Yoga Mind and Body

Erich Schiffmann, Ali McGraw
Year Released: 1994

Categories: Yoga



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Iím reviewing this workout after doing it a number of times over the years.

There are many reviews of this here and on the forum, but since I revisited this one today and there hasnít been a recent review of this, I thought Iíd post some more thoughts on this one, especially since there has been a little more interest in this lately now that it seems to be heading toward OOP (out of print) status.

General workout breakdown: Just about everything anyone could want to know about this DVD has already been covered.
One tiny nitpick from me: The transitions between series arenít always as smooth as the transitions between individual poses in a series. For some reason Iíve almost always struggled with the quick move to standing from the cat & cow / quarter dog series, so I have to take it a little more slowly.

Level: Iíd recommend this to a decently active person familiar with at least very basic yoga poses. I also wouldnít recommend this to yoga beginners, as Erich doesnít provide detailed instruction, although what he does provide is excellent, and his approach is very non-intimidating, especially to those who fear being overwhelmed. He also provides only a few suggestions for ways to modify, so you have to be comfortable respecting your own limits (like not worrying about the fact that your hands arenít flat on the floor) or modifying / substituting as you need. This one assumes some preexisting flexibility; I know I struggled a lot with it at first because my hamstrings were so limited in their range of motion. That said, this one doesnít have a whole lot thatís particularly challenging; bow and half moon may be about the most ďadvancedĒ poses. Itís definitely not an advanced or really even an intermediate yoga routine.
When I first got this, I was probably a beginner / intermediate exerciser who only had at most a few years of basic yoga experience under her belt and who was still quite limited in yoga knowledge and flexibility. This was a challenge for me! Those four rounds of sun salutations seemed so long and tough. Now, as an intermediate / advanced exerciser whoís been practicing yoga for about eight years and whoís been able to see some improvement in strength, flexibility, and focus over the years I pull this out on days when Iím not looking for a challenge. The sun salutations (after the four rounds of half sun salutes) no longer seem like they take up half the practice, either.

Class: 3 women, including Ali, and 2 men, including Erich, demonstrate the poses, although not all of them are doing all of the poses all of the time. Ali probably gets more camera time than anyone else, while Erich gets less. I appreciate the diversity here: one of the women may have white hair, but that certainly has no bearing on her ability to do yoga (I want to be her when I grow up!).
No one shows any modifications, although some are able to move a little further into some poses compared to others.

Production: decently clear picture (this is a VHS transfer from the mid-90s) and sound. Erichís voice is a little quiet in relation to the music; youíll have to turn up the volume in order to hear his softer tones, which means youíll be listening to Dead Can Dance whether you like it or not. The camera work is definitely artsy; capturing the yoga routine performed in real time is not a major goal here. As a result, youíll rarely, if ever, see transitions between poses. Instead, youíll get artful shots of people moving into or holding the poses, often multiple scenes of the same pose but with different views or people. And, as Beth pointed out, shots of the scenery sometimes take precedence over the yoga.

Equipment: a yoga sticky mat and bare feet. Pristine white sand dunes under crystal blue skies are optional. ;-)

Space Requirements: enough room to do a sun salutation and to lie down with your arms and legs extended (make sure you can reach your legs out to each side while lying down).

DVD Notes: My DVD lists 2003 as its copyright date (the original copyright date is 1994). The main menu has Play, Chapters (introduction, breathing, warmup stretches, sun salutations, tree pose, standing pose flow, back-bending poses, leg stretches, twists, seated-forward fold, half bridge, and final relaxation / end credits. Note that not all of the chapter points are bang on: for example, if you want to skip the intro to get to the breathing, youíll first have to listen to Aliís introduction of Erich), and Spoken Languages (English).
The DVDís back cover promises a bonus new interview with Ali updating her thoughts on yoga and a healthy lifestyle, but I havenít been able to find this. If itís an Easter egg, itís very well hidden!
My DVD came in a cardboard case with plastic to hold the disc in place. Itís proved decently sturdy over the years, although the cardboard is more prone to showing shelf wear than plastic.

