Life Force Yoga to Beat the Blues, Level 1Amy Weintraub
Year Released: 2007
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NOTE: I received a free copy of this DVD to review for the web site metapsychology.net.
Amy Weintraub, the instructor of this DVD, discovered that the practice of Kripalu yoga served to alleviate her own depression. Eventually, she went on to develop what she calls Life Force Yoga, described on her web site as yoga “plain and simple.” Here she offers a yoga practice that it is gentle yet invigorating, combining yoga asanas (postures) with chanting of specific sounds, called Sanskrit mantras, as well as engaging in various forms of breathing exercises or pranayama/kriya. The helpful insert that comes with the DVD reviews the various chants that will be used and explains exactly how to perform the breathwork. [Note: Weintraub specifically mentions that the kriyas are not appropriate for those with Bipolar disorder/mania and should also be avoided by those who are pregnant, menstruating, or suffering from high blood pressure or an inflammatory condition.]
The Main Menu of the DVD lists the following chapter options:
2. Joint Warm-Ups
3. Centering Meditation
4. Breathing Exercises
5. Warm-Up Poses
6. Cultivating Will: Standing Poses
7. Will and Willingness: Backbending Poses
8. Will and Surrender: Forward Bends and Twists
9. Surrender: Yoga Nidra
Weintraub practices alone outdoors in a bright, grassy, park-like setting. She teaches via voiceover and does not mirror-cue. For the Joint Warm-Ups (4.5 minutes), which are set against Krishna Das music, Weintraub loosens up the entire body, circling the ankles, knees, and the hips, and ending with a bit of a free-flowing “dance,” encouraging you not to worry exactly how you’re moving or what you look like. She offers the option of seated or lying for the Centering Meditation (6 minutes), during which she instructs you to focus on your breath as she leads you through the yogic 3-point breath. Weintraub first introduces chanting here, repeating “ohm” with the hands together and “yam” with the hands over the heart. The Breathing Exercises chapter (7.5 minutes) reviews each of breath kriyas. Weintraub performs a few quick rounds of bellows breath (bhastrika) and skull shining breath (kapalabhati) in a seated position, then moves to standing for the breath of joy; she adds breath retention in-between each of these moves. Weintraub stresses the importance of reading the DVD insert before attempting to perform any of the pranayama.
In the Warm-Up Poses (19 minutes), Weintraub continues to combine mantras with movement, with the opening mountain pose sequence utilizing a bold “maha ra!” Coming to the floor, Weintraub moves through a reclined leg series plus thread the needle, and then from an all fours position, she performs a twist and a cat/cow variation that she calls “flying cow.” This segment concludes with sphinx pose, down dog, and skull shining breath in chair pose. For the Standing Poses (12.5 minutes), Weintraub begins with a low lunge a chant of mahaha, which is intended to stimulate the heart chakra. This section also includes pyramid pose with the crown chakra sound and a warrior pose variation repeating the maha ra sound. The Backbending Poses (6 minutes) consist of a gentle flow with boat (locust), bow, and rabbit postures. The Forward Bends and Twists (8 minutes) begin with a full seated forward bend. Next comes one of the most challenging postures of this practice, a reverse plank with skull shining breath. Weintraub finishes this segment with a final round of skull shining breath in a lying twist. The practice concludes with Yoga Nidra, a lengthy (11.5 minutes), guided deep relaxation.
Weintraub’s joy in filming this DVD is obvious and somewhat infectious. If you open both your heart and mind to practicing in this manner, it is likely that it will boost your mood and your spirit. Finally, although this practice is appropriate for all level of yoga students, including beginners, some basic familiarity with the postures would be helpful.
As mentioned above, Weintraub is enthusiastic throughout the practice, constantly smilingly and seeming to be having a good time. Her cuing is fine, but she is generally more focused on having you put your heart into it than on alignment issues.