Intermediate FLOW YOGA for Beginners through AdvancedStephanie Keach
Year Released: 2000
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Disclaimer: I received this video as a free review copy from iHanuman.com.
In a follow-up to her Gentle Flow Yoga, instructor Stephanie Keach has created a more comprehensive yoga practice that is still accessible to virtually all levels of yoga practitioners. Intermediate Flow Yoga is a flowing vinyasa practice with a strong emphasis on breath. Stephanie also incorporates some fluid movements within the postures, most likely a remnant of her study under TriYoga instructor Kali Ray. The practice begins in easy seat, where Stephanie has you take several "ah!" breaths before moving on to a simple seated forward bend; you'll also bend to each side before moving into a simple seated backbend. Transitioning to hands and knees, Stephanie leads you through some cat flows and then a lunge series (low lunge, lizard's pose, and hamstring stretch). After performing your first down dog of the day (including "walking the dog"), you'll move into a standing forward bend and then come to standing.
Continuing to warm-up the body, Stephanie guides you through six total rounds of lunge salutations, ending up in standing forward bend with a shoulder stretch. Surprisingly, however, no traditional standing postures follow; instead, Stephanie has you return to down dog and then shifts into some easy backbending (several variations of locust plus bow pose). After a brief rest in child's pose, you move from down dog into pigeon. Here Stephanie adds a pigeon flow and then performs a nice long forward bend on either side. A series of seated postures follows: you begin in a wide-legged position, coming into a forward bend, bending over each leg (adding a flow), and returning to a bit deeper forward bend. You'll also bend to both sides for revolved head-to-knee posture. Boat pose follows, with Stephanie offering several options. You'll then lie on your back for bridge pose, again with an option of staying here or rising up into full wheel. After bringing knees to chest, Stephanie begins to wind down with a luxuriously long reclined twist (about 4 minutes total). Finally, she encourages use of a blanket for a 5-minute savasana, and she concludes the session with 3 OMs in a seated position.
Throughout this 64-minute session, Stephanie is encouraging and playful. In her introduction, she suggests that the practice is designed for experienced beginners and beyond, which seems like a more appropriate estimation than the "Intermediate" in the title (also notable is that Stephanie uses only common English names for the postures, no Sanskrit). Although few of the included poses are overly challenging, with the help of Stephanie's thorough instruction, I somehow found myself melting more deeply into the postures. While it might not appeal to those who prefer a faster-paced practice, this video has a definite feel-good vibe, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.
Stephanie instructs well using mirrored cuing (which she actually takes the time to explain!). At the start of the video, she is shown performing postures in a beautiful outdoor rocky brook location; I would've preferred this to the actual indoor location of the video.
Stephanie Keach cites Erich Schiffmann as her greatest influence. This is evident in her slow warm-up and mindful progression of asanas. I recommend this video for those looking for practices with long, deep stretches and no-nonsense, intelligent instruction, but dont mind a simple background or DVD-R format.
While the title suggests that Flow Yoga is a rigorous vinyasa practice for intermediates, it is actually restorative and, aside from an optional wheel pose during a bridge sequence, the poses are appropriate for beginners without injuries. In fact, some of the poses (like lunge and upward facing dog) are modified throughout.
Heres a breakdown of the asanas:
Pranayama seated folds seated camel cat rolls childs pose lunges down dog forward fold mountain pose sun salutation stand forward fold down dog/plank back strengthening pigeon straddle folds boat pose bridge/backbend spinal twist shavasana.
There are about 10 minutes of slow-paced, A-series sun salutations. The rest of the 68 minutes consists of poses that are held for a very long time (five breaths or more).
I found the practice to be calming and pleasurable. Keach has a soothing voice. Sometimes she coaches about parallels between yoga and life, which may bother some, but more often she explains the poses and remains silent so that you can focus on your breath. Her demeanor is pleasant and straightforward. The practice opens with some sighing breaths. It includes lots of hip openers and just feels generally very balanced all the way around.
It is filmed indoors in front of a blue curtain and flower arrangement; the instruction is done via voice over; and the music is a nice composition of reed and percussion.