Good Medicine YogaRoxanne Currie
Year Released: 2007
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I'm a huge fan of yoga practices designed to be therapeutic in nature. Prior to acquiring GOOD MEDICINE WELLNESS, I read reviews and even watched video clips online, and it seemed like a perfect fit for me. In reality, however, I found the DVD to be disappointing.
This DVD was instructed by Roxanne Currie, a Raja Yoga instructor. Although it is a self-produced DVD, it is very nicely presented in a glossy, slim trifold cardboard case with easily navigable DVD menus. The DVD offers a short introduction to Raja Yoga (including information on the yoga yamas and niyamas) and three practices: Morning, Midday, and Evening. I have provided a brief overview of each below.
MORNING (14 minutes)
Currie (who instructs all three segments via voiceover, leading two background exercisers in a pretty outdoor setting) starts this routine with a facial massage. She uses several different hand strokes, adding in an ear massage as well. She also performs a few squats to stimulate blood flow. Breathing exercises including kapalabhati and nadi shodanam. Currie then leads approximately 4 minutes of guided progressive relaxation, cuing to tense and relax the muscles--unfortunately, she goes through this quite quickly.
MIDDAY (12 minute)
This segment begins with slow, gentle stretches, including shoulder rotations, rotations with arms on shoulders, arm crosses, wrist rotations (with hands flat, cupped, and fanned), and knee to ankle rotations. The last move is a balance on toes with a twist. Currie again performs the nadi shodanam breathing exercise. This routine concludes with an approximately 6-minute relaxation (Currie cuing breathing only this time) ending with a final minute of the Gayatri Mantra.
EVENING (12 minutes)
For this routine, Currie performs several SLOW rounds of sun salutations to start. She then moves right into nadi shodanam and then a guided relaxing. I found this practice to be the most disappointing; there just wasn't much to it.
I was extremely disappointed in this DVD overall. Although I have and enjoy MANY gentle yoga DVDs (such as Yoga for Stress Relief and Deep Stretch Yin Yoga), the practices offered here were MUCH too slow for me. Furthermore, I was not a big fan of Currie's instruction, as I often found her voiceover to be out-of-sync with her on-screen performance. This DVD may appeal to someone looking for VERY basic, simplistic yoga practices, but for anyone else, I wouldn't be able to recommend this product.
As noted above, the main problem I had with Roxanne was that her cuing was out-of-sync with the screen. Otherwise, she had a pleasant (if overly soft) voice.
I’m reviewing this workout after doing all three sections once.
General workout breakdown: This raja yoga DVD contains three distinct routines. The purpose of these practices is to help your body release its own “medicines,” meaning the hormones, endorphins, etc., that will relax, calm, rejuvenate, and heal you.
- Morning (14 min.)
You’ll begin standing with facial and ear massages; you’ll also include an arm movement to tone your eye muscles. You’ll move to some gentle neck stretches (up and down, side to side, rotations – these reminded me of a similar section in Kathleen Anderson’s Yoga in the Garden of Serenity, although this portion is a lot shorter and gentler, which I actually prefer because Kathleen’s proved to be too aggressive for my neck), then tense, hold, and then drop alternate shoulders. Next come leg squats, rolling up to standing in between. You’ll sit down for kapalabhati breathing and nadi shodanam. Your morning relaxation focuses on tensing and releasing your limbs, separately and in combination.
If you’re like me, you’ll probably finish this and say, “Wow, who knew the muscles in my face could hold so much tension?!” I could also see myself doing this if I feel a tension headache coming on or after a tense confrontation, stressful day at work, or too much squinting at a computer screen or book. This was probably my favorite section, partly because it was the one most different from other material I have, partly because it was the one I foresee myself using most often.
- Midday (just under 12 min.)
You’ll begin standing with a few different shoulder rotations, horizontal arm swings, a gathering movement, a few different wrist rotations, knee to ankle swirl and foot rotations, and balancing on your toes with a torso twist. You’ll sit down for nadi shodanam, and then you’ll lie on your back for the midday relaxation, which begins with an inner smile and ends with gayarti mantra (mother’s prayer in Sanskrit).
Roxanne has designed this for those who have spent the morning hunched over a car wheel or a computer screen or a desk, to get up and stretch. It does make for a nice mid-day break, although it’d also work great at any time during the work or school day. I’d like to remember to do this one with some regularity, to get in the habit of releasing tension from the shoulders and wrists especially after working on the computer, for example.
- Evening (12 min.)
You’ll begin standing for slower, gentle sun salutations (3 total rounds, if I counted correctly). I guess you can remain standing or come to sitting for nadi shodanam. You’ll sit (or, if you prefer, lie on your back) for the evening relaxation, focusing on relaxing all points.