Comments: Erichís instruction and routine are timeless; they will never go out of style. That said, aspects of this have not worn quite as well over the years, most notably the outfits, like the tie dye shirts, and the hairstyles, like the white scrunchies. No one looks absurdly silly, but they do clearly look like a product of the time. The soundtrack tends toward dreadfully dramatic at times, even if I still rather like it, and the camerawork is out of place a decade and a half later, now that the exercise video industry is well established with a different way of filming people moving. (There must be something about White Sands that brings out the ďI want an Oscar for cinematographyĒ in film crews: Shiva Reaís videos with Acacia set in the same locale suffer from similarly overly cinematic camerawork).

The dated and dramatic qualities play some part in why I donít use on a regular basis, but I do reach for it from time to time and canít bear to think of parting with it. Iíve actually been to White Sands, so any video set there has an extra point in the pro column on my checklist. Actually, YM&Bís rather fun to do for something different, when I want my yoga practice to be a little more of an event. Because I donít do it all that often, itís one that I feel like I treat myself to. Itís also one of my ďyardstickĒ videos, meaning each time I do it Iím able to note some progress, whether itís increased hamstring flexibility or a steadier tree pose or improved ability to carry ujjayi breathing throughout the entire practice.

This video has had a direct and major impact on my yoga practice in two ways (at least): First, it made ujjayi breathing click for me. Erichís simple, straightforward two-step process made sense to me (not that there arenít other great explanations out there, just that this was the first I had come across that worked its way into my little brain). Second, Erichís simple cue of ďTrees swayĒ during tree pose dramatically changed my approach to balance poses for the better. Before I was so fixated on being absolutely still that I was tensing up. Being told that it was OK to weeble wobble made me that much steadier, most likely because I relaxed and shifted my focus to the proper things. I know Iím not the only one who hears Erichís voice in my mind just about every time I do tree.

Erich has never repeated anything on the scale of YM&B, but he has put out some (low budget) videos. (The quality of yoga and instruction has certainly never wavered, though!) He has his Backyard Series, which are exactly as described: homemade videos of him doing a routine in his backyard. If you love Erich in YM&B, especially if you think you might prefer a no frills production, definitely check those out. IMHO, YM&B falls in between Beginning Yoga (aka Backyard Beginners) and Backbends, with Lotus being a little more challenging yet (make sure your knees are healthy and happy) and Inversions definitely geared toward much more experienced yogis. He also has videos and CDs / MP3s taped during classes and workshops available.

I find Erichís practices always very mindful and meditative. That may qualify them as ďspiritualĒ or ďmysticalĒ or what have you. But this definitely isnít one that goes off on discussions of humansí place in the universe, relationship with the divine, or anything like that. Erich really doesnít even use that many Sanskrit names here. Like so much else, the aspects of this practice that move beyond the purely physical realm are subtle yet compelling.

Instructor Comments:
I donít have much else to add about the remarkable, incomparable, intelligent, wonderful Erich. He says a lot with a few straightforward words (OK, so Iím the oppositeÖ) and in general has a less is more approach that works very well. Like many others I find his reminders and insights invaluable not only here but in my yoga practice in general. I actually like Erichís voice and manner of speaking a lot; listening to him (yes, even in voiceover) is always a plus rather than a minus for me.

KathAL79

06/17/2010

One of my favorite yoga videos. It moves at just the right space and has a wide variety of poses - not exactly for beginners but not too difficult either. The scenery is beautiful and the practice is at a good pace -- you hold each pose a little and no rushing from one to the next. Even the sun salutations are at a nice even pace.

Instructor Comments:
Eric's voice is very soothing to me and he gives wonderful instruction. Not so detailed in this as in others, but cues this video very well.

Beth

10/11/2004

Yoga Mind and Body is a classic yoga video which stands the test of time. It is designed for those already familiar with yoga (ie, there is little instruction on how to perform each pose), and it will gently challenge you while also providing deep relaxation. The practice begins with instruction on ujjayi breathing, a basic form of yogic breathing to accompany asana (posture) practice. The warm up then continues with a cat/dog tilt series to open the spine. This beginning section lasts about 7 minutes total, but once you understand the breathing, you can skip over that segment.
Sun salutations comprise the next 10 minutes of the practice. You will begin with simple breathing and forward bends before adding lunges to the sequence. After practicing tree pose for balance, you will continue with another 10 minutes of standing poses performed in steady flow; postures in this segment include warrior, triangle, and side angle. The next 14 minutes of the workout involves floor work. You will begin on your stomach for cobra and bow, then switch to your back for leg extensions, lying twists, and bridge. The only seated posture is a single seated forward bend, and then you will return to your back for a relaxing 1/2 bridge pose. The practice ends with approximatley 4 minutes in shavasana for a total of 45 minutes.

