Yoga: Gentle Practice

Zyrka Landwijt
Year Released: 2008

Categories: Yoga

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I’m reviewing this workout after doing all of the practices and premixes once each.

General workout breakdown: This DVD has 2 distinct gentle yoga practices of just over 60 min., each of which has 2 shorter premixes (1 just over 30 min., which is the gentlest, and 1 just over 45 min., which adds in a few more challenging poses). Zyrka moves deliberately and allows for some (shortish) holds and pauses, without tons of down time between poses. Some poses are done more dynamically, some held for a few breaths. She sometimes does one or a few preparation poses before the full one (for example, raising and lowering each arm, then doing the same with a slight bend to the side, then doing a full side bend, which is held for slightly longer). All routines use the same savasana segment, which runs just over 5 min. and focuses on breathing different parts of the body.

*Series A is intended to be more accessible to those newer to the practice. Except for a short standing series, which only appears in the full routine, all postures are done seated, supine, prone, or kneeling. Postures include simple cross-legged seated for neck rolls, neck side to side, neck up and down, side bend, shoulder stretch / chest opener, and twist; releasing ankles and feet (moving side to side, rolling) with legs in front; baddha konasana (cobbler’s / bound angle) w/ upper body circles, cat & dog (sometimes called cat & cow) stretch, and side bends; balasana (child’s pose); tabletop (hands & knees) for cat & dog stretch, knee to nose / leg extended behind, leg extended behind with hip rotated externally, full body circles, thread arm under for twist, leg extended behind and across body, vasisthasana variation (a side bend prep), and half downward dog; adho mukha svanasana (downward-facing dog); a standing series with ardha uttanasana (half standing forward fold) w/ cat & dog stretch into full uttanasana (standing forward fold), tadasana (mountain) w/ shoulder rolls, half sun salutes, virabhadrasana I (warrior I), virabhadrasana II (warrior II), utthita trikonasana (triangle); vajrasana (seated on heels) into side bend & then twist w/ legs off to the side; parighasana (gate pose); janu sirsasana (head to knee pose); bridge; reclined twist w/ knees bent; and savasana.

*Series B incorporates slightly more challenging postures as well as a longer standing series. Postures include cross-legged seated pose w/ forward bend (both forward & to each side) and twist; releasing ankles and feet (moving side to side, rolling) with legs in front; balasana (child’s pose); tabletop (hands & knees) w/ cat & dog tilt into quarter down dog, and half down dog; downward-facing dog; a standing series w/ ardha uttanasana into uttanasana (standing forward fold), tadasana (mountain), ardha chandrasana I (half moon I, or a standing side bend), arm circles, half sun salutes, virabhadrasana I (warrior I), reverse warrior, virabhadrasana II (warrior II); plank, lowering onto belly, cobra, sphinx; ardha virasana (half hero) w/ rolling the upper torso, side bend, forward bend over bent knee, alternating forward & back bend, gentle back bend w/ leg extended, parivrrta janu sirsasana (head to knee w/ twist); knees side to side when seated; upavista konasana (wide angle) w/ side bend & forward bend; seated w/ knees to chest; seated on heels w/ cat & dog stretch; bridge, knees to chest, knees side to side, knee to chest w/ shin perpendicular to floor (sometimes called half happy baby / dead bug), ankle over opposite knee (sometimes called reclined pigeon), reclined leg stretch, reclined spinal twist; legs up the wall (w/ upavista konasana & baddha konasana variations shown); and savasana.

Level: I’d recommend this to people with perhaps a little yoga experience under their belt, either from a live class or a beginner’s yoga video or book. Regular exercisers who are still relatively new to yoga will probably find this a doable challenge (don’t panic if you don’t find it gentle at first!), while more experienced yogis will definitely find it gentle (although, depending upon your disposition, you may not care for the slow build-up to poses and modifications, like bent knees in forward bends, as much). Zyrka allows for some flexibility and strength limitations, so she modifies some postures, works with props, and moves slowly and deliberately both into and out of asanas.

Class: Zyrka alone, with instruction via voiceover.

Music: gentle, sparse instrumental, usually native flute.

Set: all-white interior.

Production: clear picture and sound (it was filmed in high def, after all), helpful and non-distracting camera angles that usually show all of Zyrka, and a voiceover that matches up with the moves well. During a few recommended modifications, a small inset picture shows Zyrka doing that variation.