Because of the sun salutations, this is obviously intended to be done earlier rather than later in the evening (in other words, this is not a right before bed practice), something to stretch you out and revive you after your day. Since backbends for me are like caffeine - while they’re not energizing in the sense of making me energetic, they will keep me from sleeping if I indulge too close to bedtime - I do a baby cobra rather than a full cobra in the PM. This could also make for a nice afternoon break, too, especially when you’re dragging and need a bit of a pick-me-up. Still, this one was the least distinct compared to other material I have, and I’m not the biggest fan of sun salutations, so this will probably be the segment I end up using least.
Level: I’d recommend this to almost anyone who is already somewhat active. Prior yoga experience is helpful (especially if you can’t perform the full sun salutations as shown or have never done breathwork before) but not absolutely necessary. This isn’t one of those things that really deserves a ranking of “beginner,” since there’s not really an intermediate and advanced practice to follow, but it is intended to be accessible to a wide audience and is not intended to provide a physical challenge.
I’m usually an intermediate / advanced exerciser at most, although I’m more beginner / intermediate at the moment, but no matter at what level I’m exercising I haven’t managed to advance beyond a low intermediate level of yoga (for various reasons I’m not practicing backbends, headstands, handstands, that sort of thing). I tend to gravitate towards a more therapeutic form of yoga rather than looking for yoga to give me a sweaty, strong workout. Thus, this sort of yoga appeals to me, especially since it’s short and sweet and easy to fit into a busy schedule.
Class: 2 women join Roxanne, who provides voiceover instruction.
Music: In the morning practice you’ll listen to the sound of wind and birds chirping until the relaxation part, when some classical instruments take over. In the midday practice you’ll hear a flute and wind. For the evening practice you’ll hear gentle splashing and the sounds of insects and frogs at dusk, with flute coming in for the relaxation.
Set: Roxanne and her friends practice outdoors in or near the Wisconsin woods during autumn or at the edge of a pond; there are also scenes of sculpture gardens and sunrises / sunsets.
Production: clear picture and sound, nothing too fancy, but nothing too shabby either for a lower budget, labor of love type of project. It’s worth noting that there are cutaways to garden or nature shots instead of showing Roxanne and her class all the time, especially during the relaxation, but you’ll see humans at least for some of the active poses and breath exercises.
Equipment: You’ll just need a yoga mat or equivalent; you may also want to have a blanket, towel, or cushion nearby to prop yourself up for seated and reclined positions if you need it. Roxanne and her friends are barefoot and wearing comfortable clothes.
Space Requirements: If you have enough space to hold your arms out to your side and do a full sun salutation you are all set. This is a wonderfully compact yoga routine that may not fit in a cubicle but should work in most dorm rooms, offices, living rooms, etc.
DVD Notes: The DVD begins with a bit of a flourish of image and sound, which leads you into the main menu, where your options are the Introduction (“Introduction to Raja Yoga in the Himalayan Tradition or Why We Do This,” which includes a discussion of “yoga’s secrets,” or the rungs of yoga - the yamas, niyamas, hatha, pranayama, pratyahara, dharanya, dhayana, samadhi – as well as the importance of breath to the practice), Morning, Midday, Evening, and Credits.
Roxanne’s voice is calm and soothing; she obviously has years of experience with this type of practice. She’s not overly descriptive, but she provides enough cuing that most will be able to figure out what’s going on, although I recommend previewing. Sometimes Roxanne mirror cues (meaning when she says “right” she means the viewer’s right), but sometimes she doesn’t (meaning she’s describing the “right” that she and her friends are using, which would be the viewer’s left), and sometimes she doesn’t really seem to care about which side you do first.
Those who like their fitness instruction straight up and free from anything metaphoric or potentially “out there” or whatever might not enjoy this as much as those who don’t mind such things (I’m in the latter camp). First, Roxanne uses Sanskrit and a good amount of yoga terms and philosophy, but in a natural, comfortable way that’s not pretentious or “holier than thou” or trying to force them on someone. I get the impression she understands that her audience will range from diehard yogis to casual passersby who’ve heard that yoga might offer them some relief so it can’t hurt to try, and she wants to appeal both sides of the spectrum. Second, Roxanne makes some claims that to Western ears seem kind of strange, like saying kapalabhati breathing leads to good skin. (I’ve heard that sort of thing in other yoga DVDs, so she’s not making this up out of thin air, but I have to admit I’m still skeptical about these sorts of statements). That said, few would argue that stretching, self massaging, and meditating shouldn’t be part of a healthy lifestyle, and a growing number of scientific studies is proving that yoga and meditation can be part of good medicine.