Yoga in the Garden of SerenityKathleen Anderson
Year Released: 2001
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I've had my eye on this video for a long time because I had heard it includes a great segment of neck stretches--as with many people these days, my neck and shoulders get very tight from sitting at a computer all day. Yoga in the Garden of Serenity did not disappoint: since getting it less than a week ago, I've already done the neck segment three times, and I love it more every time.
The first great thing about this DVD is that not only is it chaptered, but also it is completely programable. The main menu allows you to select the five chapters in any order you prefer; if you have less time, you can do a few chapters only (the sole limitation is that you can't select the same chapter twice). As the name would imply, instructor Kathleen Anderson leads the practice in a garden setting, providing mirrored voiceover instruction with soft piano music playing in the background. The entire practice is performed in a seated or lying position; some of the stretches are recognizable yoga poses, some are not, and many are performed in a flowing, almost dance-like manner. I have provided short descriptions of each of the five chapters below (times are approximate):
Three Part Breath, <6 minutes. Here Kathleen leads you through a breathing sequence, encouraging you to expand your abdomen, ribs, and lungs with air.
Neck and Shoulders, 10.5 minutes. In this wonderful segment, Kathleen thoroughly stretches the neck and upper shoulder area. Although she performs traditional moves such as rolling the neck and turning the head from side to side, she adds unique twists--for example, holding one ear with the opposite hand and circling the elbow of that arm. It's absolutely amazing how much more open my neck feels after doing this segment.
Torso, 15.5 minutes. This is probably the most flowing of the five segments. From a seated position, Kathleen opens up the torso with side bends and twists, adding shoulder circles to enhance the stretch. She also opens the hips with double pigeon (although this is done a bit too quickly) and additional stretches in a wide-legged seated position.
Gate Series, 15 minutes. Here Kathleen does what she calls "passive spinal twists"; "passive" seems to be a misnomer though, as I felt this was the most active segment. She also performs a pigeon series on the knees that is a bit more challenging than anything else on the video.
Prepare for Relaxation, 11 minutes. Kathleen prepares you for relaxation pose by first performing knee circles to release your lower back, then tensing and releasing your arms and legs to fully relax the body. She encourages you to remain in relaxation pose for 8-10 minutes, and the music continues to allow for this.
The complete practice comes in at about 58 minutes; I've enjoyed doing the practice in its entirety as well as individual segments. This video would be perfect for someone who is looking for a yoga practice mainly to provide relaxation and very gentle stretching. I don't think any prior yoga experience is necessary; all levels of yogis, from beginners to more advanced, can benefit from this practice. As an intermediate myself, I loved it and know that I will use it often.
Kathleen provides voiceover instruction in a soft, soothing voice. Her mirrored cueing is generally very good, although she doesn't always cue transitions ahead of time. She also has a habit of repeating certain cues (eg, "move in the opposite direction...opposite direction"), but this didn't bother me. According to her introduction, Kathleen is certified in Kripalu yoga, and she blended both Kripalu and Iyengar in this practice. Finally, she has a background in various other disciplines as well, including dance, Pilates, and the Alexander technique.
background about me - I consider myself at an advanced beginner level for yoga. I tend to like medium paced flow practices along with relaxation/restorative practices. Favorites include: Total Yoga the Original, Yoga Shakti, Pure Tranquility, and Yoga in the Garden of Serenity.
setting - The practice is filmed in a rustic outside garden with wildflowers. The instruction is voiceover with Kathleen performing the postures.
DVD composition - The DVD is divided into the following chapters:
Three Part Breath
Neck and Shoulders
Preparation for Relaxation
The practice clocks in around an hour. However, similar to Yoga Shakti there is a matrix feature where you can set up your own program.
music - This is a definite thumbs up. Beautiful classical music. A nice change of pace from your typical yoga music.
review - Kathleen has a Kripalu background as well as being schooled in pilates and a number of other techniques that I can't seem to remember the name of.
The practice is geared towards office workers who spend a lot of time at their desks. Kathleen uses nice fluid movements to help loosen up the body. The neck and shoulder sequences are just divine, although truthfully there isn't a part of the practice that I don't love. I find the practice loosens up my neck, shoulders, hamstrings, hips and just leaves me feeling very calmed and centered.
I would say if you are looking for a nice gentle yoga practice, this one might be just about perfect.
Kathleen Anderson has a very soothing presence. She has a pleasant voice and does a great job of describing the different yoga postures.
I’m reviewing this workout after doing this several times in the few months I’ve had it.
General workout breakdown: This is an approximately 55 minute yoga-based workout that focuses on releasing tension and increasing flexibility. Kathleen is a Kripalu-certified instructor who has studied the Iyengar method a little and also has experience with dance, Pilates, and Alexander techniques; she fuses all with athletic stretches into a flowing workout that is unlike anything else I have seen.