Although others have complained about the background music, it didn't bother me--when I even noticed it, it seemed to fit nicely with the postures, as it varied from being upbeat to more soothing. One minor criticism I have of this video is that although the scenery is beautiful, the cameras sometimes focused too much on scenic views when I wanted to see close-ups of the poses being performed; similarly, there was a bit too much shifting between cameras for my liking. However, this issue did not detract from the fact that this is an excellent yoga practice which I will enjoy for a long time to come.

Instructor Comments:
Erich provides calm, soothing voiceover instruction. Although he leads a group of about 6 yoga practitioners, the camera rarely focuses on him; instead, most of the views show Ali MacGraw and the other yogis.

Beth C (aka toaster)

03/12/2004

This is absolutely my favorite yoga video. I've dabbled with yoga for years, never really getting into it. This video was the first that really helped me experience what yoga is truly about and experience the benefits. In particular, this video elucidated the mind body connection and finally taught me how the breathing matches with the poses. I found Erichís voice and instructions (e.g. relax and enjoy what you are doing) to be affirming and helpful in toning the inner drill instructor I have in my head. It is true that there is less explicit instruction in this video than some others. I have found that over time this is one of the huge appeals to this tape. The instruction that is on the tape are the reminders that help each time I do the video, without the excessive chatter that can grate on your nerve the 50th time youíve done the video. I also purchased Erich Schiffmanís book Moving into Stillness and found it to be the best reference Iíve seen.

Michelle Clark

02/06/2003

This was my first introduction to yoga and now I am a regular yoga-ciser. Though I now have other tapes, this is still my favourite, and I always go back to it. I also gave it to my sister to introduce her to yoga and now she does yoga regularly also. I have never taken a yoga class (I only do videos), and I think this tape has been an excellent introduction. At the same time, I still find it challenging and rewarding after doing it so many times. I would recommend this to anyone considering trying yoga, or to someone looking for a new tape to add to their collection.

Diana Chen

08/16/2001

This is one of my favorite yoga tapes. I've been doing this tape for years and I don't think that I will ever tire of it. The tape is an older tape from around 1995 or 1996. But don't think that that takes away from the yoga session. This tape is labeled intermediate by collage, and I agree, but it really is a designed for a very flexible intermediate. I wouldn't suggest it for a beginner. Most of the poses seem to emphasize not only stretch but also a real connection with your body.

You begin with a short breathing section to help you flow into the workout. You begin with a nice stretching segment doing cat tilts and dog tilts. Then you move into the first section of poses begins with sun salutation poses. You do lots of folding forward bends. Though I find I need to be previously warm before doing this tape so that I get the full benefit and stretch in the forward fold. You then move into sun salutations, then to planks and into cobra and downward facing dog then your repeat the moves a few more times per side.

You then move into some more standing postures. You practice the mountain pose moving into tree pose. Some of the other standing postures that you do are the side triangle warrior 1 and 2, the forward fold over the leg in the triangle pose, a nice leg lifting position. I may be missing a few in this series of poses. But all of the poses in these segments flow very well together. I really like some of the floor poses. I really liked the segment of back bending and bow poses. I found that it moved very progressively into the bow doing upper body then lower body lifted instead of just moving directly into the bow pose. You also do the bridge pose. Nice leg stretching poses are also included. You will see lots of leg stretching overhead and to the side positions. Also included is a nice twist that really feels great in the lower back.

But I think the best part of the video is the nice meditation segment. You get a few pointers on relaxation. Then since the music play all through the credits you get a nice length meditation section.

