Full Body StretchKaren Voight
Year Released: 2010
Categories: Athletic Stretch
Video Fitness reviews may not be copied, quoted, or posted elsewhere without the permission of the reviewer
Karen Voightís Full Body Stretch is simply delicious. I loved every bit of this almost 42 minute stretch fest. I canít decide what I liked most, the scenery? (I spent half the workout wanting to run away from home and go live with Karen) The stretches? How great Karen cues? Her calm demeanor? Truly lovely. Ok, so for the boring stuff, the workout has a menu with Karenís Intro, Full Workout, Warm-up Stretch and Slow Stretch. The Warm-up stretch is approximately 16 minutes and the slow stretch is 26. When I hit Full Workout it only plays up the warm-up stretch and then takes me to the menu again, but if you start playing it all and hit forward it will take you to the Slow Stretch. You will need a yoga strap ( I couldnít fine mine so I used a stretch band) and a yoga block (I used a basket that holds DSís crayons) for some of the stretches.
.Karen is her usual calm soothing self. So lovely.
Iím reviewing this workout after doing it twice.
General workout breakdown: This DVD contains two stretch routines which can be done separately or back to back.
- Warm-Up Stretch (just over 16 min.)
This has some more active stretches and some core conditioning to warm you up. This is a nice way to make this a complete workout for those times when you just want to do a stretch routine on its own without having to warm up with some sweaty cardio, for example. It also works well as a warm-up to similar routines; for example, the second time I did this DVD, I did the warm-up stretch before my yoga practice, then followed the yoga with the slow stretch. Nothing is held here for particularly long, and there are few repetitions within the exercises, if any; the idea here is more to get the blood flowing, the body warmed by activating the core, and some mobility in the joints than to increase flexibility (or strength) with long holds. Although this segment is more active than the one that follows, itís not particularly vigorous.
Those who have very sensitive wrists may want to approach this portion with caution, as thereís a decently long quadruped series; those with sensitive knees may want a blanket or doubled mat for the same reason. If you have trouble sitting upright while seated, plop yourself on a blanket or pillow. And there are some segments that may be bothersome to those whoíve recently had surgery or other issues in the abdominal area.
This routine begins seated cross-legged with shoulder rolls, torso circles, side bend, twist, wrists crossed in front to stretch the upper back, chest expansion into arms overhead. You then come onto the knees for a side bend into a spinal twist (where you weave the one arm underneath) with one leg extended, forearm & wrist stretches, cat & dog tilt on all fours, quadruped opposite arm & leg reach (aka bird dog or drunken table), modified side plank into crescent shape (i.e. full side plank), and down dog w/ pedaling heels. Childís pose with arms rotated leads into another torso exercise on all fours where you do a kind of crunch, then itís back into childís pose over each knee for a deeper back stretch. Youíll come down to the floor for a sphinx, upper back raises w/ arm into full locust w/ arms, and low cobra, before ending with a short rest and childís pose. Youíll then turn onto your back for some abdominal strengthening, holding one knee in as you slowly move your arms overhead, then doing a variation of the Pilates double leg stretch, before ending with knees to chest.
- Slow Stretch (about 25.5 min.)
As the name says, the stretches here are held for a longer time, although theyíre not held for a very long time (maybe 20-30 seconds on average). This is the segment where youíll probably need some props. Also, this segment predominantly stays on the floor, although at the end youíll come up to kneeling and eventually to standing for a few short series.
This portion of the program is gentle and should be even more accessible than the previous one. Although Karen says her kneeling stretches will take pressure off of the knees, those with very sensitive knees may want to have a blanket nearby or be prepared to double up the mat.
This routine begins on your back with reclined leg stretches (3 variations for the hamstring, inner thigh, and periformis), ankle over opposite knee (Karen presents a few variations), reclined bound angle w/ hug, side bend (in kind of a banana position), crunch to stretch the neck, bridge (first w/ block between the knees, next w/ block under hips), knee circles, upside-down squat (aka happy baby or dead bug), reclined splits (or wide angle), and spinal twist. Youíll then come to sitting on the block for two kneeling quadriceps / hip flexor stretches (Karen makes it look so easy and graceful to come into these). Sitting cross-legged youíll stretch the neck (2 head positions), the shoulders w/ cowís face arms during which youíll roll the one shoulder, a triceps stretch, and arm across chest into eagle arms (arching and contracting the torso). Youíll transition to standing with low squats (two variations), which will bring you into standing forward bend (two arm variations: hold elbows, then clasp hands behind you), from which youíll roll up to standing. The practice ends with a standing side bend.
Level: Iíd recommend this to somewhat experienced exercisers with some body awareness and preexisting strength and flexibility. You donít need to be advanced or even intermediate, but if youíre new to working out, especially to flexibility work, there may be better options out there for you.
