Simply Spoga/Spoga, The Mind/Body 'anti-aging' WorkoutsMichelle Lee
Year Released: 2004
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In her introduction to the workout, instructor Melinda Lee says that Spoga is a combination of Hatha, Kundalini and Tibetan yoga and that it also borrows from Qigong, Pilates, and aerobics. I saw minimal evidence of the latter, as the bulk of this half hour workout is a practice of the 5 Tibetan Rites, five ancient exercises that are supposed to help one stay energized and youthful (try a google search if you are unfamiliar with the rites).
The Spoga DVD is broken up roughly into 3 10-minute sections. The first, "Connect with Your Body," helps you to set an intention for the practice and to focus on breath. You'll spend several minutes waving your arms over your head, bouncing on your legs, and panting; I felt pretty silly doing this, but I have to admit, it was energizing. Following this, you move to the floor for a few yoga poses, including twists, butterfly (using the bellows breath), and boat; you also roll like a ball as in Pilates.
Next comes "Take Action," a practice of the Tibetan rites, or what Melinda calls the "Spogans." Each of the Spogans is performed 21 times, although Melinda encourages you to go at your own pace and do less reps if necessary. With the exception of the first Spogan, I found that the pace she set was too fast for me to keep up, so I did a few less than 21 reps each time. In all the Spogans, breath is connected with the movements, inhaling on the first part of the move and then exhaling on the second. The first Spogan is "Twirling Temple," turning around in a circle with your arms spread wide. This is likely to cause dizziness in most people, but Melinda does allow you to pause to regroup at the end. She calls the second Spogan "Double Waterfall." Basically, you are standing on your knees, and lean back slightly as if performing Camel pose (you don't do the full pose); you then curl forward slightly. She finishes with a full Camel pose at the end. The third Spogan, "Rising Tide," involves lying in a reclined position while raising and lowering your legs and head. For the fourth Spogan, "Wave," you start seated with your legs in front of you (Staff pose) and then move to Table pose. Finally, the last Spogan, "Hi-tide/lo-tide," has you move from Down Dog to Upward Dog. In-between each Spogan, there are pauses on your back to take deep breaths and "integrate" your work.
The final segment of the video, "Connect with Your Spirit," is a guided meditation while lying in savasana. Melinda has you imagine being on a flying carpet and landing on a peaceful beach. Her soothing voiceover is accompanied by relaxing images on screen, but since your eyes are supposed to be closed, you don't really get to appreciate these (I peeked!). I definitely found this to be relaxing, especially after performing the Spogans, which were quite strenuous. The practice finishes in a seated position with final intention and breathing instruction.
Melinda states that this is an advanced practice, and I was able to follow along without any problems; however, I practice yoga regularly, and I've done the 5 Tibetans in the past. Those with little or no yoga experience will probably want to begin with the other Spoga video, "Simply Spoga." Although this video provided a nice change of pace, I can't really imagine doing it regularly. However, it might work well for someone who is not a fan of traditional yoga and would like a more energizing yoga-inspried practice.
Melinda was fine as instructor, she cued well (without a lot of instruction though) and frequently encouraged you to let loose and have fun. Many of her comments had a new-agey feel to them--for example, encouraging you to connect to the earth, to envision happiness and truth, etc.
This is a beautifully produced series that helps relieve stress and activate your energy. Greg Twombly of CIA Productions produced the series. The set is very pretty, warmed with lighted candles throughout. Melinda Lee, a certified yoga instructor, leads both workouts.
Simply Spoga is the gentler version of the two. It contains three different segments, 10 minutes each, so if you are short on time do as many as you’d like in the time you have.
Section 1 begins in a seated position. A breathing meditation relaxes and energizes you all at the same time. This section prepares you for section 2. Following the meditation is a wonderful seated twist/side bend to both sides of the body. Then using a towel for assistance, Melinda does some wonderful stretches. A shoulder release, seated hamstring stretch and a move called the “butterfly” all use the towel to effectively stretch the muscles. The butterfly stretch also releases the groin area and activates your energy stores. Cat stretch and upward dog pose end this section which brings you to the standing grounding exercise. The grounding exercise helps align posture.
Section 2 begins the 5 Spoga’s, the 5 basic moves Melinda uses in her series to slow you down while moving your body. Twirling moves (I found myself getting dizzy the first couple of times I did this move so I followed the modifier) followed by hands to small of back & your head moves slowly up and down to elongate/stretch your neck. A move called “calm sea” follows this. (you are on your back, palms up, and you breathe in deep and sigh) Rising Tide is a move that works your abdominal muscles where your head and knees come up rhythmically together. The Wave is a flowing bridge which is followed by a moving session of child’s pose/upward dog.
Section 3 is a guided meditation on your back. Pretty visuals are displayed on the screen throughout this segment.
Spoga has the same three sections but it’s a little more advanced. However, as in the Simply Spoga, 1 person modifies when appropriate. Melinda begins this session by activating chakra energy by doing an unusual panting/bouncing breathing exercise. (this one took me a few tries to get) Additional exercises include lying twists, rolling like a ball, v-sits, long lever abdominal exercises and a flowing upward/downward dog series.
I have enjoyed both of these workouts. They help to relax me (I love to use them at night for that same reason) and are easy enough to do in light clothing or pajama’s.
Melinda is professional and sincere. She comes across as taking everything lightly, nothing too serious. Her attitude is contagious!!