Yoga Focus

Karen Voight
Year Released: 2002

Categories: Yoga



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Note: This particular workout has gone by many names. Originally sold as Yoga Focus, several years ago Karen’s company repackaged it as Yoga Power. And, as noted by previous reviewers, this is one of the two workouts found on the compilation Sleek Physique, which has for a while been sold as Slim Physique instead (most likely to distinguish it from Karen’s Sleek Essentials kit, which is something different and does not have this workout). Got all that?

I’m reviewing this workout after doing the yoga strength portion 3x and the yoga stretch portion too many times to count.

General workout breakdown: Previous reviews have given a good overview of the two yoga practices on here, but I’ll go into a little more detail and give my opinion of them.

- Yoga Strength (30 min.)
This practice begins kneeling, moves into child’s pose and then into downward dog; from there you’ll move between down dog, plank, and lowering push-up. Karen brings you down to the floor for cobra, followed by a cat stretch on all fours, before repeated the down dog – plank – push-up flow and introducing upward-facing dog (beginning with a bent-leg version I’ve only seen once or twice elsewhere). You’ll come to standing for a few rounds of half sun salutes, to which Karen adds chair pose. Next comes side planks, up dog into 1-legged down dog into crescent, 1-legged down dog into warrior 1 & bowing warrior w/ hands clasped behind back, and lowering push-up into up dog into down dog to bring you up to standing. The standing series includes triangle & half moon (Karen oddly calls this “triangle pose over one leg”), warrior 2 – side angle – reverse warrior – side angle (variation), wide-legged standing forward bend, pyramid w/ reverse prayer hands & then hands clasped behind back – twisted triangle, dancer’s pose, and standing forward bend. You’ll then come to the mat for boat pose lowering into curl w/ 1 or both knees to chest, bridge, and ends with knees to chest
I can’t quite pinpoint why I can’t get into this segment. It’s nice, just not for me. I’ve read a few folks admit they love it, though, so definitely try it for yourself.

- Yoga Stretch (24.5 min.)
This practice begins seated and never gets up off of the floor. You’ll begin with upper body stretches that include a triceps stretch, cow’s face arms w/ forward bend, and hands clasped behind back and then moved to one side to aid in a neck stretch (done with two different head positions). Next you’ll put your knee over the opposite ankle, which is deepened by moving to the back and then into a twist; you’ll also do a quadriceps / hip flexor stretch, followed by a deeper version (a sort of pretzel with the body leaning away), and a seated forward bend with legs crossed. You’ll continue with 1-legged wide angle pose with a side bend, wide angle w/ forward bend, seated forward bend w/ both legs extended, head to knee pose (1-legged seated forward bend), and seated twist into Marichi’s pose I w/ bind. You’ll come onto the back for a reclined twist and end in reclined bound angle. (If you want to stay down, the credits roll right after, giving you another minute of the same music before returning to the silent main menu.)
There are many good reasons why all of the previous reviews focus on this segment. It’s worth the price of the DVD (whichever version you get) just for this. I agree this is great for lower body flexibility especially; the upper body stretches are good, but they’re a bit tricky to do if you come to this routine cold.

Level: I’d recommend this to somewhat experienced but not necessarily advanced exercisers with some body awareness and preexisting strength and flexibility. Prior yoga experience isn’t necessary but may prove helpful, especially if you need to modify or substitute more than Kathy does.
I got this when I was still relatively new to yoga (it had probably been about 2 years since I started dipping my toe into the idea of yoga), and this one worked well for me at that point because of Karen’s instruction, although I found it challenging. I’ve been practicing yoga for almost 8 years now and am probably at a low intermediate level. I’m still working on strength and especially flexibility (something that comes very slowly to me, even with steady work), and I have one or two physical issues (namely a cranky elbow that doesn’t like chaturangas). This is definitely less challenging these days, but I agree with Laura that even now I can’t approach the modifier in some of the forward bends in the stretch portion. Of course, when I first started I could barely sit upright in the splits position, much less dream of putting my head on a block standing on its tall end, so I am pleased with my improvement. This is a good time to remind yourself to work at your own pace, not to compare yourself to others but to respect where you’re at today and maybe reflect on progress you’ve made over time.

Set: the “chili pepper” set, which is a room with yellow walls, an Oriental rug on the floor, screens off to the side, and a sort of chili pepper-shaped sculpture hanging from the ceiling and a matching one on the floor (maybe we should call them the stalactite and stalagmite instead…).

Production: clear picture and sound, camera angles that are more helpful than distracting.

Equipment: For the yoga strength portion you’ll want a yoga sticky mat to keep you from slipping; a yoga mat is also a good idea for the yoga stretch portion, but really any comfortable mat or equivalent will do (after all, Karen and Kathy are just on the carpet). If you’re not as flexible as Karen (and kudos to you if you are!), you may want 2 (just 1 if you’re only intending to do the stretch) yoga blocks and a strap (substitute: towel, old tie, bathrobe belt).

Space Requirements: enough room to do a sun salutation and to lie down comfortably.

DVD Notes: I have the Yoga Focus DVD, which is OOP (out of print), where your options are Karen’s Introduction, Bonus Features (previews of other Karen Voight titles), Yoga Strength, and Yoga Stretch. There are no chapters within the workouts, and there’s no way to play all.