The set of this video is incredible. It's filmed in the White Sand Desert and has really great scenery. The instruction is voiced over, so that you only see the movements of the postures, it doesn't focus only on the instructor speaking but all the participants. This video is very well made, the nice simple but attractive outfits and the outside setting really make this video timeless. You will not get the feeling of an outdated tape. You may or may not like the music in this tape. Its very new agey, lots of instrumental and at some time a chanting, this tape really seems to emphasize mind and body connection. That said it's my favorite yoga tape.

Susie F.

09/01/2000

This video did wonders for me. I have other yoga videos that I like very much. But this video is far superior. The scenery is breathtaking, the music mystical and entrancing. The workout is a perfect length. The poses are challenging but not impossible and flow with a wonderful grace. I had been struggling with the tree pose and in this video Erich Shiffman says something like "if you sway that's all right. Trees sway...". That really helped me not to be discouraged and as a result I have come a long way with my balance. Yoga, Mind and Body just makes you want to do yoga and Ali Macgraw and the other participants have such good form and look so beautiful doing yoga that it is really inspirational. While I wouldn't say this video is for the absolute beginner, it certainly is one to grow in to.

Instructor Comments:
Erich Schiffman's voice is even and calm. Some people here have commented that his voice is monotone and while this is true to a large extent, it seems to go so perfectly with this video. He gives excellent instructions that flow so well that they don't seem to be instructions at all because they aren't distracting or confusing and simply blend with the rhythm of the poses.

Traci Baurberg

06/01/1999

This is my absolute favorite video (of all types.) I give it as a gift to my friends who are fit and flexible and like to exercise their minds, too. I love the music and desert setting. Even the cast and their outfits are soothing. I especially like seeing the older lady doing yoga so well -- it gives me something to aspire to.

The first time I did this, my back muscles were a bit sore in places I had never felt before (probably from "bow pose"), but after that, they haven't been sore again. I've definitely improved my flexibility and balance from doing this and my other yoga tapes. I feel incredible after I do it (the whole thing or in segments. It makes an excellent study break, or something to start the day with. I can understand how some people may not like the music, but it is very unusual and has a spiritual feel. I wish they would come out with a sequel or two for this!!

Instructor Comments:
Erich's voice is very soothing. I love how he says "get loooong" and "get rooooouuuund" "enjoy this part".

It's encouraging to see a man so flexible. I keep hoping my husband will see him doing it and want to join me in yoga!

Heather P.

04/09/1999

First of all, this is not a beginners yoga tape. The postures are more suited for the intermediate or advanced practitioner. Second, the tape is a quality production with stunning visuals and a good soundtrack. Simply watching it can be a relaxing experience. One day I hope to achieve the kind of flexibility that is displayed on this tape but for now I am more comfortable with beginner yoga tapes.

Instructor Comments:
Erich Schiffmann is a disembodied voice track, issuing instructions while the camera focuses on the participants. Ali McGraw gives the introduction and then becomes the focal point for the exercises.

C. Mc Laurin

01/28/1999

I have to admit--I hated this video at first. It was my first yoga video (I now have about 15), and my previous yoga experience was prenatal and postnatal yoga classes that took a very down-to-earth approach to yoga. If you are looking for a video that approaches yoga from an athletic standpoint, this may not be for you. But if you are willing to explore the mystical aspects of yoga, this one can't be beat.

This video is good for the intermediate in yoga. I would not recommend it as a first yoga video. Some of the poses are quite challenging, and the chanting soundtrack, the desert photography, and the mystical approach as a whole may intimidate some (as it did me).

I can say now that of all my yoga videos, this one is near the top of my favorites list. The length is perfect (45 minutes), and it is challenging yet extremely relaxing all at the same time. I'm glad I hadn't found the video exchange when I first got this one, because I would have certainly missed out!

Instructor Comments:
Erich Schiffman's monotone suits the video and makes it quite relaxing. His form pointers and cuing are excellent. One thing I don't like, though--his cuing right/left does not mirror what you are doing. I just follow his right/left cues instead of mirroring the exercisers. Ali McGraw's form, as well as the form of the other exercisers, is excellent.

