Viniyoga Therapy for Depression

Gary Kraftsow
Year Released: 2011

Categories: Special Health Conditions , Yoga

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This DVD (along with its companion, Viniyoga Therapy for Anxiety), represents the latest partnership between Gary Kraftsow, yoga instructor and founder of Viniyoga Therapy in the United States, and As with Kraftsow’s prior Viniyoga Therapy DVDs, he has designed these new releases to include not only a practice element but also a strong educational component in the form of lectures on both yoga therapy in general and the treatment depression in particular.

The Main Menu of the DVD is broken up into two sections, Lectures and Practices. Also on the Main Menu, there is a link to a short (less than 1 minute) introduction from Kraftsow providing an overview of the DVD plus a second link to Special Features. The latter include Gary’s Biography, information on The American Viniyoga Institute, Bonus: Depression Practice MP3s, About Pranamaya, and DVD Credits. For the Lecture segments, Kraftsow is in front of a small group using a slide show; the chapter breakdowns are 1) Foundations of Yoga Therapy, 11 minutes, 2) Viniyoga Therapy for Depression, 16 minutes, and 3) Questions and Answers with Gary, 32 minutes.

Selecting “Practices” opens a submenu which lists the following options:
Guidelines for Practice, 9 minutes
Practice 1, Physiological Rebalancing
Full Practice, 51 minutes
Practice 2, Shifting Mood and Self-Concept
Option 1, Full Instruction, 38 minutes – Explain options
Option 2, Concise Instruction, 35 minutes

Kraftsow emphasizes five guidelines for practice: 1) breath-centric asana practice, 2) pranayama, or breath control, 3) chanting, which is used in the second practice, 4) meditation, and 5) modifying the practice as needed. The Concise Instruction option can be selected once viewers understand how to incorporate “mantra japa,” or chanting, that is used in Practice #2. (Note: the chant used in this practice is listed in the DVD insert; the words also appear on screen briefly.)

I have provided a general overview of each of the two practices below. Each practice is performed by a different model in an airy studio with light wood floors. Kraftsow provides all of the cuing via voiceover; he does not mirror his instructions to the viewer. Initially, Kraftsow refers to each posture by its Sanskrit name (which will also appear on screen), but he will sometimes follow-up by using the English term as well.

1. Practice #1: Physiological Rebalancing.
Compared with other Viniyoga programs, this is a more active, energetic practice. However, Kraftsow starts in a reclined position to set an intention and begin lengthening the breath. The first 11 minutes of the session continue on the floor (both lying and kneeling) with further work on extending the length of the breath. The flow sequences become slightly more challenging as Kraftsow adds in gentle backbends (e.g., cat/cow, upward dog). Some of the transitions (e.g., downward dog to upward dog) may be especially difficult for those new to yoga give that Kraftsow does not provide detailed information on form; also, he does not offer suggestions for modifications. This session concludes with 8 minutes of relaxation and pranayama. The brief (2 minutes) relaxation is followed by a seated pranayama session in which Kraftsow guides the viewer through varying counts of breath extension and retention holds.
2. Practice #2: Shifting Mood and Self-Concept.
Kraftsow begins this session in a lying position, first leading the viewer though a simple alertness exercise then continuing with some basic asymmetrical movements. Chanting is introduced about 11 minutes into this practice; shortly thereafter, Kraftsow moves into standing postures. Much of the chanting is done mentally—i.e., Kraftsow chants aloud and instructs the viewer to follow along in one’s head. The final 11 minutes of this session involves pranayama and meditation. Kraftsow guides a lengthy exercise involving having the breath travel from the crown to the heart and back, then the crown to the navel and back, and finally the crown to the root and back.

Kraftsow’s credentials and knowledge are undeniable. Unfortunately, however, as with his last series of DVDs, his approach is rather dry. There is no music to accompany these practices, and because Kraftsow does not perform the asanas himself, there is a general lack of warmth and connection to the viewer. Combined with Kraftsow’s often overly intellectualized vocabulary (e.g., “cogitate on…”), there is a rather cerebral feel to these sessions. As a psychologist myself, it is difficult for me to imagine someone with depression easily connecting with these practices—which is a real shame, as I have no doubt that they would be helpful.

One final note: this DVD is packaged in 100% Recycled Packaging, including a recycled cardboard folder (full-length but slimmer than a regular DVD case), recycled plastic DVD tray, and vegetable-based dyes. While I personally appreciated the eco-friendly approach, I did not like that the case was held closed only with tape (which tore at the cover when I attempted to remove it).

Instructor Comments:
See above. Kraftsow, while competent and even likeable, just does not seem particularly skilled at connecting with a DVD audience.

Beth C (aka toaster)