Yoga Journal's: Yoga Practice for Strength

Rodney Yee
Year Released: 2000

Categories: Yoga

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Note: I have a repackaged DVD version of this practice titled Rodney Yeeís Strength Building Yoga. From reading the reviews of Yoga Journalís Yoga Practice for Strength and the Yoga for Strength and Energy (which also has Yoga Journalís Yoga Practice for Energy, which seems now to be sold as Energy Balance Yoga) this is clearly the same practice.

Iím reviewing this workout after doing both sessions once.

General workout breakdown: Laura has already given a great overview of the two practices, and if you look up Yoga for Strength and Energy there are more descriptions. Iíll just add a few notes here:
Session I runs 36.5 min.; Session II runs 24 min. While thereís no real reason why you could not do both sessions back to back, other than the fact that your limbs may go on strike, the two sessions seem to be designed to be separate practices.
Session I actually begins with 4 progressive vinyasa sequences, working up to a full sun salutation with a few standing poses. Rodneyís pace through all of the vinyasas, both the 4 in Session I and the 1 in Session 2 (again at the beginning and repeated twice Ė this one comes with side arm balance, aka side plank) is measured and controlled; itís definitely not fast, but itís not molasses slow. Actually, if my cranky elbow and I had our way no vinyasa flow would be allowed to go faster than this!
Rodney brings you down into relaxation (savasana or corpse) at the end of each session and then almost immediately cuts away. Almost as soon as youíre down in Session I the next session begins, so grab the remote before you lie down if you find a sudden change in music and Rodney talking about the exhilaration of balance poses distracting. At least Session II just has the credits rolling afterwards (with the oh so 90s yoga music playing).

Level: Iíd recommend this to intermediate exercisers practicing yoga at least at a low intermediate level. You need to be strong, flexible, and comfortable enough with the basics and beyond, as youíll be practicing simple inversions and arm balances. Also, Rodney does not provide much instruction or modification suggestions.
Iíve been practicing yoga for a while (almost 8 years now), but Iím probably at a low intermediate level. I still have some strength and flexibility limits plus one or two physical issues, which is why I like the pace of this vinyasa because it allows me time to make sure my form is good and accommodate my elbow. With the exceptions of the arm balances ending Session II, which are currently beyond me (I donít practice a lot of arm balances and kind of lag behind in upper body strength), I find these practices a doable challenge. I definitely felt worked and yet energized after these.

Class: Rodney alone, with instruction via voiceover, although when he addresses you between segments he speaks live.

Music: rather bland and forgettable instrumental. It does sound like a 90s yoga music soundtrack, though.

Set: interior space with somewhat darkly splotched walls in front of which hang gauzy white curtains that blow softly in a breeze (well, fan). Like the music I actually donít mind it because itís so boring itís easy to tune out; Iíd rather have that than something distracting.

Production: This is clearly a video transfer, and Gaiam didnít exactly break the bank to clean it up; at times it feels almost as if you or your tech-savy friend / relative made this as a back-up copy on DVD from VHS. The picture is clear enough, but the sound gets a little fuzzy in places. (It doesnít help that the soundtrack has a bit of a dated sound to begin with.)
The camerawork during the practice is helpful. There are definitely some artsy shots of Rodney in the segments leading up to the practice, though, and during the interview he talks about his yoga videos allow him to explore his artistic yearnings. You donít sayÖ
Names of poses will pop up in white text along the bottom of the screen for a few moments when they are introduced. This is done in a way that, to me at least, isnít distracting.

Equipment: a sticky mat, 1-2 firm blankets (youíll want something like wool or woven cotton thatís not squishy), and a chair (or, if you work out in a living room, your sofa or perhaps a low table); a small towel (or thin blanket) might also be nice. Depending upon your flexibility and strength you may also want a strap (or long & thin towel, dressing gown belt, or tie) and/or 2 blocks (or thick books).

Space Requirements: enough room to do a sun salutation, extend your legs out to the side in reclined leg stretches, plus come into and out of plow (which has your feet resting on a chair, so keep that in mind when clearing room). In other words, you need space for your mat plus a decent amount of room behind it and some room to each side.