Comments: This is one of the rare videos that works both for those who prefer to think of yoga as a workout, who want an athletic / Western approach to yoga, and for those who love yoga as a practice, who can’t separate the physical poses from millennia of yogic traditions and its Eastern roots. Karen has a genuine appreciation for yoga as a discipline and has studied with at least one of the true masters, Erich Schiffmann. And yet by focusing on the postures she makes this very approachable to those who prefer not to get into all of the stuff popular culture associates with yoga (the funny names for poses, the foreign language, the philosophical underpinnings, the wacky phrases).

My fears are coming true: I’ve done the yoga stretch so many times I think my copy is trying to give up the ghost. Nooooo! (The case itself is already a lost cause, with “visible shelf wear” being a nice way of putting its current condition.) When I was in the thick of my several years’ long on again, off again battle with an illness this was one of the few “workouts” I could handle; sadly, some days sitting on the floor for 25 min. and stretching was a workout. I found a few other gentle, flexibility-focused yoga videos that were also all done on the floor, including Rainbeau Mars’ Pure Tranquility and Kathleen Anderson’s Yoga in the Garden of Serenity, but honestly I burned out on them. Karen’s yoga stretch is just about the only one I’ve kept from that time period because it’s so thorough and nicely done I can’t bear to get rid of it. On days when I can’t bring myself to do much or can’t decide what to do I can always pull out this one. And when Karen recently released her Full Body Stretch I jumped on it to alternate with her yoga stretch, just in case my copy really is dying.

Instructor Comments:
Karen’s focus is on cuing and instructing. That said, I have to confess that I’ve done the stretch portion so many times I could do it in my sleep, so I’m not the best judge of how effective or good her cuing is in that portion, but I will say that upon revising the strength portion I did find it a little tricky in a few parts to know exactly what Karen meant by her cues alone. In the strength portion she provides some (mirrored) directional cues as in “right” and “left,” whereas in the stretch portion she doesn’t really use any, rather saying things like “back leg,” “the other arm,” etc. There is absolutely no extraneous chatter, which doesn’t help alleviate what can come off as a lack of personality and warmth. I don’t mind, as I’d rather have someone get down to business on talking me through things than trying to engage me in an awkward one-sided conversation. I feel Karen comes off as sincere and earnest in helping you discover a practice she herself has found beneficial.
Karen alternates between cuing live and cuing via voiceover. This is done rather seamlessly, and Karen’s voice doesn’t change much in volume, tone, speed, etc., between the two.

KathAL79

11/04/2010

I got the Sleek Physique DVD for the Yoga Stretch section of Yoga Focus. Since that is the only section I’ve done, I’ll post the review under Yoga Focus.

Recently, I’ve been trying to add more stretching to my fitness routine. I have found that I don’t enjoy many yoga tapes because of the “woo woo” factor; I do enjoy more athletic stretch routines. This routine was highly recommended as a good stretch and I knew that Karen Voight’s presentation is very straightforward and matter of fact. I did enjoy this workout and it left me feeling relaxed and stretched out.

It is a 25-minute workout and it is Karen and one background exerciser with the background exerciser showing modifications when they were presented. Karen does some upper body stretches and then spends more time on the lower body. I felt like she hit the hips area really hard, which is great given how tight I am in that area.

There were a couple of moves that I couldn’t even get close to achieving even what the modifier shows. But, I have learned to ignore that fact and go as far as I can. It would have been nice to have the acknowledgement that there is a wide range of flexibility, but it didn’t mar my enjoyment of the workout. At the end, I felt stretched, relaxed and generally wonderful.

Instructor Comments:
After Karen's woodeness in Pure and Simple Stretch, I was apprehensive about this video. However, she is her normal, calm, explanatory self without the total lack of personality.

Laura S.

09/10/2004

This 25 minute yoga stretch is part of the Sleek Physique DVD. This is the only section I do from this DVD. Yoga Stretch was my favorite add-on stretch until I discovered Slim & Limber. I think I did it every day for three weeks in a row last year. All the stretches are done supine or sitting on the floor. (I love that!)

Karen starts with the upper body and then on to lower body stretches. As the title states, the stretches are yoga based. Most of them are fairly easy. But I always have trouble with those darn seated straddle-leg forward bends.

There is one female background exerciser who shows some modifications. The set is well-lit. There are colorful carpets on the floor. The music (with some vocals) is so peaceful and relaxing. Just perfect! You will need a yoga strap and a yoga block for this routine.

There is a brief relaxation at the end of the routine.

Instructor Comments:
I don't have many of Karen’s workouts anymore. Her cardio cueing eludes me. Even the cueing on her weight tapes is hard to follow. But she shines brightly in her yoga-based workouts that I own!

Alta

02/26/2004

See also reviews of Sleek Physique, Karen's DVD which contains all the footage from Yoga Focus.

Great yoga video. The strength part is fab and really workds you hard. I was sweating buckets within the frist 10 minutes. The second half is very easy and stressfree. It is a good relaxing stretch and one i recommend to anyone who has 30 mins extra after a workout or just wants some peace and a quiet place for themselves.

Instructor Comments:
Karen Looks stunning. Her form (as always) is beautiful. I have always loved Karen Voight and have all her videos. It seems her attitude to fitness has changed somewhat over the years but i'm sure this is a natural progression. However, perhaps its just me, but her breasts seem to be increasing in size from previous videos.

Wayne Goss

11/02/2003