Yoga Zone: Conditioning and Stress ReleaseAlan Finger
Year Released: 1998
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I've been interested in trying this Yoga Zone practice for some time now. Even though I'm no longer a yoga beginner (I consider myself a solid intermediate), I had heard that this program was very relaxing, particularly for the neck, and I am always looking for yoga practices along these lines. I have tried many of the Yoga Zone videos, but this was only my second full-length (almost an hour) practice with Yoga Zone founder Alan Finger. The first thing I noticed about this program is that is it performed in an indoor studio; since every other YZ video I've every tried was outdoors, this was a bit disappointing but not a major factor. The entire practice moves at a slow, relaxing pace, with long holds of the postures allowing you to really feel the release associated with each move.
Alan and his two students, Lisa and Michelle (who displays less flexible modifications) begin in a seated position with basic breathing exercises and continue with simple warm-ups, including a cross-legged seated forward bend and forward bend with a twist. Next comes the neck release series, which involves a slow turn from side-to-side, a partial turn using the opposite hand as a weight on the top of the head, and a chin push. A few additional moves for the shoulders follow, namely a shoulder roll and an arm pull across the chest. Staff pose rounds out this initial seated series, which lasts about 15 minutes. Alan then transitions you to a lying position for reclined bound angle, bridge, and double-leg back release. Moving to hands and knees, you'll do a cat series plus some really nice wrist stretches. The only down dog of the practice follows, and then a standing forward bend prepares you for the short standing series to come. The standing postures include tadasana, side bend, standing back bend, forward bend, side angle pose, and a wide angle forward bend series. You are now 35 minutes into the practice, and Alan moves back to the floor for 12 point, table, seated forward bend, thread the needle, leg extensions/lowers, single leg back release, revolved stomach pose, and finally, savasana. As with the other longer YZ I've tried (Flexibility & Stress Release), Alan leads you through a lengthy (10 minutes) savasana that is extremely relaxing--there is something about his voice that nearly puts me to sleep every time! The total practice time is approximately 58 minutes, but the soothing music continues into credits, so you could easily relax into savasana for a bit longer.
Although I liked this practice and did find it very relaxing, I also felt that it was a little below my current level. At this point, I have other relaxing yoga videos which I prefer to this one, particularly Benagh's Yoga for Stress Relief and Yoga in the Garden of Serenity (the latter has amazing neck stretches which go way beyond what is offered here). Still, this is an excellent beginning yoga program, and I think it would also be a good fit for those who usually don't enjoy yoga but are looking for a relaxing, full-body stretch routine.
There's something about Alan Finger that has an almost annoying paternalistic quality, but still, I can't help but to like him. He mirror cues and provides excellent form pointers throughout the practice. Also, as mentioned above, he leads the best savasanas I have ever experienced outside of an actual yoga class.
I wasn't impressed the first time I did this several years ago but think it was because I wasn't looking for this type of yoga at the time. It's a bit long for my usual practice time but I did enjoy it the other night when I couldn't sleep. This is a nice mixture of stretches and more challenging poses; mostly stretches. Ilove the palm series where you sit and bend forward then to the sides. the wrist stretches almost got to me (whew!) be careful of those and don't do the 'sit back on heels' part if you're already feeling it on you hands/knees in that section...trust me!) Anyways, the most challenging parts I guess are some standing poses and downdog and table (think this was one of them) but nothing is held forever and you can always go back do the floor and stretch if it's too much. there's also a few stretches for the neck. He talks you through the pose telling you how to feel, stretch etc and when Ilistened to him and tried to do what he said I really got a lot out of th epractice. no needless chatter here but a lot of instruction. the savasana (relaxation) at the end is great. cant' tell you what it was cause I fell asleep but he starts off talking ina very n ice soothing voice then I fell asleep. I can't wait to try flexibility and stress release next!
Alan does all the talking and the other 2 show the poses with Michelle showing modifications for the less flexible and Lisa showing some for the more advanced. Neither of these 2 talk.
