Yoga Zone: Gentle Yoga

Charles Matkin
Year Released: 2003

Categories: Yoga

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This dvd features two 20-minute workouts compiled from the Yoga Zone tv show. Charles leads both workouts assisted by Lisa in the first one and Jeanne in the second. Both workouts are filmed outdoors at a resort in Jamaica.

This workout is not quite as cleanly edited as others in the series---they didn't smooth over the breaks for commercials and inserted some rather odd little interviews with Alan Finger, the Yoga Zone founder. I found this strange and not entirely welcome, to have the workout be interrupted and have to watch Alan talk at me. But these breaks were very short, just a few seconds each, and I was really enjoying the routines so I continued my workout. That said, I am glad they did not do this silly thing in my other Yoga Zone workouts!

You might need a pillow or some kind of extra cushioning for the first workout as you spend a lot of time kneeling. He starts with a short kneeling flow sequence that resembles a sun salute. Then there is a kneeling cat/cow, some seated inner thigh stuff, a short down dog section, and a lunge to the front and side. He forgets to do the forward lunge on the second side, which is a major goof. I was forwarned and not in the mood for re-winding, so I just did another stretch instead and carried on, undisturbed. Next we get a seated staff pose while we break with Alan, then some bridges (the only move in the routine that really gave me trouble). We then do a balance section with a boat-like move, then some seated leg stretches, a plank interlude with a tiny bit more down dog and a 'chatarunga', some back stretches complete with one more Alan Finger interruption, and finally some relaxation.

The second routine focuses on strength moves for 'healing.' Charles begins with some brief but much-welcome shoulder and neck stretches, then a cat/cow flow section that felt wonderful for the back. Then there is a crunch-like ab move that was fine but unexpected, a "clock" hip roll, some bridges (ick) and a front lunge (Charles remembers to do both sides this time). Then we go back to the cat/cow again complete with brief Alan Finger interruption. A standing bend sequence follows, then seated cobbler, some leg stretches done lying down and another Alan break before the final relaxation. This workout was a bit harder than the first one---still manageable even for my flexibility level, but with some more intense strength moves like the bridges, the ab thing and the proper lunge on both legs.

I could have done without Alan Finger, and without Charles' glowy-light explanations of healing and breath. But overall, I was quite happy with this. I really like Charles as a teacher. He is warm, non-intimidating, cues with a proper and manageable amount of detail, and seems very friendly for beginners. I would be happy to do further workouts with him, and I think I will get nice use out of this dvd.

Instructor Comments:
Charles is an excellent instructor. He is a bit new-agey sounding in a few places (he talks about healing a lot) but as a teacher is very down to earth. He cues very well, and I had no trouble following along. He is also excellent at pointing out modifications for the less flexible.



This is one of the Yoga Zone DVDs made from their TV show. It has two 19-minute practices. This DVD is more obviously from the TV show than some of the others in this series; Alan Finger gives a brief introduction and says a few words in between each segment where the commercial breaks would be. The instructor also says things like, “Welcome back to Yoga Zone” at the beginning of each chapter after the commercial break. I prefer the DVDs in this series that flow more seamlessly, but it also doesn’t ruin the DVD for me. Both practices are filmed outdoors in Jamaica. Production quality is good.

I really like both practices on this DVD, and both are led by Charles Matkin, one of my favorite YZ instructors. However, neither practice is really all that “gentle”, especially for yoga beginners, so you need to know that going in. Charles explains that you need to be strong, especially in your core, in order to keep stress from building up in you – hence the potentially surprising number of strengthening poses in these practices. Both practices are somewhat challenging (depending on your yoga experience), but also really relaxing. I like to do them in the evening, and they’re also good to do on days where you want to move and stretch out, but you don’t want to go crazy with exercise. The first practice is also on YZ’s Total Body Conditioning DVD (which is better edited to make the commercial break points disappear); the second practice is of a similar level to the two on Total Body Conditioning. If I had to pick one DVD, I’d probably go with TBC, but if you can find a good price on this DVD, you should pick it up for the second practice.

The first practice is a mix of stretching and strengthening poses with several short vinyasas (series of poses linked with your breathing). Lisa Bennett is the second exerciser. Charles asks you to focus on working hard without putting pressure on yourself to be perfect in this practice.

Practice 1 Details:
Chapter 4 – Kneeling Sun Salute – A mix of kneeling and seated postures that stretch you and get you gently moving with your breath. Poses include kneeling sun salutes (inhale arms up rising onto kness, then exhale down into child’s pose), kneeling back stretches, seated hip stretches, downward dog, front and side lunges, and staff pose (seated with legs straight out in front and back up tall). The lunge segment is great for tight hips – unfortunately, Charles forgets to do the front lunge on the second side – very irritating! I just pause the DVD player and do it myself.

Chapter 5 – Four Legged Table – This section has tougher strengthening poses which may surprise you in a “gentle yoga” practice. Poses include table (moving up and down with the breath), boat pose (for abs), hamstring stretch, a plank to downward dog vinyasa, and several cobra variations (for lower back).

Chapter 6 – Cobbler’s Pose – This section contains cobbler’s pose and savasana (corpse/relaxation pose).

The second practice focuses on dealing with stress and releasing tension, again through a mix of stretching and strengthening. Jeanne Kerner is the second exerciser.

Practice 2 Details:
Chapter 8 – Seated Neck Release – This practice begins with gentle shoulder, neck, and back stretches. Some fairly challenging lying ab work and pelvic rolls follow. Flowing bridge, where you lift and lower your hips with the breath is next. Then there are some lunges and another round of back stretches.

Chapter 9 – Sun Breath – This section is a bit gentler than the first part, but it still has some challenging poses for beginners. You start alternating between standing and standing forward bend with the breath. Then there’s standing camel to open the chest, a held standing forward bend, cobbler’s pose, lying glute and hamstring stretches, and a nice held reclined cobbler’s pose to open through the hips and inner thighs.

Chapter 10 – Flowing Bridge – This section repeats the flowing bridge from the first part, and you then end with a seated meditation.

In general, I think Yoga Zone productions are more upbeat and less serious than the Living Arts productions. The sets are bright and the instructors speak naturally rather than using a scripted voice-over.

Instructor Comments:
Charles Matkin is a great instructor. He explains the poses well, and he seems friendly and gently funny. I especially like when Lisa Bennett is the second exerciser with him because they seem to enjoy working together and it rubs off on the whole practice. (They are married now, so it’s nice that they seem to like each other!) I like Charles so well that I’m willing to overlook the little breaks between segments in this DVD and the error with the lunge in the first practice. Random instructor note: I think Charles got himself sunburned in sunny Jamaica before he filmed the second practice on this DVD – note the pinkness of his shoulders and chest, and how it looks like there’s a sunburn line around his tank top.