Iím an experienced exerciser whoís generally around the int./adv. level, although when it comes to flexibility Iíll never be particularly advanced, except maybe in patience! Progress in that area is slow for me with steady work, but thatís all the more incentive for me to keep at it. I find this one doable, although I donít / canít take all of Karenís ďif you want to go furtherĒ options.
Class: Karen alone, instructing live.
Music: instrumentals by Govi, Sevara, and Shastro. Karen mentions that she splurged on real music from artists she likes, which to some extent has been passed onto the consumers (the DVD retails for $19.95, which is on the high side for a DVD of this length). While I canít say I love the music as much as she does, I agree that having good music like this makes a difference.
Set: Karen is on a platform in the middle of a Montana prairie, with mountains visible off in the distance. Itís a bright, sunny day.
Production: crystal clear picture and sound. The music is audible but doesnít overpower Karenís voice. The camera angles are helpful, although they tend to keep their distance to showcase Karen in the scenery. I wouldnít have minded a few more close-ups to get a better sense of Karenís positioning, although in all honesty Iíd rather have something like this, where you pretty much see all of Karen all of the time, than something that goes overboard on the close-ups.
Equipment: a mat and a yoga block / brick (substitute: a firm book or bolster / cushion). Those less flexible will also want a yoga strap or towel.
Space Requirements: enough room to lie down and sweep your arms and legs around.
DVD Notes: After a montage of beautiful scenery and scenes of Karen (including some shots with her husband and dogs), which you canít skip, the main menu gives you the option of Karenís Introduction, Full Workout, Warm-Up Stretch, and Slow Stretch. However, when I chose Full Workout, the DVD returns to the main menu after the warm-up stretch; in talking to other VFers this is a common problem. There are no chapters within the routines.
Note that this comes in a cardboard envelope rather than a plastic or even cardboard case.
Comments: This is a nice full body stretch, great for flexibility sessions, recovery workouts, and sick days. Itís not really ideal as a quick add-on for a workout, if you want to get in and stretch a few muscles quickly before moving on (for something like that my current favorite is the upper body and lower body stretch segments off of Denise Beattyís Fitness Fix series). This really is meant to be done as a full routine, and because itís only chaptered into the warm-up and slow stretches you have to do it as such.
Karen usually hits multiple muscles with each exercise, even if only one or two seem to be the main focus. This was a nice bonus for me, because you get a lot of bang for your buck here.
Full Body Stretch vs. the yoga stretch portion off of Yoga Focus (aka Yoga Power; this is also found on the Sleek Physique compilation, aka Slim Physique): Although FBS is a stretch program rather than a yoga one, I recognize a number of exercises from YF. I think the FBS sequence is much smoother (except for maybe the abrupt end to the Slow Stretch, when you come up from the side bend and Karen announces youíre done) and more intelligently designed. The inclusion of the warm-up flow helps make this DVD more usable, because if you do just this you can add that portion in, but if you just want a stretch after your main workout you can jump right to the Slow Stretch. In contrast, YFís stretch dives right into the upper body, which made it tricky to do on its own, at least for those who like me arenít gifted in the flexibility department. The highlight of YF was definitely its focus on the lower body, especially the area around the hips. FBS is great for spinal mobility and stabilization. Karen really makes a conscious effort to work the spine in its various directions of movement: flexion (forward bends), extension (back bends), lateral flexion and extension (side bends), and twisting. In their different ways both are great for people who spend too much time sitting, but FBS may have the edge because it balances out the forward bends with some backbends, something lacking in YFís stretch. Both are suitable for any time of day, although if you are sensitive to stimulation before bedtime you may want to take it easy with the backbending bits in FBS (if you stick with just the Slow Stretch you should be fine). Iím glad I have both, especially since my copy of YF has started making a funny noise and since I used YFís stretch a lot during a unhappy period in my life when it was about as much as I could handle for working out. But I suspect there will be too much overlap for others to justify having both routines, especially if they only intend to use slow stretch and/or the stretch portion of YF (or whatever version they have).
Karenís focus is on cuing and instructing. She mirror cues, and her cuing is good enough that in my first run through I only had to look at the screen a few times to see what she was doing. There is absolutely no extraneous chatter, which doesnít help alleviate what can come off as a lack of personality and warmth. I donít mind, as Iíd rather have someone get down to business on talking me through things than trying to engage me in an awkward one-sided conversation. I feel Karen comes off with a bit more joy and a bit less stiffness than I remember from some of her other videos that Iíve had.
Karen is extremely flexible, but she does a great job in this DVD of demonstrating the poses without coming off as being a show-off in any way. If youíre like me you may be surprised when your body isnít able to do quite the same thing as hers because she presents the full versions so naturally.