YOGA ZONE: CONDITIONING AND STRESS RELEASE: SEQUENCE
BEGIN CROSS LEGGED:
-Breathing (w/ hands on sides of waist)
POTTED PALM SERIES:
-Crossed legged forward bend: first to center, then right, then center, then left, then center
Neck Release Exercises (still in crossed legged position)
-Turn head right and hold, then left and hold (2 xís each before finishing in the center)
-Turn head to the right and lower towards shoulder, use the right hand on the back of the head to help stretch the neck. (repeat this on the left side)
-Bend Head forward, place two fingers of one hand on the chin to increase stretch (then repeat w/ opposite handís two fingers on the chin)
SEATED SHOULDER STRETCHES:
-Brings arms out to side, then bring the right arm across towards the left shoulder. Bend the left arm and place the back of the left wrist against the back of the rightforearm and gently pull towards you for the shoulder release. (then repeat on the other side)
-clasp hands overhead palms up and hold
-Dandasana with hands behind on floor
-Dandasana with arms overhead and thumbs interlaced
-Supine bound angular. Interlace hands with palms facing feet, then bring arms overhead (and flow back and forth).
-Knees to chest flow (bring hands behind bent legs and gently bring knees towards you and then away several times following the breath)
-Extended Cat-Seal (same as Childís pose) flow
-While on all fours, turn your wrists outwards until your fingers are pointing towards your knees. Gently bend elbows (this is a wrist release).
-From Extended Cat move into Dog Pose and hold.
>From Dog Pose, move into:
-Standing Forward Bend with Elbows clasped (aka Rag Doll)
-Blown Palm (Side bend with hands interlaced, index fingers pointing up)
-Gentle Standing Back Bend (w/ hands on lower back, fingers pointing downward)
-Extended Side Angle Pose (with elbow on knee)
-Wide leg forward bend w/ arms walked forward (like a Down Dog position)
Keeping legs wide move into:
-Straddle Fold Twist (one arm under face, other arm extended skyward)
-Wide leg forward bend with hands point in reverse direction
Bring legs together and lower into
-Twelve Point Pose (similar to Childís Pose with wide knees)
Then come to other side to prepare for
-Seated forward bend (clasp big toes)
Come into SUPINE POSITION for
-Supine Hip Opener (left leg bent, bend right leg and bring the right ankle over the left knee. Reach through to clasp behind the left knee for a gentle stretch)
-Lever Posture: Start supine with legs straight up at a right angle (arms at sides). Lower legs down almost to the ground, then bend legs and bring heels towards sit bones. Then bring legs back up at the right angle. Continue this as a flow.
-One knee to chest (with opposite leg straight).
-Both knees to chest
-Lying half spinal twist (both knees bent, lower to one side, place one hand on the knees, opposite arm out to the side, looking out over that hand).
-Both knees to chest
Alan Finger as always shows why he is one of the Western master teachers of Yoga. He has put together and effective and enjoyable Yoga program that addresses the whole body in a gentle sequence that releases tension and stress from the body.
This is one of those yoga videos that TOTALLY zones you out (which is what I look for in yoga workouts). The workout totally focuses on poses that release the stress in your body. This is a beginner's video and is not super challenging (this is not an athletic type yoga workout), but is very thorough at relaxing you and de-stressing you. In fact, after I was done, I simply HAD to take a nap. I was so relaxed and sleepy. And it was only 1:00 in the afternoon! I think I will do this workout before bed. I also liked that there was a decent-length final relaxation period at the end which many yoga videos neglect. I highly recommend this video.
Alan is an excellent instructor with great cueing and excellent instructional skills.
This tape deserves the accolades it has received. It's an exceptionally well-designed program, to systematically release tension from the entire body. As a yoga beginner, I also found it to have some conditioning benefit, mainly to the upper body--chest, arms, & back. Poses are held long enough for tension release yet the transitions are smooth, never plodding or frustrating.
These Yoga Zone videos do a good job of showing beginner & intermediate variations. The only difficulty I had was with the wrist release--on all fours, you turn your arms and wrists around so that your fingers face your legs, then you lean back toward your heels. Yeow! That's an area I never work on, and I advise caution on this one for others like me.
All in all, it's a fantastic program.
THIS TAPE CHANGED MY MIND ABOUT YOGA!! I bought it by accident actually--I was lingering so long in the exercise section of the video store, torn between The Firm's Standing Legs and Vol. 5 (I eventually came to my senses and realized I could get them cheaper elsewhere) But by then the store clerk was looking at me reeeeally suspiciously. So I just grabbed a tape and went up to buy it so he wouldn't think I was a shoplifter or whatever. I kept it in the wrapper all week, planning to return it (I have no patience for yoga or stretch-type videos, just get bored and restless) But out of curiosity I checked the reviews on this site (all favorable) and thought what the heck.