Kristin Aziz

01/01/1999

This video is a perfect length for me. 45 minutes of wonderful Yoga poses. I've done this video about three or four times now and feel like I'm just starting to get the most out of it. It definitely takes some flexibility and it's not for beginners (although I'm no Yoga pro - I've only done 2 or 3 others). The stretches are very fluid and well described and I really enjoyed the continuous, but sublte reminders of the spiritual quality of Yoga. Several comments thoughout encouraged me through some very challenging poses! (I almost started crying during the bow-and-arrow pose. Not because it hurt but because it took so much concentration and effort. It was like an emotional release when I achieved it!) I really felt my spine stretching and releasing. It was very nice.

I already notice a difference in my flexibility and I attribute at least part of that to this tape. I think it also really helped to have done a tough cardio workout right before (tonight's was Gin Miller's IM).

I love the soundtrack too, but I'm also a Dead Can Dance fan. The scenery is incredible. It is very artsy and beautiful (i.e. sand, clouds, birds, etc.) The ending stretches and relaxation is a perfect length. Not too drawn out but enough time is spent to be very effective. I really recommend this one!

Instructor Comments:
Erich is a wonderful instructor. He is very detailed and has a nice, soothing voice and seems to have a very spiritual nature. His voice does tend to get sort of whiney tone to it at times, but his suggestions and attitude more than compensate.

Tami Skelton

06/10/1998

This was a surprise video for me. When I first viewed it I didn't think I was going to like it at all. I didn't like the chanting music at the beginning or the monotone-like voice of the instructor, but the more I do this video the more I really like and enjoy doing it. The scenery is gorgeous, mostly blue and white and I like the music with the exception of the chants (or moans or whatever they are), the music seems to flow with the poses. I really is not only yoga for the body, but also for the mind. I found myself to be very relaxed and energized and even though I am not very flexible, the instructor tells you enjoy the process and only go as far as you are comfortable. I like the flow of the poses and found they moved slightly quicker than Kathy Smith's New Yoga tape which I thought was too slow for me. I try to do this tape at least one a week but I feel so good after doing it, I would like to use it more often.

Instructor Comments:
You can tell he is a master of Yoga and I find his voice calming (although I didn't think so when I first viewed this tape). Everyone in the video has perfect form on each of the poses.

Wendy M

04/24/1998

Well-cued, energetic, beautifully demonstrated yoga routines for advanced levels. Location/photography on white sands a treat for the eyes

Maggie Dunn

12/02/1997

I wouldn't suggest this one as a first yoga video unless you're pretty flexible already, but the video is terrific! Ali is really just a participant. Erich Schiffman leads the video, and his voice is very soothing and philosophical.

The cinematography is spectacular--nearly everything in the video is a calming combination of blue and white. It's filmed at White Sands National Park against a clear blue sky, and even the 5 participants' costumes are blue and white. There is a lot of slow motion and still photography of tumbleweeds, sand dunes, desert plants, clouds and the participants. Many of the camera shots fade into others and the effect helps one pose flow into the next. There are even a number of aerial shots of the group of participants arranged in a circle for sitting poses, and the effect reminds me of synchronized swimming. Each camera shot is carefully composed, and the genuinely artistic nature of the video adds an additional dimension to the experience.

The yoga workout is pretty challenging, flexiblity-wise, but I'm naturally pretty flexible, so I thoroughly enjoy it. This video doesn't offer as many variations as Kathy Smith's first yoga video, which is definitely a concern for the less flexible folks out there. The music is by Dead Can Dance, and it's perfect for yoga--dreamy and mystical. If this video doesn't relax you, nothing will.

WWWendy

(no date)

I don't have any problem with the yoga moves or instruction in this video. I also thought it was an excellent workout -- but I hated the music. The background music drove me nuts. The music varies from some sort of humming and chanting with drums to single drum beats. I found it very annoying. The music had no calming effects on me whatsoever. In fact, because of the music, I won't be doing this video again.

I like Kathy Smith's yoga tapes the best because she takes an athletic approach to yoga -- rather than a spiritual approach. This video takes a much more spiritual approach -- which really bothers me.

Instructor Comments:

Ali is just a participant in this video, with Erich Schiffman doing all the instructing. He does an excellent job of instruction and makes the moves very clear - so much so that I barely looked at the T.V. doing this video for the first time. He voice, however, is too monotone for me and fairly quiet.

Julianne Johnston

(no date)