The Yoga Experience: The Journey Begins

Shakti Mhi
Year Released: 2005

Categories: Yoga

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I’m reviewing this workout after doing two of the routines and previewing the others.

General workout breakdown: Shakti promises classic hatha yoga, and she delivers over four and half hours of gentle yoga on this DVD. The pace is deliberate and flowing, with no sitting around waiting for Shakti to finish explaining anything. The focus is on the breath; this is a mindful, meditative practice, meant to stimulate the prana (life force).
There are five routines, all of which share the same 16.5 min. savasana sequence (which begins seated in sukhasana, or cross-legged pose; while supine Shakti has you direct your breath to various parts of the body to release them, and then you spend the next approximately 10 min. in silence; Shakti helps you come back to an aware, alert state and return to seated).
*Awakening the Spine (47 min. w/o savasana): Begin in sukhasana to center yourself and bring your attention to your breath; a variety of upper body stretches follow, leading into spinal flexion and contraction and then side bends. You then move to your back, with your knees into your chest, then rolling side to side, returning to center with head drawn toward knees; after reclined twist with legs bent, repeat the knees into chest, rocking, and drawing head toward knees, then with arms extended. Next comes bridge, followed by the same sequence, with legs also extended in the last posture. Next comes a supported shoulderstand, with legs bent, then extended overhead, angled behind you, and then full shoulderstand, coming out with knees bent by ears and finally slowly rolling down vertebra by vertebra. After drawing legs into chest and rocking, then drawing the head to the knees, you do fish pose, releasing your neck after you come out. An abdominal strengthener comes next, followed by rocking side to side with the knees into the chest. After a few moments in supta baddha konasana, you rock on your spine and come into sukhasana. You then come into a low lunge into crescent lunge followed by down dog (playing around with the feet in down dog to stretch different areas), child’s pose, sphinx, and down dog in between sides. After another down dog, you walk back into a standing forward fold, with hands clasped behind the back, rolling slowly up into tadasana. The sequence ends with vrksasana.
*Strength & Balance (51.5 min. w/o savasana): Begin in sukhasana to center yourself and bring your attention to your breath. Come onto all fours for cat and cow, then lower into child’s pose, finally slowly rolling up into vajrasana. This sequence follows: ballet pose (with leg lifted off of the floor), seated twist with countertwist, and janu sirsasana. After sukahasana, a stabilization exercise on all fours (with leg and then opposite arm raised) with cat in between, and child’s pose, rolling up to vajrasana, you repeat the ballet pose through janu sirsasana sequence on the other side.
*Sun Salutations: 1, 2, or 3 rounds. These begin in tadasana and start right into a Sun Salutation B (with chair). The knee is placed on the ground for the lunge, Shakti goes into plank (rather than down dog), crocodile, cobra, and then up into down dog before lunging on the other side and coming back up to chair, followed by slowly rolling up into tadasana. A round includes both sides and lasts 9.5 min.

Level: I’d recommend this to beginners (some experience helpful and probably best) through beginners / intermediates in yoga; intermediate yogi(ni)s would find this a good refresher and/or restorative practice. Shakti provides a lot of instruction as well as breath and form pointers, so this is good for those without much yoga experience; in fact, this would make a great home practice for those who take a beginning hatha yoga class. The shoulderstand might be a bit much for true beginners, though. There are some modifications suggested, specifically the use of props like a blanket to help those who have stiff spines, hips, and hamstrings.

Class: Shakti Mhi alone, with instruction via voiceover. There are a few inserts where a man shows a modification.

Music: very quiet Indian-sounding (alternates between a sitar and a harp-like instrument).

Set: candle-lit interior set covered with rich fabrics in warm browns and reds. There are potted plants like orchids and small images of Buddha scattered about.

Production: clear picture and sound with very quiet music.

Equipment: yoga mat (or equivalent). A blanket, cushion, and/or bolster would be helpful, especially if you need extra support in sitting and supine poses. Shakti also recommends a blanket and bolster for savasana.

Space Requirements: enough room to perform a full sun salutation without bumping into things and lie on the floor with enough room around you to move your limbs around. You’ll want some space behind you if you do the Spine sequence.

DVD Notes: The main menu includes these options: Before You Begin (Shakti goes through the usual cautions), Routines, Interview with Shakti (Shakti discusses the aim of the practice, happiness in practicing yoga to reach the higher self, searching for her yoga practice, the inner guru, what yoga is, beauty, teaching, and the path of yoga), Yoga Teacher Training, and Credits.

Conclusion: This video reminds me a lot of the beginning hatha yoga class I took in college that jump-started my interest in yoga. The Spine sequence made my healthy but sometimes stiff back feel good; the Strength & Balance was a nice, gentle flowing routine; but I had a hard time warming up to the slow sun salutations. (I admit it: I’m still warming up to sun salutations in general.) I’m kicking myself for forgetting about this video when I had mono recently; it would have been a wonderful restorative practice at that time.
While many people may find this video informative, Shakti’s manner of instruction and the slow pace may not appeal to everyone.
Shakti promotes a mindful practice, but it’s not overtly spiritual. Her interview is worth watching; not only does she have a pleasant, warm personality (I wish a little more of that had crept into her voiceover), but also she has some interesting and worthwhile thoughts about a personal yoga practice.
The spinal sequence sort of reminded me of Hemalaya Behl’s Evening Bath (Yoga for Urban Living) and Chill Vibe (from Yoga for Young Bodies) as well as Shiva Rea’s Lunar Flow from Yoga Shakti.

Instructor Comments:
Shakti is serious about yoga and its traditions. She provides a good deal of instruction on both breath and form and also mentions intended benefits of the poses, including some that are more yogic in nature (e.g. stimulation of organs or glands) and some that are more superficial (e.g. toning body parts). Her Israeli accent and deeper voice are very melodious; in fact, her speech blends with a sort of singing / chanting at times. (She’ll say something like, “And inhale…breathe…breathe….breathe…”) Shakti has over thirty years of yoga experience, which means she’s close to 45 years old, but she looks my age (mid-twenties)!