Wow! Yes, I'll admit, I was still bored at times, especially in the beginning when I was all sceptical, but there is this AMAZING relaxation part at the end. I think I lost consciousness or fell asleep! And it really affected the rest of my day! Things that normally would have annoyed me just rolled off my back like a duck. Or however that saying goes : )
This Yoga Zone Video is great! I have 19 Yoga tapes and Baron Baptiste's Power & Precision and Yoga Zones Conditioning and Stress Release are my very favorite in every way! If you want to do great yoga then alternate these two t
Alan Finger is a very good teacher. He is clear and thorough in his delivery. He is also very soothing and has a calming voic
I think this would be an excellent beginning yoga video or just a good video for a total veg-out. Instructor Alan Finger gives very clear instructions for getting into the various poses. He takes his time guiding you into each pose a little bit at a time and offers good information about the various muscles worked. However, I was a little disappointed that when I had finally reached the deepest part of each pose, it seemed like I had barely held it there and then it was time to release. I like to hold the deepest part of the stretch for a fairly long time. I hope that, as I get more familiar with the tape, perhaps I can get to the deep part more quickly and then hold it longer. I have one very picky thing: you spend a fair amount of time in cross-legged position at the beginning of the video and Alan never cues you to reverse the cross of your legs, something I like to do to feel more evenly stretched. In general, this had the best explanation, cuing and overall instruction of any yoga video I've tried. However, I didn't feel sufficiently challenged by the poses. I've been practicing yoga for about 6 months now and I'm nowhere near advanced, but I am at a point where I'm enjoying challenging myself.
Alan Finger is an exceptionally good instructor. He uses very precise words and cueing to lead you into the poses. He radiates happiness -- probably because he seems to be surrounded by a bevy of young and gorgeous female instructors. The two female instructors are very easy to follow. They are the ones actually performing the poses. One demonstrates modifications for the less flexible.
Without reiterating what has been said by other reviewers, I must say this is the absolute best beginning yoga tape I have ever done. I have tried to like yoga for years, but to no avail. This tape has changed my mind. After doing this tape, I get the best night of sleep. In fact, just looking at the box, I'm feeling pretty relaxed. Get this tape!
A gifted teacher, thorough and non-intimidating. Perfect instruction.
Absolutely excellent! This is the best yoga tape I've ever seen. I never thought I'd have the patience to spend a whole hour doing yoga, but the time just flies by with this one. You end up feeling very "centered" and relaxed when you're through.
But the most amazing part of this tape is Alan Finger's instructional ability. He has a wonderful knack of being able to explain, even to a yoga-beginner, just exactly what you should be doing and feeling at any given time. You can even do this whole tape with your eyes closed, and you'll be right with him. He is just outstanding. He also has a very calming voice and demeanor. I'm so impressed with this tape that I'm also ordering the Meditation and Flexibility tapes in the series. Grade A+++.
The only words I can think of to describe Alan's teaching are outstanding, superb, and amazing. But even those don't adequately describe his wonderful ability to relay EXACTLY what you should do to make you really feel the stretch and/or relax. He is the best "teacher" that I've ever run across. Maybe he should teach some of those really complex aerobic tapes we have!
Chris and Liz have done a thorough job of describing this video, so I just want to add my .02 to help this tape become a VF favorite (as I'm sure it will be soon). This is a tape that could be used by beginners, but advanced exercisers will enjoy it as a great way to release stress and stretch. It is the most thorough stretch I have ever done. I have yet NOT to doze off during the final relaxation! I have a number of yoga tapes, and this one comes the closest to a live yoga class. Alan Finger achieves a balance between the physical and the mental aspects of yoga. If you are new to yoga and want a tape that will not bore you after doing it a few times, this may be the tape for you. If you regularly do power yoga and want a tape that is a bit more low-key, you will not be disappointed.
Alan is a very knowledgeable instructor, but in a very non-intimidating way. His voice is very soothing; I just love listening to his accent. His cuing and form pointers are impeccable. He is constantly reminding you to use your breathing. The form demonstrated by the background exercisers is good, and I like the way variations are shown.
Yes, you too can become a big ball of goo if you do this tape. I have come to refer to the state in which I find myself after completion of this tape as the "Big Ball of Goo" phase, because this tape is so relaxing that I feel warm and mushy all over when the tape is done. My housemate actually voiced concern when I did this yesterday that I had "meditated myself to death" at the end of the tape because I was so quiet and motionless. :0) In short, this tape definitely achieves not just stress release, but stress elimination. For that reason, as well as others, this tape is definitely in my own personal Hall of Fame, and I think others who do it will agree that it probably belongs in the VF Hall of Fame as well.
