Yoga SlimPJ Johnson
Year Released: 2007
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I'm not sure what Natural Journeys was thinking when they named this workout "Yoga Slim" or described it on the DVD case as a "Yoga Dance program." Both labels are highly inaccurate: this is not an energetic, power yoga-type practice likely to result in any type of "slimming," nor is it any kind of dancing workout. However, what Yoga Slim actually IS is a very nice, 50-minute yoga practice which incorporates flowing movements in and out of the postures to enhance both the stretching and strength benefits.
This practice is led by PJ Johnson, who (according to the Natural Journeys web site) is a certified personal trainer and both a Yoga Instructor and Thai Yoga Therapy Practitioner. In her brief introduction, Johnson describes the workout as a combination of yoga poses, movements, and balancing exercises combined with breath. She cues the practice live, providing mirrored left-right cuing. She has two background exercisers, Taya, who shows some easier modifications (she uses a block in a few poses), and Beth. All three exercisers have their mats perpendicular to the television/cameras. The Main Menu offers options to play the workout either with or without narration; the menu also lists Bonuses (a Posture Gallery of photo stills and Weblinks), Fitness Trailers (from other Natural Journeys productions), and Production Credits.
Johnson begins the practice with an approximately 8-minute warm-up. She encourages you to focus on your core while establishing a standing posture and then moving through several repetitions of sun breaths. This is followed by some very nice neck and shoulder stretches. Moving the legs wide, Johnson performs some wide leg plie squats, and then she continues to warm-up the body by moving the arms in and out from a "T" position, rotating the arms in the sockets, and circling both the arms and the hips (knee circles). [This final section of the warm-up reminded me very much of Miranda Esmode-White's Classical Stretch techniques.]
Immediately following the warm-up, Johnson moves into the first active sequence. She starts at the back of the mat, taking several giant steps forward and back, ending with a knee hold on either end. She keeps adding on to this movement, first adding a leg extension, then adding the knee rotating out to the side to open the hips. The next series is based on Warrior 1. Starting in a straight leg W1 position, Johnson adds in flowing movements with the opposite arm, raising the arm up straight and then bent (this doesn't sound like much, but I really felt it in my shoulder blades!). She inserts a series of chair poses before switching to the other side. A second W1 sequence is performed in the traditional W1 posture, front leg bent. This time, Johnson holds the pose while moving both arms up, then crossing them behind the back. She completes the series and further works the legs by keeping the arms behind the back to lean forward over the bent leg, then back. Another chair series concludes this section.
The last standing sequence starts from Warrior 2 pose. For the first series, Johnson simply moves in and out of W2 (i.e., bent leg to straight leg). Before moving to the other side, she performs a wide-legged forward bend, flowing in and out of this posture and adding a twist at the end. Returning to W2, this time, Johnson introduces a flow that moves from reverse warrior to standing to extended side angle. She concludes with a wide plie squat, again moving in and out of the posture and finishing with lunges from side to side to stretch the inner thighs.
The final section of the workout, which includes core work, finishing stretches, and relaxation, is about 10 minutes long. Johnson first comes to her hands and knees to do some gentle hip circles and calf stretches. From here, she moves into plank work on the forearms. The difficulty level of this segment was definitely up a notch from the rest of the workout, as Johnson does a long hold in plank, rocking planks, and leg lifts in plank. But the plank series ends fairly quickly, and soon Johnson is telling you to come onto your back, where she moves the knees back and forth a few times in a revolved stomach pose variation. She follows this with a nice hold of reclined cobblers pose before moving into savasana, or final relaxation; Johnson remains here a few minutes before coming back to seated to finish.
I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed this practice. Although it has been out for several years now, it reminded me of several other recent yoga DVD releases, particularly Leslie Kaminoff's Breath-Centered Yoga, which is based on principles of viniyoga and includes similar flowing movements in and out of postures, and Body by Bethenny, in which Kristin McGee leads a more strength-based yoga practices which has sequence flows similar to the ones here. This practice would be very accessible for most beginners, but it does presume some prior yoga experience; therefore, I would recommend it for experienced beginners and above. In summary, if you are looking for a yoga practice that is a bit different--one with a flowing feel which very gently stretches and strengthens--then this DVD might be right for you.
I had no problems with PJ: she cues well, and she's friendly yet focused. She does give some pointers, although I don't think she offers enough for those brand new to yoga, which is why I suggested that this practice would be more appropriate for experienced beginners.
This is a 50 minute yoga workout led by PJ Johnson. PJ works out w/ 2 background exercisers with a cloud backdrop and hardwood floors. One backgrounder shows beginner modifications. You will not need any props for this workout.
PJ says this workout combines yoga movements with balance and a focus on breath work. One of the sections was quite active- which I liked, got me nice and warm to start the workout. I didnt find this "your typical yoga worout" at all- there were NO sun salutations and I found it refreshing and different from anything else I have.
The warmup starts with a nice neck stretch (always welcome for my sensitive neck), shoulder shrugs, pliet w/ big arm movements and arm pulses, arm & hip circles. Then you move into the active portion of the warmup- walking forward with long strides into a knee up, balance extenstions, hip openers, a warrior variation sequence with plenty of arm work that I def felt in my UB, forward bends with twists, low lunge with a side stretch.
You then move onto the floor for core work and more. You start with full body circles on all fours, rocking planks, leg lifts, knee drops, butterfly pose ab work, and you finish in a relaxation pose.
PJ is a good instructor with a nice demeanor. I would rate this a low intermediate yoga workout that is really suitable for all fitness levels. I would def be interested in seeing more from PJ. Her cueing and form pointers were spot on and she was great with breath cues. I received this dvd from Natural Journeys to review.