Equipment: yoga sticky mat (or equivalent), blanket (you want something firm, like wool or woven cotton, rather than something squishy or fluffy), and a block; a strap is also mentioned as an option (substitute: old tie, belt, etc.). Zyrka assumes you are using the props, so she takes time to fold the blanket or grab / set aside props.

Space Requirements: enough room to lie down with limbs extended. You will also need access to a wall for legs up the wall in series B.

DVD Notes: The main menu brings up all of the choices right away: Start Here (Zyrka’s intro), Pose Guide (Zyrka gives detailed instruction, mentioning basic form information, some usual mistakes, and benefits as well as contraindications. This encompasses forward seated poses: forward fold, head to knee, bound angle, seated twist, child’s pose; extended poses: plank, cobra, updog, bridge; standing poses: mountain, tree, forward fold, wide leg fold, down dog, warrior one, warrior two, triangle, extended triangle; inversion poses: legs up wall, shoulder stand; and extras: vinyasa guidelines, breathing practice, attitude.), Credits, Series A routines (33 min., 48 min., and 63 min.), and Series B routines (32 min., 46 min., and 63 min.). The routines are chaptered into segments, a fact which allows for the shorter premixes. The transition between segments is done smoothly; Zyrka will take you into a child’s pose at the end of one segment, and the next picks up right there; if you’re not looking at the screen you might not even notice the transition, except for maybe a slight change in music after a tiny pause.

Comments: Personally I prefer Series B over Series A, even if Series B has a long hold in upavista konasana, one of my biggest nemeses. For one thing, even more bits and pieces of B, especially the opening sequences, remind me of some of Erich Schiffmann’s. For another, I’m not too fond of the knee to nose and subsequent sequences in Series A which leaves you on your wrists and knees for quite a while. For yet another, I’m always up for a reclining leg stretch series and legs up the wall.

Something petty: some of the arm movements get a little fussy for my tastes. (For example, in Series A, you transition from warrior II into triangle by bringing arms overhead, back to the heart, out and overhead again, and finally back down to where you started to reach into triangle.)

This may be gentle yoga, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to flop on the floor for the whole time. (If you want to do that, I’d recommend Evelyn Neaman’s Restorative Yoga or segments from Barbara Benagh’s Yoga for Stress Relief, Dr. Baxter Bell’s Yoga Journal Yoga for Stress, and Laura Hawes’ Yoga Therapy Prescriptions.) If you’re looking for similarly gentle yoga practices, try Kripalu Yoga – Gentle, the active segment from Dr. Baxter Bell’s Yoga Journal Yoga for Stress, Rod Stryker’s Yoga For Longevity (now Peak Performance Yoga), and Raji Thron’s Yoga Synthesis 1: Gentle Series “Sukha Vinyasa.” You might also like practices like Barbara Benagh’s AM / PM Yoga for Beginners (or perhaps also Yoga for Stress Relief or Body + Soul Yoga for Beginners), Sara Ivanhoe’s Crunch Candlelight Yoga, Diana Kovanda’s Yoga Cape Cod, Rainbeau Mars’ Pure Tranquility, Erich Schiffmann’s Backyard Series: Beginning Yoga, and Karen Voight’s Yoga Focus (now Yoga Power) stretch segment (which is also on Sleek Physique, now Slim Physique). If you’re ready for a little more challenge but at about the same pace, try Eoin Finn’s Pure & Simple Yoga. If you find yourself enjoying the moving in and out of poses with each breath more than the long holds, you might look into Viniyoga, such as Gary Kraftsow’s Viniyoga Therapy DVD series with Pranamaya.

Instructor Comments:
Zyrka has a pleasant voice. Although she mentions a fair number of form tips and reminders during the practice, she doesn’t include a ton of form instruction; those are found in the accompanying extras. She focuses on cuing basic position, move changes, and the breath, which she does well. She cues for her right and left (so no real mirror cuing.) Most of the time she just uses English names for poses, but sometimes she also includes the Sanskrit ones and other times none. She does a couple of things like tuck her hair behind her ears or tug on her shirt or flub a few cues (e.g. in the savasana she does the left buttocks out of order), but she still appears a knowledgeable instructor. As someone who’s young myself I don’t mind her at all (I have more confidence in her than Erin Pillman of Yoga on Demand, for example). Zyrka’s training comes from the Bhairavi Maha tradition of yoga.