DVD Notes: Again, I have the Gaiam repackaged version titled Strength Building Yoga, so my comments here apply only to that DVD. There are only two menu options: Practice or Interview. Thereís no chapter menu for the practice, so you have to hit skip on your remote several times to get to the practice you want. Ugh. (If I had paid full price for this one Iíd be pretty darn annoyed with this, but at the bargain price for which I scored this Iíll live.) And who decided not to bother with chaptering Rodneyís little interludes so you could skip them? Címon, use that DVD chaptering and menu-making technology; I know it exists! Add this lazy VHS-DVD transfer to that the fact that this differently titled rerelease doesnít have the original title (or copyright date Ė ďStrength Building YogaĒ has a copyright date of 2004) on the cover, and it seems like Gaiam repackaged this for easy money.

Comments: I got this one after reading Dr. Loren Fishman and Ellen Saltonstallís Yoga for Osteoporosis, in which they recommend longer holds of certain asanas to increase bone strength, muscle strength, and balance with the goals of not just maintaining but also building bone density as well as preventing injuries which can be so devastating to someone who has osteoporosis or osteopenia. I donít have these conditions, but one of my main fitness goals is to live a long, healthy life, so Iíd like to do what I can now to reduce my chances of having them later. I got this DVD because upon preview this looked like it could be something that could work within their guidelines for practices focusing on prevention. From what I understand of their writing it should work all right, although I might tweak it a little to work better for ďbone yogaĒ purposes, mostly in the 2nd session, where Iíll hold the poses a little longer than he does and substitute some backbends recommended by Fishman and Saltonstall for the final two arm balances.

I have to admit my first experience with Rodney, trying to follow along to one of his faster-paced power yoga routines on FitTV several years ago, didnít go well, and it took VF raves about his AM Yoga for Your Week for me to give him another try. I recently picked up his new Ultimate Power Yoga, and now I seem to be on the hunt for more non-fast-paced-power-yoga Rodney. Iíve read some discussion of Rodney returning to his roots in AM Y4YW and UPY, and I definitely see how the Rodney who produced them was the same Rodney who made this DVD. Most notably the standing sequences in AM Y4YW and UPY are very similar to Session II (well, up to the arm balance sequence).

Instructor Comments:
Rodney cues rather than instructs. In other words, he tells you what poses youíre doing, but he wonít go into much detail about how to get in and out of them, what your alignment should be, etc. Those who donít like a lot of talking during their yoga should check this one out. Rodneyís language is pretty straightforward and simple, and heís focused on the asanas. He uses some Sanskrit names and a few basic metaphoric phrases (ďpull up out of the earthĒ), but heís not as poetic or New Agey or whatever here as he can get in some of his more recent practices.
Rodney cues for his left and right, which is probably best given the fact that the camera sometimes is beside him, sometimes in front of him. Thus he doesnít really mirror cue. However, he doesnít use a lot of directional cues, as heíll sometimes just tell you to do one side, then the other.
Just as an FYI, Rodney is in black bike shorts (somewhat short but not IMHO in poor taste at all) and bare-chested here.



Strength Strength

This is the most physically challenging of all of the yoga tapes I have tried. It requires strength, stamina and endurance. The unbelievably flexible and strong Rodney Yee leads both practice sessions.

Session one is a series of inverted poses which start with a vinyasa to warm you up and prepare you for the moves to come. Then it is on to headstand preparations: bent-arm dog pose, headstand touch and dog pose. Next is bridge pose, and then the shoulderstand series which includes: plough pose, one-legged shoulderstand and finally shoulderstand. You end with leg stretches and relaxation pose. The shoulderstand poses are extremely calming, and can be modified based upon your flexibility level and ability to balance. When you are doing a shoulderstand I would recommend that you place several folded blankets under your shoulders to protect your neck.

Session two is a series of balance poses that require all of the strength you can muster. You begin with a vinyasa and the move on to: mountain pose, triangle pose, side stretch pose, half moon pose, standing forward bend, tree pose, exalted warrior, standing forward bend, brave warrior, standing forward bend, boat pose, pendulum pose, crane pose and reclining twist. This session is tough, the standing poses become more difficult as the tape progresses and require you to balance on one leg. The pendulum and crane poses are floor poses where you balance you entire body off of the floor with the strength of your arms. I would imagine that it would take several years to work up to holding these poses for any length of time.

This tape is one for those who like to see the rewards of their practice. It is much easier for me to see the gains I make in strength and balance than the gains I make in flexibility.

I find Rodney Yee to be a terrific instructor. He is athletic and muscular, yet has an incredibly calm and soothing voice.

Laura Harper