The video is done almost entirely seated; there are a few poses where you sit on your shins, though, and you lie on your back for most of the relaxation segment. The video includes the following segments: Three Part Breath, Neck & Shoulder [sic] (which is more for the neck, although there are some nice hand massages), Torso, Gate Series (i.e. lower body), and Prepare for Relaxation (gentle twists leading into savasana). The savasana is fairly short if you come up when Kathleen says good-bye, but the quiet after that allows you to stay down longer if you want.
Level: I’d recommend this to someone with at least a little experience with yoga and/or stretching and a decent level of flexibility since Kathleen doesn’t include a lot of form instruction or tips or many modifications. While this may be best suited for an experienced beginner through an intermediate, there’s no reason why someone who’s more advanced couldn’t use it for a rest day. I consider myself a low intermediate in yoga; I have over three years of experience but am still working on my strength and flexibility. I found this video appropriate for me, although I modified one or two poses based on my inability to reach as far as Kathleen or to balance as well as she does.
Class: Kathleen alone, with instruction via voiceover.
Music: Soft, beautiful harp music.
Set: Kathleen sits in various corners of a garden, with lush green grass and flowers; trees block some of the afternoon sun. (Kathleen assumes you’re also in a garden. Since the university would object if I sat in their flowers, I have to settle for sitting in my apartment and gazing longingly at hers.)
Production: Decent picture and sound. The camera generally remains steady and on all of Kathleen. The voiceover matches up with the moves well.
Equipment: sticky mat (or equivalent), although Kathleen just sits on the ground. Kathleen performs barefoot.
Space Requirements: enough room to stretch your arms and legs out fully while seated or lying down.
DVD Notes: The DVD allows you to select a chapter (see the segments listed under General workout breakdown) and/or program the chapters in any order you want. The main menu pops right up; the warnings, etc., play once you hit “Play Program” unless you program your own routine.
Conclusion: I’m keeping this one. It’s great for those days when you just don’t feel like doing more than sitting around, and it’s great for the neck.
Yoga in the Garden of Serenity’s not quite like anything else I have, although I have several other yoga stretch programs that are all seated: Karen Voight’s Yoga Focus (now Yoga Power; also the stretch segment on Sleek/Slim Physique), Rainbeau Mars’ Pure Tranquility, and segments from Body Wisdom Media’s Yoga for Every Body and Yoga for Inflexible People. If you especially enjoy the neck stretches, Ana Forrest provides the best instruction I’ve come across on how to release tension in the neck; I apply her principles from Strength & Spirit and Pleasure of Strength to this video and feel that I get more out of it. Actually, my neck tensed back up the first time I did this; after applying Ana’s lessons and then reprogramming the sequence so that the neck & shoulders sequence come last I don’t have that problem any more. If you want more shoulder stretches, I highly recommend Erich Schiffmann’s series, found in his Backyard Series: Beginning Yoga or in Moving Into Stillness.
This video contains little reference to anything spiritual or New Agey, although it is a mindful and perhaps even meditative practice. I don’t think most people would feel uncomfortable with what Kathleen says.
Kathleen has a soft, calming voice and pleasant, gently positive persona that is perfect for this video. She does have a habit of repeating a word or phrase which is obviously meant to be calming, which generally works except when she says, “This pose is said to be good for insomnia…[pause]…insomnia.” Kathleen, a Boston area resident, gently drops her “r”s, but she enunciates clearly. She cues well and mirror cues, but she doesn’t spend a lot of time describing form, which I wish she had done for some of the less common stretches, particularly in the Gate Series. She spends about an equal amount of time on each side, but one or two small moves are not repeated on the other side. Kathleen’s philosophy may be best summarized by this statement from the video: “Yoga is a work in, not a work out.”
In 2004, I got into stretching workouts as a way of relaxing myself and dealing
with really tight muscles, especially in the neck and shoulders. Since starting
this, I have seen some real flexibility gains and have loosened up my neck and shoulder
area. As a result, I am always on the lookout for stretch DVDs/videos that stretch
out the neck and shoulder area. I was intrigued when reading the description of
this workout because it included what promised to be a great stretch for this region
of the body. I ended up trading for it, rather than buying it.
For me, someone who has begun to edge into doing yoga a bit more over time, this workout had different moves that I haven't seen before. Some of them were effective and left me feeling loose and relaxed. The neck section, in particular, was WONDERFUL and left my neck and shoulders feeling soooo good. Other moves, however, left me feeling a bit silly as I was doing them. "Swaying like a palm tree" just isn't something I get into. This workout clocks in at around an hour, longer than I usually like to spend on this type of workout.
Kathleen Anderson does a good job a leading the workout and gives good instructions and descriptions of the moves. The language is a bit flowery, but very descriptive of what she is doing. The instruction for the workout is done with her speaking in voice over. It matches up well with the moves.
She is very calm and serene throughout the workout.