Yoga for BeginnersDesi Bartlett
Year Released: 2008
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Splendid photography & setting, superb instruction and 2 unique offerings create a wonderful practice for beginners (and others who may need a more gentle sequence). Done in voiceover, Desi always lets the viewer know exactly what to do. (the dvd provides optional Spanish and Spanglish audio tracks)
The Solar practice is more vigorous but still attainable for beginners. It incorporates powerful moves to build strength and tone the muscles. Solar is an appropriate name as it provides "energizing" poses such as sun salutations, standing postures and deep back bends. (wonderful sequence for preparing for the day) The running time is approximately 25 minutes, which is ideal for a quick session in the morning.
The Lunar practice is gentle, providing a great way to "unwind" at the end of the day. Lots of stretches and longer holds elongate (and unkink) the muscles. Mostly done on the floor, you'll really open up the hips and lower body and release overall tension. (great way to prepare for sleep)
Shot in 16:9 widescreen, you can choose to do either session or both for a well rounded experience.
See a clip at: http://www.acacialifestyle.com/renee/
"Yoga for Beginners" with Desi Bartlett is a nice two-part yoga practice and I like to reach for it from time to time but unfortunately it has been mislabelled - it is definitely not "Yoga for (Complete) Beginners". A different title such as ever popular "AM/PM Yoga Flow" would be much more suitable. It is an interesting offering though if you know what you're buying and I'm happy I own it.
The DVD is split into two practices: Solar Flow and Lunar Flow, ca. 25 minutes each. Both are filmed in a large sun filled room with some plant pots or rugs visible in the background (probably more Tex-Mex than Indian style but very pleasant and uplifting - you can see sun rays shooting through the windows!). I really like the music - a pulsing Eastern style instrumental score, it feels original and energising. The only visual difference between the two practices is that Desi is wearing different tops in each of them: a coral top in Solar Flow and a deep blue one in Lunar Flow. The light is good, the angles are helpful and steady, there is no funny camera work which I like. Overall I would rank production values very high, with special points for light and music.
While you can do the flows separately they are designed in such a way that you can also combine them in one 50 minute practice. Solar Flow is more energetic and consists of several rounds of sun salutations moving into mini flows incorporating standing poses and including more advanced poses such as dolphin or boat variations (linked with vinyasas). The practice ends up in a seated position and Lunar Flow picks up from there. It starts with circular movement warmups and flowing side stretches in a seated position, then goes through some standing poses and bridge variations with leg lifts but mostly concentrates on stretching and hip opening with a variety of lunges, forward folds, wide leg side stretches etc. These are really well designed and can definitely improve your flexibility. The practice then ends with savasana.
Desi instructs well and her dance background shows through a little in her demonstration and sequencing. There are some interesting pose links if you like this type of inspiration. I believe that Micheline Berry was also involved in this production - it is much more straightforward yoga than Micheline's Liquid Asana series though, with just a tiny bit of fluid flavour, mostly in warmups. Desi is very positive - she instructs via voiceover and you can feel this energy and smile in her voice. The practice is designed to make you feel good and energised - which it does!
While I find it very pleasant, I would not recommend it to yoga beginners and definitely not to people who are new to exercise in general. There are much better options around. While Desi guides you through your first sun salutes, she then picks up speed and there is definitely not enough alignment work or exploration for a true beginner. For example, her instruction for Warrior II placement is something along the lines of "find a stable base for your feet and rise up". If you don't know this pose already you can only imitate Desi's stance which might or might not work. Some asanas such as aforementioned dolphin or low (difficult!) boat are definitely too much for those who have just learnt their first down dog. Some of the Lunar stretches will probably be too advanced as well. Desi does provide alternative options in her instruction but in demonstration she always goes for the deepest variation and easier variations seem to be more of an afterthought than a viable or recommended option.
I would therefore classify this DVD as a flow practice suitable for advanced beginners or low intermediates instead, with the prerequisite of knowing your sun salutes and basic standing poses well. This way it is very enjoyable and energising but if I got it as my first yoga DVD I would have struggled with the speed and the lack of foundation tips. Also while it's definitely "yoga yoga" as opposed to "gym yoga" it might be too mainstream for yoga practitioners looking for more spiritual or inner self focused offerings.
Please note - if you are bothered by this kind of thing! - that Desi's tops are cut quite low so you are bound to see some glimpses of Desi's impressive cleavage when she lowers down to chaturanga. Also her makeup and hair are more elaborate than your typical yoga instructor's - again if it matters. It didn't matter for me.
Bottom line: nice mainstream yoga flows suitable for use as an AM/PM or a full practice but do not expect true beginner instruction.