Breath-Centered Yoga

Leslie Kaminoff
Year Released: 2010

Categories: Yoga



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NOTE: I received a free review copy of this DVD from Human Kinetics.

This DVD is a new release from the Human Kinetics publishing group. It features renowned yoga instructor Leslie Kaminoff, co-founder of The Breathing Project, a non-profit organization in New York City dedicated to innovative learning involving body, breath, and mind. Although The Breathing Project is not associated with a particular school of yoga, Kaminoff teaches a therapeutic style, and he describes his work as having been inspired by the tradition of T.K.V. Desikachar, founder of Viniyoga.

This DVD offers four practices varying in length from 18 to 29 minutes. These practices are described in the DVD insert as follows:

*The Flowing Sequence is a complete workout, from standing to final relaxation (29 minutes).
*The Standing Sequence is a wake-up and a warm-up for the feet, legs, and breath (18 minutes).
*The Warrior Series is a strong vinyasa with no stress on the hands and arms (25 minutes).
*The Floor Sequence is a relaxing cool-down for the spine and breath (20 minutes).

All four practices feature Kaminoff teaching live to a class of four students; Kaminoff walks around providing instruction and adjustments as the participants follow along. The students come from varied backgrounds which are described in detail in the DVD insert, but briefly, there is Kate, a yoga instructor, John, a reformed drinker and smoker who practices mindfulness, Megan, a plus-sized model and yoga instructor, and Nadiya, a healing arts practitioner. Listed below I have provided additional details on the included postures for each sequence.

Flowing Sequence
Kaminoff has his students start this practice with arm spirals, gradually moving into a flow to awkward chair, forward bend, and back to standing. The long standing pose sequence includes warrior 1, warrior 2, triangle, revolved triangle, and warrior 3, finishing with wide-legged standing bend before repeating on the other side. Kaminoff uses a squat as a transition to the floor, where he first has the group practice pelvic lifts with spinal rolls. This is followed by revolved stomach pose, adding a unique moving torso twist to this posture. After a final few pelvic rolls, Kaminoff cues a short (2 minutes) savasana to finish the session.

Standing Sequence
For this practice, Kaminoff has his students warm-up with knee bends and toe raises, and he then leads them into arm spirals with a similar flow into awkward chair and standing forward bend that was featured in the Flowing Sequence. He spends more time instructing wide-legged forward bend, adding arm spirals and a twist in this posture. This session concludes back in a standing position with additional arm spirals and a final forward bend.

Warrior Series
Again beginning with the arm spirals, here Kaminoff cues a standing warrior sequence very similar to the series featured in the Flowing Sequence: he leads the class through warrior 1, warrior 2, triangle, revolved triangle, and warrior 3, performing wide-legged forward bend before repeated the sequence on the other side.

Floor Sequence
The students begin this practice in a squatting posture. Kaminoff then has the class come to a lying position for both single and double knees-to-chest pose. This is followed by pelvic lifts with spinal rolls and revolved stomach pose, again adding the unique moving torso twist featured in the Flowing Sequence but also including a leg extension and quad stretch as well. Also similar to the Flowing Sequence, this practice finishes with a few final pelvic rolls and a short (2 minutes) savasana in which Kaminoff uses a beach/wave visualization.

There are several unique features on this DVD. First, from the Main Menu, you can select “Program Your Session,” which allows you to play any of the above four sequences in any order. The Main Menu also offers an “Audio Commentary” option. Choosing one of the commentaries allows you to listen to an alternate audio track while viewing one of the practices. For example, if you select Channel 3, you’ll get “Leslie and Megan: Modifications for the Curvy Body,” while Channel 5 offers “Leslie and John: Real Man Can Do Yoga.” Although these commentaries are educational and informative, I found that they do not work as alternate practice tracks: the problem is that (much like bonus commentary that you might find when you purchase a film DVD) Leslie and the others are simply talking over the main audio track, and the bulk of the commentary tends to be conversational rather than instructional.

Those with no prior familiarity with Kaminoff’s work should be forewarned that this style of yoga differs from other hatha traditions. Kaminoff’s alignment cues are specific to his teachings (for example, a much shorter stance is used for the warrior poses), and for the majority of the postures, he cues dynamic flows rather than static holds. In addition, you won’t see the class members moving in sync here: Kaminoff encourages individuality, which includes moving at one’s on pace and starting on whichever side of the body feels right for that person.

In summary, this DVD provides gentle, therapeutic yoga routines that are accessible for all levels. More advanced yoga students might lose interest in the slow pace of these practices, but those looking for a more measured approach are likely to appreciate Kaminoff’s breath-centered focus.

Instructor Comments:
I took a workshop with Kaminoff some time ago (around 2004), and in person, he was much more dynamic than he comes across in this video; he is pretty low-key here. This definitely is NOT a high-energy practice, so those looking for that might be disappointed. However, if you found Kraftsow's Viniyoga videos to be too dry but liked that style of yoga, this DVD provides a nice alternative, as Kaminoff's live instruction, however laid-back, is definitely more engaging that Kraftsow's voiceover.

Beth C (aka toaster)

11/01/2010