Yoga Tune Up: Shoulder Shakti

Jill Miller
Year Released: 2006

Categories: Yoga

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Iím reviewing this workout after doing it several times, including once again just this week.

General workout breakdown: See Beth and Cyanaís excellent reviews.

Level: Iíd recommend this to experienced yoga practitioners, but you donít have to be particularly advanced. Although this is in some sense an instructional video, Jill assumes you are already familiar with the basics. She provides a few modifications, mainly for those with a little less flexibility, although itís more about working within your range of motion. Iíve been practicing yoga for about 8 years now, and I find Jillís practices challenging, particularly since Iím still working on strength and especially flexibility (although sheís the first to admit that her level of flexibility is definitely above average). Also, I always feel like I get a lot out of Jillís videos, both physically and intellectually.

Class: Jill alone, instructing live.

Music: none.

Set: a bright, rather plain interior studio.

Production: decently clear picture and sound, fairly straightforward camera angles, although the zooming in and out isnít as smooth as a professional production. Jillís not wearing a microphone and just speaking loudly so the camera picks her up.

Equipment: a yoga mat and a block. You may also want to have a strap (or tie or dressing gown belt or something like that) handy.

Space Requirements: enough room to lie down and to move your arms in a big circle while standing. This practice is compact and can pretty much be done in the space blocked out by your average yoga mat.

DVD Notes: This is a DVD-R, which I have trouble playing on my increasingly picky regular DVD player (6+-year-old Toshiba); I had trouble with it in my usually not-so-picky former laptop, too, but I have better luck with my newer one as well as the PS2. Because of this, I donít use this series as often as Iíd like.
Each exercise is chaptered separately.

Comments: This particular video is no longer listed on Jillís older site,, but you may still find copies floating around on the exchange. Many of the exercises appear in Jillís more recent productions, specifically Yoga Link (in particular Shoulder Shape-Up), Quickfix Rx, and even Post Athletic Stretch.
Iím still glad I have this one; itís a good intermediary between the much shorter segments on Qf Rx and the much longer, more thorough and more comprehensive Shoulder Shape-Up.
I have healthy shoulders and wrists, but I do have a cranky elbow, which means I often sit out the chaturanga dandasana and am careful with a few other moves. This one works well for getting out some shoulder tension and tightness that Iíve accumulated from too much activity Ė or not enough. As always, if you have issues or concerns, check with your medical care provider and/or a qualified yoga teacher experienced in therapeutic exercises.

Instructor Comments:
Jill brings a real intelligence to her instruction; not only is it clear that she has spent a lot of time studying yoga, anatomy, etc., but she has a great awareness and intuitive sense of how the body moves. I love that she never talks down to you (e.g. she uses the full scientific names for muscles and other body parts rather than making up cutesy ones), yet sheís obviously not showing off or purposefully trying to go over your head. You can feel her excitement and enthusiasm for sharing her knowledge; she wants you to learn and benefit from the practice as she has. Also, Jillís style of yoga is unlike the others Iíve experienced, yet she seems to have a deep appreciation for the traditions of yoga, so you never feel like sheís putting her own stamp on things just for the sake of doing something different.
I really like her on screen personality. Her sense of humor is a little quirky, but itís not really out there, and itís right up my alley. Her language is straightforward and plain, peppered with conversational and colloquial phrases rather than flowery or mystical sayings. Her ďreal worldĒ visuals make a lot of sense; she tells you not to do the Mary Lou Retton in one pose, and of course thereís the Yogi Mud Flap Girl pose. (In other words, I feel like Iím interacting with a real person who practices yoga, not someone assuming her role as ďyoga teacher extraordinaire.Ē) Jill does use Sanskrit names, although sheíll also use the English ones, too, and she mentions the chakras, but thatís about it in those categories.
Jillís instruction and cuing are excellent. She describes things well, giving you truly helpful tips and some quick demos of what not to do. Here she cues her right and left, which works because she moves around so you can see her pose from several angles.



Setting: Yoga Studio.

Production Values: Jill's voice is somewhat echo-y.

Shoulder Warm-up 1 -
Circumduction - performed in side-lying and standing positions.
Shoulder Warm-Up 2 - Standing shoulder circles. Arms are extended up from shoulder, hands clasped with palms facing upward. Make circular "halo" movements behind head. Reverse direction.
Arm Stretch - arms clasped behind lower back, raise until there is good warmth in arm and shoulder (can use strap if flexibility limited).
Yogi Mudflap Girl - shoulder extensions.
Shoulder-Ups - Assume tabletop position. Retract and protract shoulders.
Yogi Push-ups (preparation for Chaturanga Dandasana).
Child's Pose
Child's Pose
Preparation for Gomukasana (cow face pose) - dolphin prep, arm rotation, arm rotation using yoga block.

Comments: My shoulders feel wonderful after I do this DVD. I have shoulder issues, and I'm noticing a gradual improvement in my range of motion after using this practice.

Instructor Comments:
Jill comes across as being warm and light-hearted, but not over the top. She uses excellent form, and provides modifications, as well as advice on using props.



Shoulder Shakti is a 35-minute focused practice designed to culminate in two poses: Chaturanga Dandasana and Gormukasana (cow-face pose). Jill begins with several moves that emphasize the circumduction of the shoulders and help you to understand exactly how your arms move in their sockets. She starts lying on her side and performs full arm circles in both directions; after repeating on the other side, she does the same thing from a standing position. Next comes a unique version of shoulder circles: with your hands clasped above your head, she has you circle your clasped arms as if you were creating a vertical halo behind your head. After a quick shoulder stretch (hands clasped behind back), she moves to the floor for a unique pose she calls "Yoga Mudflap Girl." Here, Jill sits in a seated position with legs bent, arms behind, pinky fingers touching, and she encourages you to try to bend your elbows--very tough! She then moves to an all fours position to practice shoulder protraction/retraction before finally attempting chaturanga and finishing with a shoulder stretch in child's pose. This first segment of the practice lasts about 22 minutes.

The second part of the practice works toward gormukasana, or cow-face pose. Jill begins here with a tranditional tricep stretch (ie, one arm bent behind head, opposite hand on elbow to increase the stretch). Going back to the floor, she moves into dolphin prep, which she describes as an extreme external rotation for the upper arm bones. Next it's back to standing for an arm rotation, this time stretching the arm low behind the back as you would for gormukasana. Jill has you repeat this stretch a second time using a block between your arm and your back, which helps to increase the feeling of rotation. Finally, she moves into full gormukasana, showing you how to use a strap if needed. Prior to trying this video, I had NEVER been able to even come close to touching my hands with my right arm underneath (I could do it with the right arm on top), but after only my second time through this DVD, I did it! The practice finishes with a nice 4 minute savasana.

This is an excellent practice for not only helping you attain/perfect the two pinnacle postures but also for thoroughly stretching your arms and shoulders--you will definitely feel sore the next day! I think Jill is unique in her offering of this focused practice series, and I highly recommend her work.

Instructor Comments:
This is my second Jill Miller video (I also have Triangle Tune Up), and I like her a lot. Although the video isn't big on production values (the set is sparse and the sound is a bit echo-y), Jill's live instruction feels like a true yoga class--wonderful!

Beth C (aka toaster)