Yoga Wisdom For Neck Pain And Tight Shoulders

Allison Nolan
Year Released: 2003

Categories: Yoga

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This DVD by yoga instructor Allison Nolan includes two practices: Level 1, a 36 minute "Beginning" practice and Level 2, a 48 minute "Intermediate to Advanced" practice. Personally, I would rate the practices more as experienced beginner (the Level 1 isn't really suited to someone brand-new to yoga) and low intermediate--the main thing that's more challenging about the Level 2 practice is that it's longer and it includes some binds in poses.

Both practices follow the same format. Each begins with some warm-up stretches (cat/cow sequence in both; a few additional seated stretches in the intermediate version) and then moves into a sun salutation series. I was disappointed that this section was so lengthy in (about 12 minutes in the first practice, closer to 20 minutes in the second). Allison leads a pretty standard vinyasa flow, and although the sun salutations make a nice warm-up, I didn't expect to spend so much time on them here given that the title of this video implied an upper body focus.

Thankfully, the next section of each practice does specifically work on the target areas, although much more the shoulder than the neck per se. Allison begins by using a strap for about 3 minutes of shoulder work, basically moving the strap above your head and then down behind your back. This is followed by a really nice series of floor stretches (about 16 minutes in the beginning practice, 19 minutes in the intermediate). The only thing I didn't like about this section is that Allison does vinyasas between some of the stretches, which felt awkward to me now that you are settled on the floor. The stretches in the two practices are similar but with some variations. In the beginning pratice, Allison performs cow face arms while seated in a half-straddle position (this felt awkward to me). She then does eagle arms seated in hero, and finally, a great, unique upper body twist: you are seated in a position similar to pigeon except your thigh, not your shin, is parallel to the front of the mat. You then lie down and twist, raising one arm overhead--very intense! In the Level 2 practice, Allison starts with a down dog split (3-legged down dog), goes into a down dog with head-to-knee, and moves into pigeon pose. She again does a nice twist here, this time putting one arm underneath your shoulder, placing your head and shoulder on the floor, and raising the other arm overhead; you bind in this position by grabbing your toe if possible. Next, she does a seated half spinal twist with bind, cow seat with eagle arms, and simple sitting pose with cow-face arms. Throughout all of the stretches, Allison shows you how to use a strap if needed to extend your reach or to assist with the binds.

Each practice then moves into about 4 minutes of abdominal work consisting mainly of variations on boat pose; the Level 2 practice is definitely a bit more challenging here. Allison then moves into what she calls a "restorative" segment which consists of a single posture, reclining over blocks. She does offer several different options for how to perform this pose, but it is held only briefly and then is followed by an even shorter savasana.

In both practices, Allison has two assistants, Jo-Jo and Judy, with Judy providing occasional modifications. The background music was at times a bit too loud and glaring for my tastes, especially during the sun salutations. However, I expect that I will use these practices for the floor segments only, which will provide me with two very nice upper body stretching sessions of approximately 25 minutes each; I definitely recommend this DVD for these segments alone.

Instructor Comments:
Allison offers generally good live (she wears a headset) instruction, including some nice form tips. However, she does have a bit of an odd manner of speaking, often inserting inflections into the end of her prompts as if they were questions. This didn't bother me all that much, but I could definitely see it becoming an annoyance to those who are sensitive to that kind of thing.

Beth C (aka toaster)


This DVD (available from CIA) has two workouts. Level 1 is a beginnerís workout of 36 minutes, and Level 2, billed as intermediate/advanced is 48 minutes. I did not do Level 1, but did preview it, and I would agree that it is good for beginners. Level 2 I would call intermediate. This is the one Iíve done. It is slow-paced yoga, but does have some strength aspects to it, mostly chaturanga. There is a lot of good stretching. I didnít find it particularly oriented to neck and shoulders, though. In fact, the best part of the tape is an awesome hip stretch where youíre in pigeon, and you twist your body around so that youíre facing up. That probably doesnít make too much sense Ė itís easier to show than tell. But itís really good, and something Iíve never seen on another tape. I like this workout and will keep it, but there is one thing about it that needs to be mentioned. The instructor has a way of talking that is most assuredly going to annoy many people. This is another thing thatís hard to describe Ė itís like sheís talking to nursery school students but in a new-agey kind of way. Her manner of speech is distracting to the extent that it sort of takes over the whole tape. I previewed it first, and after about 30 minutes, it really grated on my nerves. When I actually did the workout, however, it didnít bother me as much.

Annie S.