Yoga for Busy People (Ananda Yoga)

Rich McCord, Lisa Powers
Year Released: 2003

Categories: Yoga

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I was interested in trying the Ananda style of yoga, and this DVD is one of the only offerings available. It has three practices of approximately 25 minutes each, two of which are led by Rich McCord, Director of Ananda Yoga worldwide, and the third of which is instructed by Lisa Powers, an Ananda Yoga Teacher Trainer. Although this DVD was released in 2003, in has more of a 1970s feel to it. The production values are pretty basic: each practice features the instructor in a sparse tiled room, providing voiceover instruction that sometimes is a bit lacking in sound quality. According to the DVD case, the VITALITY routine will "reinvigorate," the CALMNESS routine will "restore a sense of inner peace and well-being, and the "INNER HARMONY" routine will transform "edgy, angry, moody, or scattered" states.

The Main Menu offers the following options: Play--Scene Selection--Interview. From Scene Selection, you can choose the three practices individually, although selecting the first will have the effect of playing all (i.e., you will NOT be returned to the Main Menu after the first session is completed). In the short (3.5 minutes) introduction, McCord explains that the purpose of Ananda Yoga is to engage the entire being. This style of yoga also couples the postures with specific mantras which are repeated several times to oneself (e.g., "I am free"). Furthermore, each practice ends with a brief guided meditation with the idea that the practitioner would then continue with his/her own seated meditation. I have broken down the three practices in detail below.

VITALITY (McCord; 25 minutes)
This practice begins seated on a cushion, opening the breathing with diaphragmatic breaths. McCord also performs side stretches and "double" breathing. Coming to standing, he continues with further side stretching as well as triangle pose. Moving back to the floor, McCord comes to seated on the heels ("firm pose") before moving onto the stomach for locust. Flipping over to the back, he moves through boat pose, showing the posture modified with one leg at a time but also displaying the full options with both legs. Returning to seated on the cushion, McCord stretches into a small backbend, sort of a reverse plank with the legs crossed. This practice concludes with approximately 4 minutes guided relaxation (McCord uses a surfing analogy) before finishing in a seated position.

CALM & CENTERED (Powers; 24.5 minutes)
Powers also begins her practice seated on a cushion for diaphragmatic breathing, then moves into tensing and releasing with the breath. Next, she comes standing into a partial squat position (horse stance) for several stretching moves. This is followed by additional standing postures, including tree pose, chair, and squat. Coming back down to the floor on her knees, Powers performs rabbit pose, a kneeling backbend stretch, and reclining back on the elbows. She transitions with staff pose and then moves to her back for fish pose and a reclined twist. During the 4-minute savasana, Powers encourages meditation on silence; she ends the practice with a brief spine massage and seated meditation.

HARMONIZING THE HEART (McCord, 25.5 minutes)
Again starting the practice seated, McCord encourages both diaphragmatic breathing and a connection to the heart center, adding sweeping arm movements to the experience of the breath. Coming to standing, McCord performs several rounds of "whole body breathing," or breathing in and tensing the body and then breathing out and releasing. He continues with a standing forward bend and then moves to kneeling for camel pose. In a seated position, McCord moves through on-legged seated forward bend, modified side plank, half fish pose, and cow seat. Finally, bridge poses is held for a few minutes before the practice concludes with a shorter (2.5 minutes) savasana and seated meditation.

In general, I found these to be gentle, relaxing yoga routines. Personally, I enjoy both mantra and meditation as part of yoga practice, but as presented by these instructors, it felt a bit stale and over-the-top to me. (For comparison, I much prefer Eoin Finn's fresh, down-to-earth meditations in his Blissology set; I also enjoy Kundalini Yoga DVDs with Ravi Singh and Ana Brett, such as Dance the Chakras and Kundalini Yoga Solar Power.) Still, YOGA FOR BUSY PEOPLE is certainly a pleasant, gentle yoga DVD that is likely to appeal to many.

Instructor Comments:
As alluded to above, Rich gives off a bit of a weird vibe. I'm sure that he believes what he is saying, but his teaching felt more like a performance to me, almost like a hypnotist entertaining the crowd. Lisa was a bit better. I did like the practices themselves, so time will tell whether I can tolerate the theatrics. ;)

Beth C (aka toaster)