Yoga For Your BackRama Berch
Year Released: 1994
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I’m reviewing this DVD after owning it for a year and dismissing it as “dated and too easy” after the first 25 minute segment (even though it eased my spine then). A recent hip/groin strain has caused me to revisit simpler, therapeutic yoga practices and delve into Rama’s early work with open heart and mind. This review is written in latter 2008, when a plethora of therapeutic yoga DVDs is on the market – viniyoga, yin yoga, rolling on balls, hip, eye, elbow, tonsil yoga, etc. Svaroopa Yoga for Your Back is copyrighted 1994, and makes no claims as far as medical studies or promises, but Rama’s practice will take you by the hand and gently lead you through a calming and gentle release of the spine from tailbone to crown of the head. You’ll just have to forgive her mullet and silky, colorful tights and tunics, which initially distracted me (I could almost feel the fabrics bunching up on me, but Rama seems at home in her brilliant garb).
I would recommend this for very beginners and anyone experiencing chronic but not acute back pain. The first segment is appropriate for a quick office yoga maintenance break, since it is done in a chair and clocks in at under 25 minutes (including a seated Savasana – if you’re lucky enough to have office space without a critic nearby). Props required for the full DVD are a light, supportive chair, some wall space, and a blanket or two. A carpeted or comfortable floor space is desirable; yoga mat and strap are optional. The production is quite nice - individual musicians contributed to the score of light and steady percussion, a keyboard/wind instrument arrangement, and Rama strumming her tamboura. She performs the poses in front of a tiered screen or near an austere wall space on carpet, cueing while demonstrating. Each exercise is punctuated with a wallpaper of Ganesha and the pose name written in English and Sanskrit, but sadly, this disc is not chaptered.
SESSION ONE – all in chair:
* Slow motion dive, seated and elbows braced on knees, letting supported spine slowly traction forward
* Thread the needle (Janu Sirsasana), above exercise performed with one ankle across opposite knee and slowly melting forward
* Brief chest expansion, a heart opening while grasping back of chair and breathing deeply into ribcage
* Slow dive repeated, legs a little wider
* The classic Svaroopa lunge but performed on the chair, rotating to sit sideways and gently lunging the free leg backward while using chair back to support spine upward with arms
* Gentle spinal twist, again turned sideways on the chair, assisting your twist with arms on back of chair
* Seated meditation/Savasana (tamboura soundtrack, petrel flying over ocean surf video track)
* Carries on session one or starts your floor work with legs up the wall, Hrdya Chitta Samvit (Mind Sits in the Heart) – I wish this were longer or there was an option to pause with tamboura soundtrack
* Janu Sirsasana (alternate ankle bent over thigh) while in legs up wall
* Roll out onto side and gently push up into Ragdoll, seated up against wall on a folded blanket (optional). Slowly roll forward as vertebrae allow, Rama guides and reminds not to over extend sore backs. Slowly roll up vertebrae by vertebrae against wall.
* Gentle forward lunge with back knee on floor
* “the Blade,” a gentle breathing shoulder opener
* Mild version of Garudasana or eagle arms to stretch upper spine and open back of heart. Rama demonstrates her fun side and this pose utilizes the yoga strap or an old tie if needed.
* Rotated stomach, a moderate spinal twist
* Knees into chest, then Savasana with a blanket roll under knees.
Rama Berch, founder of Svaroopa Yoga, instructs with a soft and tender voice, and her devotion to the practice of Yoga as union of body and mind is evident. She guides the home user into gentle spine releasing poses with occasional quotes from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, which may or may not be appealing. Svaroopa Yoga should be approached as a release of the central nervous system, not just bodywork. Her attire and the background of this video may seem dated (c. 1994). For more information visit www.masteryoga.org.