New Yoga ChallengeKathy Smith
Year Released: 1998
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This tape was offered to me on the exchange and I'm glad it was, because it isn't one I would have otherwise thought of buying or putting on my wish list. However it is a good, solid, power yoga-like workout that is accessible to a beginner/intermediate practitioner who has had some exposure to basic poses, but also leaves room to grow.
Why should you try a yoga video by Kathy Smith? Two words - Rod Stryker. The lesser of two Rods in terms of vidi-yoga celebrity, but an excellent and perhaps underestimated instructor in his own right. Kathy introduces him as her yoga partner, but he is in fact the one who leads the workout as Kathy follows along. She is obviously an advanced student whose 20 year experience with yoga shows in her performance of the postures. She has kind of a funny rapport with Rod, who calls her "Kath" and I un-yogically wondered if they were wildly attracted to one another (as one Vfer speculated) or could barely stand each other (as another speculated).
Onto the workout!
Kathy explains in the introduction that the practice will consist of four parts: breathing exercises, sun salutations/standing poses, finishing poses on the floor, and finally a relaxation segment. Rod starts by teaching ujjayi breath, in which an audible sound and breath control is created by slightly constricting the back of the throat. This segment is quite well taught, although at one point Kathy looks like Maria singing to Captain Von Trapp as she demos the breath. After some minutes of breathing, there are some unusual (for a yoga vid) warmup moves, including wide arm circles and yoga hops - hopping lightly off the balls of the feet while in a plie stance.
The workout itself begins with a few rounds of sun salutations A and B, with both Kathy and Rod doing pushups in between up-dog and down-dog. The standing poses include many of those found on most power yoga type tapes - triangle, extended side angle, revolved triangle, standing wide legged forward bends, standing head to toe except in this version they have you grasp your foot on the little toe side.
Floor poses include seated forward bends, some ab work (which Rod calls "yoga gut work", bridge, shoulderstand, plough, and a backbend sequence which threw me off because it came after the shoulderstand/plough, which I've come to think of as closing poses. I was surprised to find so much more coming after this!
Before finally relaxing in corpse pose, Rod and Kathy sit for a moment in crosslegged pose to breathe and center, and I thought this was a very nice touch.
The tape is not without some flaws. Some of the transitions between poses felt slightly awkward to me, but that may just because they were presented in a different order than I am used to. The table pose is referred to as a bridge, and the "real" bridge - still called a bridge - appears a few poses later. There is very little modification shown by either Rod or Kathy, almost as if neither wants to demonstrate less proficiency than the other, despite Kathy's introductory speech about staying non-competitive. What few modifications they show are in a tiny mini-yogini screen where Someone Else demonstrates briefly.
But all in all it was an enjoyable and challenging workout that I will reach for when I want more of a workout than a stretch-and-relax type yoga tape, but am not really up for Bryan Kest, say.
I really liked Rod Stryker. His verbage is non-mystical while still emphasizing the connection between the physical and mental, and the mindfulness and awareness that is part of the practice of yoga. Kathy is wonderfully inspiring as she performs the poses. She is visibly more muscular and buff than many other female yoga video instructors, yet with great flexibility and is a superb example of someone who successfully crosstrains yoga with other activities.
On a side note - this video was made in 1995. In a recent (Feb 2002) spot featured on Oprah, Kathy notes that yoga continues to be an important aspect of maintaining good health and peace of mind as she progresses through menopause. That's a nice testimony.
I am a yoga rookie but I loved this video. It is really deceiving how strenuous a tape such as this can be. I felt the results (a bit of fatigue) a couple of hours later and was surprised. Now having done it a few times - I do it once a week for a break in my cardio routine - I can see improvements and am ready to branch out into other yoga tapes for variety, although this one is definitely a keeper. I also liked the ab work at the end. It's hard to believe this tape is 60 minutes - it flows so smoothly and is over before you know it. If you are new to yoga and already active, I would recommend it. I teach step and weight train so didn't want to purchase a beginner tape that I'd likely discard for something tougher right away - this was a good choice.
Kathy Smith is, as always, a pro - although she isn't really the instructor in this video. Her cohort, Rod Stryker, actually leads the tape and he is excellent. His cuing and posture descriptions are really helpful and well timed - great for those less familiar with yoga. He leads you through the program with gentle instruction that keeps you focused.
This is the first yoga tape that I bought and I love it. What I really appreciate about this video is that she doesn't go it alone. Kathy doesn't consider herself an expert at yoga, but lets an expert yoga instuctor lead this video. Kathy's flexibility is very impressive and motivating. The New Yoga Challenge lets you move at your own fitness level, giving options for beginners. The video is very clear about body placement and how to correctly do the moves. I feel very relaxed and energized after I do this routine. The instruction on this video is excellent and I feel that my body is properly warming up as the intensity increases.
The background music is very appropriate and I think the "filming" of this is done very professionally.
I give the video an A. This one will stay in my video library.