I agree with Chris' descriptions of the tape, so I'll just add my own little opinions. The poses in this tape, as Chris points out, can often be quite strenuous, but once you master the breathing techniques which Alan teaches at the beginning of the tape, it becomes easier to hold the poses. I actually tend to forget how strenuous the poses can be until I'm actually doing them each time, because I associate such a sense of relaxation with this tape. It is not all that difficult to let go into the easier poses, because Alan has such a soothing voice that you almost want to close your eyes throughout the whole tape. During the final segment you actually do get to close your eyes, and Alan asks you to scan your entire body for stress and to release it at each place that you find it. Plus, in one of my favorite images, he asks you to visualize the stress leaving your body as a warm oil descends from your scalp through your neck and shoulders and out your arms.
My favorite parts of this tape are the stress release exercises for the wrists-- I hadn't realized how tight they were until I did this tape-- and the lower back releases. The wrist exercises involve placing pressure on the wrists in ways that your wouldn't normally-- by turning them backwards when on all fours or by gently pulling the hand away from the forearm. The back exercises involve pulling the legs up to the chest, and the twisting rotations when on the back. Both types of exercises appear to be very gentle stretches but really do the trick of eliminating tension.
I think that both of the Yoga Zone instructors who demonstrate the poses are pleasant to look at, and I like the fact that one of them demonstrates the poses for less flexible people (like me). The music in this tape is there, but barely so, and it is calming, soothing instrumentals-- for lack of a better term, its "new age."
I have been using this tape once a week after a rigorous bout of Tae Bo, and I love the combination. Plus, since the tape is fifty five minutes and I don't usually have time during the week to complete it, I save it for my Saturday workout and its a weekend treat.
All in all, I think this is a great beginner yoga tape, and it definitely lives up to its title in relation to stress relief. Big thumbs up on this one.
Plus, one additional comment which might sound a little cheesy: this tape has really given me a sense of awareness of my body as a whole, as opposed to different parts, and I feel its given me a better body image because I can see how all the bits of my body serve a function and are part of the whole. Like I said in my other Yoga Zone review, I'm totally not into the whole new age thing, and I'm surprised to hear myself say what I just said above, but its true. Definitely an added plus to this tape.
Alan Finger is an excellent instructor. He has a very calm voice with a great accent, and provides superb cueing for each pose. He also provides great visualization techniques which really help you to achieve and/or maintain the proper pose. He is very thorough and also clearly concerned about providing modifications for beginners and reassuring beginners who can't perform each pose perfectly that it is okay just to attempt the form, even if your knees are bent , etc. Alan is an overall great instructor in this and other tapes.
I really enjoy this video. The only other yoga videos I have right now are Kathy Smith New Yoga and AM Yoga for Beginners. I was looking for something in-between in terms of intensity, and this video is perfect. It is aimed at beginners, but it's a great stress reliever for any level. Beginners may actually find some poses quite strenuous (especially if their legs and arms are weak).
Alan Finger is very good at instructing and speaks while his two "senior instructors" perform the movements. One woman shows a less flexible version. The studio is nice and bright, and the music is there, but very, very quiet. Optional props are a small pillow to sit on, a towel to roll up and place under knees while seated, and a blanket or larger pillow to put under knees during lying relaxation.
Starting with breathing, Alan leads you through about 48 minutes of postures that move from floor to standing and back to floor. He ends with 8 minutes of a lying relaxation which always puts me to sleep. During the first 10 minutes he moves you through relaxing neck and arm stretches. He then moves to a mixture of muscle conditioning and stretching poses. A list of some poses includes: table posture, cat/seal posture, downward dog, forward hanging bend, standing mountain, blowing palm series, some lunging poses, fan series, lower back relase. He doesn't give names for a lot of the poses, so I didn't list all of them.
Alan places lots of emphasis on breathing, and holds most of the poses for 5 or 6 breaths. His cuing is superb. He cues right and left as mirror image, so it's very easy to tell what arm and leg to use.
The only complaint I have are the close-up head shots of the women doing the poses. This isn't as noticeable while performing the video, because I'm concentrating on my own body. Sometimes the women look like they aren't sure whether to smile or not,and they seem a little uncomfortable having someone zoom in on them.
Overall, this is an excellent video and I highly recommend it for beginners looking for a first yoga video and for more advanced exercisers as a nice stress reliever. Whenever I have time to complete the entire video, I feel like I'm floating and my muscles are tingling for hours after it ends.
Alan's voice is very calm and soothing. I enjoy his accent which is part South African, part Indian. The animation in his voice makes me smile frequently during the workout. He is great at describing how to get into the poses and his cuing of left and right is excellent.