Progressive Power Yoga - The Sedona Experience: The Foundation

Mark Blanchard
Year Released: 2006

Categories: Yoga

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I’m reviewing this workout after previewing and doing this video once each.

General workout breakdown: This approximately 85-minute power yoga routine will challenge your upper and lower body strength, endurance, and flexibility. The routine is actually made up of first one and then another long segment from two different but related sessions. Asanas include mountain, standing forward bold, half sun salutations, sun salutations A and B, chaturanga, upward-facing dog, downward-facing dog, chair, one-legged down dog, modified warrior 3, warrior 1, warrior 2, triangle, reverse triangle, parsvottanasana, side plank, standing side bends / openings, standing folding twist, crow, crescent, balancing on one leg, standing splits, half moon, reverse half moon, warrior 3, tree, eagle, standing backbend, seated hamstring stretch (a variation of heron pose), Marichyasana, reverse seated twist, janu sirsasana, bound angle / butterfly, reclined bound angle, bridge into wheel, reclined spinal twist, knees to chest, plow, shoulderstand, abdominal work, and savasana. (N.B. That’s not exactly how things shake out; it’s just a rough list of the major poses.) Mark moves at a brisk but not lightning-quick pace through sun salutations, then pauses to have you hold a pose or to move between several twists or variations (e.g. plank to chaturanga and back again, lowering and raising knee while in crescent, doing several arm variations in chair).

Level: I’d recommend this to someone with at least some yoga experience and existing strength and flexibility. Yogi(ni)s at the beginner / intermediate through intermediate level should find this an appropriate challenge; more advanced yoginis could enjoy it as well, although they might miss various advanced asanas. The cover says this routine is for all fitness levels, but a beginner to exercise as well as a beginner to yoga will probably become frustrated with the difficulty of the postures and lack of precise form instruction (at least in a verbal form). Also, only a few modifications are suggested (e.g. dropping to knees for long chaturanga holds, walking back instead of jumping back into chaturanga), with Mark encouraging you just to give it a go and then rest when needed.
Those with wrist issues should know that a significant portion of this routine is spent on the hands. Those with elbow, shoulder, and / or knee issues should also be advised there are lots of up and down dogs as well as lunges.

Class: Two men and four women, ranging from a yoga novice to yoga teachers, comprise the class. Mark usually alternates between demonstrating or walking around instructing and physically correcting his students.

Music: none, except for some birdsong and wind chimes.

Set: outdoors on a bright day among the distinctive red rock formations near gorgeous Sedona, Arizona.

Production: high quality picture and sound. Although the shots get a little fancy at times (e.g. dramatic sweeps to one side), you’re able to see what you need to see, more or less. (Personally I would have edited out when Mark clears his throat - at least the one during savasana - and maybe the shots where other cameras are visible, too.)

Equipment: sticky mat (or equivalent). All exercisers are barefoot.

Space Requirements: enough room to perform a full sun salutation without bumping into things and lie on the floor with limbs extended. You’ll want some space behind you, too, for plow.

DVD Notes: You can hit Menu to skip the intro to the DVD and the Karma Warning. (Copying results in spitting alpacas at your doorstep!) There are about 20 chapters during the practice. Special Features include Step by Step Basic Techniques, where a split screen shows Mark getting into and performing the full posture from two different angles; this clip is usually shown three times each. Surprisingly there is no verbal instruction with this feature. The poses include Mountain, Standing Forward Bend, Plank, Chattaranga, Upward Facing Dog, Downward Facing Dog, One-legged Downward Dog, Standing Split, Crescent, Warrior 1, Warrior 2, Warrior 3, Triangle, Extended Arm Triangle, Reverse Triangle, Extended Arm Reverse Triangle, Half Moon, Reverse Half Moon, Dancer’s Pose, Reverse Dancer’s Pose, Fierce / Chair Pose, Standing Forward Bend, Standing Forward Bend (Hands Clasped), Crane / Crow, Table, Far Reaching Eastern Bend, Far Reaching Western Bend, Seated Upright Twist, Seated Upright Bound Twist, Bridge, Upward Facing Wheel, Plow, Reclining Spinal Twist, Whole Body / Shoulder Stand, Hand Stand, Elbow Stand, Head Stand, and Savasana. (N.B. Not all poses are included in this practice.) Other Special Features are Senscape – Harmonic Ambience (sound recordings of the Sedona Sunrise, Bora Bora Experience, and Monteverde Cloudforest), a blurb advising you to check out Mark’s website for information on Retreats, Seminars, and Teacher Training, photos of Illusion Factory Products, and a link to Contact Mark.

Conclusion: Warning: This yoga video may fry your upper body and legs, cause you to become soaked with sweat, and test your strength and endurance to their limits! Some slightly different combinations and variations, primarily in standing forward folds and the like, and the emphasis on the upper body set this apart from other power yoga videos out there.
The practice is athletic in nature, although Mark encourages you to be mindful of your breath and movement. During the savasana he gets a little mystical, mentioning the third eye and asking you to visualize world colors and unity, but that’s about it. Mark primarily uses English names for poses when he names them.
This is the only one of the Sedona series that I have seen, so I can’t compare it to the others (Core, Flow, Stretch, and Culmination).
I’m glad I borrowed this before I caved on the whole set because my elbow did not agree with all of those chaturangas. A few things about the flow and production bothered me (the transition between the two segments which has you start winding down and then suddenly doing another round of standing balancing poses, the throat clearing during savasana), but I was not disappointed in the scenery. My final verdict: although this video may not work for me, there’s no reason why it can’t be a good program for someone else.

Instructor Comments:
This video feels like a filmed live class that just happens to be set in an amazing place. Mark’s cueing reflects that and doesn’t include copious instruction, particularly on form and alignment (although the same could be said for many power yoga practices). You may find yourself looking at the screen several times to see exactly what he means or to which side he is referring; with repeated viewings this will be less of an issue. Mark encourages you to enjoy the practice, to challenge but not force yourself. He often says something like, “Man, that’s good stuff!” or “My goodness, what a beautiful pose!”, although at other times he emphasizes the difficulty, usually followed by a reminder to push yourself or rest. He also states, “You are only practicing yoga if you are truly enjoying what you’re doing,” “You cannot muscle your way through postures,” and “It’s called yoga practice, not yoga perfect.” Some may find Mark’s encouragement a bit much (like the poor guy who keeps getting told, “Smile, dude!”), but he’s sincerely excited about his love for yoga. Two things that caught my ear: Mark says phrases like “My goodness!” a good amount; he also refers to the body, poses, or the sky using feminine pronouns rather than the neuter.