with hands at heart to set an intention. After a few rounds of sun salutations (down dog into plank into a low cobra back into down dog before rising), you’ll work through warrior II, side angle, wide-angle standing forward bend, twist in wide-angle standing forward bend, warrior I, warrior III, and modified side balance. After sphinx and locus comes boat, followed by bridge and revolved belly twist (with both knees bent). The practice ends with a short meditation on listening and breathing.
*PM Yoga (26.5 min.) is a more calming practice designed to release tension. It begins seated in cross-legged pose with two breathing meditations (both alternating between slightly rounding back and expanding chest but from different angles). It then moves into a vinyasa flow (down dog – plank – chaturanga – cobra) before moving back into child’s pose. Next come pigeon prep, with a twist added, more down dogs, another plank into another child’s pose, thunderbolt, seated twist (with legs slightly off to side), stick (or staff), seated twist (with one foot crossed over extended leg) and counter twist, more time in stick, seated forward bend, another stick, bound angle, crossed legged seat, and head to knee. You then move to your back for knees to chest before moving into final resting pose (savasana) that’s held for a few minutes before you come up to simple cross-legged seated posture for a short breathing meditation.
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 AM practice is rather strong, 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 (same goes for Erich Schiffmann, Barbara Benagh, etc.).
Class: Elena alone, with instruction via voiceover.
Music: gentle piano 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 or if you can’t grasp your hands behind your back.
Space Requirements: enough room to lie down with arms and legs extended and do a full sun salutation.
DVD Notes: The DVD begins with an Element intro followed quickly by Elena’s greeting and description of the practices, which you can skip. The main menu allows you to play the AM Yoga, the PM Yoga, or the complete program. There are no individual chapters within each practice.
Comments: These are lovely practices 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 these don’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 (and my personal favorite). 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 all poses, but when she does she’ll use the English name first, then the Sanskrit one, which will help beginners become familiar with them.