Spine Balance Training

Marianna Szoke
Year Released: 2011

Categories: Athletic Stretch , Pilates/Core Strength , Tai Chi / Qigong



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NOTE: I received a free review copy of this DVD from the publisher.

This DVD was developed by Marianna Szoke, a certified personal trainer and Pilates master trainer. According to the DVD case, the exercises included integrate classic Pilates with yoga and "thai chi" (apparently tai chi) elements.

This is a DVD-R, NOT a pressed DVD. In fact, when I inserted it into my DVD player, it almost looked like a copy--i.e., there is no menu, just an option to click the workout/time count which appears on screen (although this is followed by the usual disclaimers). Szoke, who has a heavy accent (her web page indicates that she is from Europe) offers a brief introduction. She demonstrates all of the exercises, but the voiceover instruction is provided by a nondescript female voice.

The entire workout is about 40 minutes long. The exercises are presented in individual segments, with the screen briefly fading to black in-between. Upon the start of each new segment, Szoke immediately begins to demonstrate the exercise, even before the voiceover instruction has fully described the movement; given this, the voiceover and Szoke's presentation are not necessarily in sync. Furthermore, the instruction is generally to continue each exercise for approximately one minute, yet each segment lasts only about 20-30 seconds.

The first 17 minutes of the workout are fairly unique. Many of the moves are performed from a slight crouch (sort of a horse's stance) and involve simple stretches such as shoulder rolls, turning the neck from side-to-side, etc. Some of the moves involved reaching and twisting at the same time: for example, on the DVD cover, Szoke is shown reaching up with one arm while holding the other hand behind her back, and she gradually moves from this position to the other side. At times, Szoke mentions connecting with energy in a way that is Tai Chi-like. In general, the movements in this section felt good, if a bit different.

For the next 10 minutes of the workout, Szoke adds a bit of a balance element to the practice with some balance leg lifts. Starting on one side, she moves one leg to the rear and then slowly lifts it up and down. After repeating on the other side, she performs the leg lifts again, this time adding a moving arm, first the same arm as leg, and then the opposite arm.

With 15 minutes left in the workout, Szoke moves down to the mat, where she begins with down dog (this was the only real yoga move in the workout). She then performs a series of Pilates exercises including single leg stretch, side plank raise, spine twist, alternate arm/leg raises on stomach, elbow plank, criss-cross, "Strong Abs 1 & 2" (sort of a half roll-up with the knees bent, adding a twist), and finally, "Knife" (rollover). For the most part, these moves were true to the classic Pilates format, although Szoke executes everything at a very slow, measured pace. She concludes the workout with approximately 2.5 minutes of stretching, including a stomach stretch, several moves in a wide-legged position, and child's position to finish.

Overall, I found this to be an odd little workout. I certainly didn't dislike it: the stretching felt nice, it's always good to work on balance, and I found the Pilates portion somewhat of a challenge for my immediate level. However, I can't see fitting this workout anywhere into my existing fitness rotation, as the sections don't really seem to go together very well, and I have other DVDs which accomplish what is being done here. However, this workout might work for someone on a light day and/or someone who is just getting back into exercise.

Instructor Comments:
It is hard to comment on Szoke, as she really just modeled rather than actually instructed the workout. She certainly has nice form and appears pleasant on screen. However, she could be hard to follow at times when she was already doing the exercise but the voiceover woman hadn't yet started explaining what we were supposed to be doing.

Beth C (aka toaster)

06/15/2011