Yoga Journal: Yoga for Strength and Toning

Stephanie Snyder
Year Released: 2009

Categories: Yoga

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NOTE: I received a free review copy of this DVD directly from Yoga Journal.

This latest DVD release from Yoga Journal magazine is intended to build strength as well as to provide toning benefits by offering two vigorous yoga practice sessions. Both routines are led by Stephanie Snyder, a vinyasa-style instructor known for her rigorous classes and workshops in the San Francisco area. The Main Menu of the DVD offers the following options: Flowing Vinyasa Practice--Complete Core Practice--Vinyasa Tutorial (a brief review by Stephanie on how to properly perform chaturanga & upward dog)--Play All--Credits. Stephanie and her assistant, Marie (who shows some modifications) practice in a fairly sparse studio with wood floors, blue walls, and fake "windows." Stephanie teaches via voiceover while fairly up-tempo music plays in the background. Stephanie cues in both English and Sanskrit, and both the English and Sanskrit names for the postures appear on screen. (One additional note: Stephanie and Marie have their mats oriented so that they are facing sideways; I found this confusing, as I was never looking at the TV and could not see what what they were doing. I found it easier to follow the practice when I turned my mat so that the short edge was facing the TV.)

Stephanie describes the Flowing Vinyasa Practice as "yoga for fitness." Given this, it is important to note that there are down dog to chaturanga to up dog vinyasa transitions throughout this ENTIRE 55-minute routine, from the beginning right up until the very end. In addition, Stephanie also frequently transitions using a 3-legged down-dog pose (i.e., swinging one leg up into the air and then forward). Stephanie begins this practice on hands and knees, immediately coming into dog pose for some down dog to plank flows. She then moves into several repetitions of sun salutation A with low lunge (half-split is also included) and then sun salutation B with high lunge. The sun salutations conclude with a chair twist. Stephanie then introduces several different series of standing pose flows. Her sequencing is fairly unique--for example, the very first sequence is a high lunge series which includes a challenging balance posture, warrior 3, crescent lunge with cow-face arms, and a lunge twist. Postures in the next series include warrior 1, warrior 2, reverse warrior, side angle pose, and finally triangle with first a half bind and then a full bind. The last major standing sequence flows from pyramid pose to revolved triangle to standing split to a seated twist. There is a side plank transition, and then Stephanie concludes the standing work with a wide-angle forward bend and goddess pose with eagle arms. Transitioning to the floor, Stephanie performs low lunge with a quad stretch, bridge pose with a leg lift, a pigeon (Marie does thread-the-needle as an alternate). The finishing postures for this practice are a reclined twist and a very brief (2-minute) savasana, although Stephanie does encourage you to hold relaxation pose for at least five minutes.

The Complete Core Practice is 28 minutes long; Stephanie performs this routine alone. In this practice, Stephanie also begins on hands and knees. Here she performs a few simple cat/cow flows but adds a pelvic roll to this. Coming to the back, she starts with a simple crunch and then continues with several Pilates-like movements such as straight-leg lowers, adding a twist to increase the difficulty level. Returning to an all-fours position, Stephanie comes to her forearms for dolphin plank pose and then performs some challenging side plank work from this position. Moving through sphinx, she returns to her back to perform a crunch series with the legs in a straddle position. Next it's back to the dolphin plank stance for some tough oblique work. After a brief rest, Stephanie once again comes to hands and knees, this time to perform a nice twisting torso stretch. Following this, Stephanie returns to her back, where she offers three options for revolved stomach pose, and then moves into a double crunch. At this point, she flips onto her stomach for a brief back strength series involving arm and leg lifts. The finishing postures for this routine are performed as a flow all on one side, then are repeated on the other as follows: down dog, low lunge, side angle prep (kneeling), side stretch (gate pose), plank, and cobra. There is no savasana for this practice, although Stephanie recommends concluding with a final relaxation.

These demanding practices are definitely not appropriate for those new to yoga. With the exception of the Tutorial, Stephanie does not provide much information on form or alignment, making this DVD more appropriate for those who are at least at an advanced beginner level. Furthermore, I would recommend this DVD to someone who is fairly physically fit to start, and I would suggest that anyone with wrist issues approach the Vinyasa practice with caution. I believe that these routines would be best suited for experienced yogis who prefer a more athletic-style yoga practice. Personally, vinyasa yoga is not really my preferred style; I don't mind an occasional vinyasa routine that is short (I enjoy Baron Baptiste's Core Power and Unlocking Athletic Power) or longer, more slowly flowing practices (I love Tilak Pyle's Yoga: Altar of the Heart), but I'm not a fan of "power"-type yoga that includes frequent chaturanga-down dog-up dog transitions. I did like the core practice on this DVD more than I thought I would, as I found it to be a nice mix of more challenging moves and pleasant core stretch work. However, this segment alone is not enough for me to keep this DVD.

Instructor Comments:
I thought that Stephanie's instruction was fine. She cues left/right, which is not really mirrored because of the mat orientation as noted above. She reminds you several times throughout the routine to practice the yoga principle of "ahisma" (non-violence) towards yourself by being gentle with yourself throughout the practice.

Beth C (aka toaster)