Yoga Synthesis: Inner Light Series, Level 2Raji Thron
Year Released: 2006
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I’m reviewing this workout after previewing and doing it twice each.
General workout breakdown: This vinyasa-infused hatha yoga practice runs just over 60 minutes and includes the following asanas:
Extended child’s pose (balasana)
Cat & cow on all fours (chakravakasana - bitilasana) into extending one leg behind and then curling it into the body
Modified upward dog (urdva mukha shvanasana) into downward dog (adho mukha shvanasana), then modified camel (ushtrasana) into down dog – 3 rounds
Half sun salute (ardha surya namaskar) – 3 rounds
Modified sun salutes (surya namaskar) – 3 rounds
Pause in mountain (tadasana)
Chair (utkatasana) into vinyasa (standing forward bend, plank, optional chaturanga, up dog, down dog) flow into triangle (trikonasana) into extended angle (parsvakonasana) – vinyasa into other side – come back up through rest of salute with chair
Repeat first part of salute into warrior 1, warrior 2, the pose where you bend slightly backwards out of warrior 2 into triangle and extended angle into half moon (ardha chandrasana) – complete sun salute B before repeating on other side
Pause in mountain
Wide-legged standing forward bend (prasarita padottanasana) into a twisting triangle (paravrita trikonasana) variation – repeat 3x to each side
Repeat wide-legged forward bend, holding onto toes or interlacing hands behind back
Forward leg balance (utthita hasta padangushtasana)
Tree (vrkshasana) OR side leg balance
Dancer (natarajasana) variation
Sun salutation to the floor, then locust (shalabasana)
(Half) frog (ardha bhekasana) variation
Down dog (via up dog - chat vinyasa, if desired) into pigeon (eka pada raja kapotasana) w/ forward bend and then backbend, grabbing foot if desired
Cow face (gomukhasana) w/ optional forward bend
Sage twist (ardha matsyendrasana), returning to boat
Cobbler’s / bound angle (baddha konasana), w/ forward bend, returning to boat
Wide angle (upavishta konasana)
Head to knee (janu sirshasana)
Full forward bend (paschimottanasana)
Plow (halasana) into shoulderstand (salamba sarvangasana), w/ option of moving one leg toward floor, then switching – come back into plow
Bridge (setu bandhasana) into full backbend / upward facing bow (urdva dhanurasana) OR fish (matsyasana)
Knees to chest (apanasana) into supine twist (jathara parivritti), back into knees to chest
Corpse (shavasana) - N.B. The video cuts away shortly after putting you down into the final resting pose.
The pace here is steady and even. The sun salutations move at a decently fast pace, neither done at warp speed nor held for agonizingly long periods of time. More advanced students may lament the relatively short time spent in poses like shoulderstand, but the timing feels appropriate for beginner / intermediates. As a whole, the practice doesn’t feel particularly rushed, although Raji could have easily done this sequence in 75 min., which would have solved the too quick shoulderstand and savasana issues.
Level: Raji says this is to take an experienced beginner “to the next step,” to prepare for an intermediate practice, with emphasis on working on “core strength” and flexibility and working up through a pinnacle pose of shoulderstand. I agree that this is probably best suited for the experienced exerciser practicing at the beginner / intermediate level of yoga (i.e. comfortable with the basic postures, such as sun salutations, triangle, the floor series) looking to work his/her way up to a more intermediate routine (i.e. one with headstands, handstands, etc.). Raji assumes you’re familiar with basic postures (although he’s aware that the sun salutes, shoulderstand, and a few others may be new(ish) to you), so there’s not a lot of form and alignment instruction, although there are a number of form pointers, many of them good ones.
Class: Raji and Rose (his wife), with instruction via voiceover. Rose shows modifications (e.g. during the lunge of the sun salutes, she puts her back knee down; she walks rather than jumps back into plank; she holds onto something for balance during standing balance poses; etc.).
Music: regular soft chimes/gongs which give the practice a meditative feel.
Set: outdoors among some trees, presumably in Raji’s current home state of New Jersey.
Production: This is a homemade production, akin to Erich Schiffmann’s Backyard Series or Tilak Pyle’s Altar of the Heart. The picture and sound are sufficiently clear. The camera person is a little too zoom-happy at times, but this proved to be more distracting on preview than during the workout itself.
The names of most poses pop up in both English and Sanskrit along the bottom of the screen. This happens briefly usually when Raji and Rose are getting into the pose.
The voiceover is mostly in synch with the movements, although there are exceptions, particularly towards the end, where the voiceover gets ahead of the visuals. (If you just follow the voiceover, you’ll be fine; it’s when you try to reconcile it with what you seen on screen that you’ll get tripped up.)
Equipment: sticky mat or equivalent. Rose uses a block, a blanket, a strap, and a tree (for balance – you can substitute a chair, wall, etc.); Raji doesn’t use any props.
Space Requirements: enough to do a full sun salutation and to lie down with arms and legs extended, with space behind your head to extend your legs during plow.
DVD Notes: The chaptering is minimal. The introduction and credits are separate, but the entire routine occupies one chapter.
The DVD also contains short previews of Raji’s other Yoga Synthesis DVDs.
Comments: There’s nothing fancy about this video, and that’s what’s great about it. This is a fairly simple, fairly conventional yoga flow presented in a fairly straightforward, fairly plain production. All of the funky different variations on yoga can be fun and what not, but sometimes it’s great to return to basics, home base, etc. Yeah, there are a few unpolished bits, like wiggling around to get into postures, reaching over to grab a prop, etc. I find these things kind of endearing, because this is a homemade production, after all. I feel like I’m watching real humans practice yoga genuinely.
Although Raji uses the Sanskrit names for poses, he doesn’t spout philosophy, New Agey sayings, flowery phrases, etc. It’s all about the yoga, connecting breath and movement in a graceful yoga flow.
As Sharon mentioned, Raji counts Erich Schiffmann among his teachers. He also numbers Tracey Rich and Ganga White of White Lotus Yoga in that group, and their influence is especially perceptible here. In fact, the closest comparison I can think of for this video is Tracey and Ganga’s Total Yoga series. I’d say this is comparable in difficulty with the Original and Water, although it has fewer sun salutations than the Original and doesn’t have the longer holds that Water has.
Raji has a soothing, calm voice and speaks clearly, concisely, and precisely. He cues well, focusing exclusively on movement and breath, with no extraneous chatter. I like it when he refers to the grace and effortlessness to strive for within the postures; when I’m practicing with this DVD, I feel like I’m moving gently through a nice sequence of asanas rather than straining to reach or hold something. He comes off as very welcoming, accepting, and genuine.