There are a variety of forms of yoga, each designed to obtain a different goal. Kundalini yoga literally means "coiled up" and the practice is a form of combining the movement with the breath in order to release the dormant forces within us. In their DVD, Kundalini Yoga, by Ana Brett, and Ravi Singh, they use this practice to create a workout which is both incredibly easy and impossibly difficult at the same time.
The workout begins with a helpful brief primer on breathing techniques and poses. It introduces the audience to the concept of "breath of fire" and provides a number of mantras that will be used throughout the workout. The tutorial is somewhat misleading, however, inasmuch as it does not accurately portray the advanced level of skill necessary to complete the next section of the routine.
In the first chapter of the video, the participants are encouraged to dress in loose, comfortable clothing and find a quiet, open spot to spread their yoga mats. The demonstrator, on the other hand, is wearing clothes so skimpy and tight it would appear impossible for her to perform any of the contortions she is modeling. However, she powers through a series of warm-up exercises that are remedially challenging at best. This section is appropriate for beginners, and success is easily attainable. Once the routine advances to chapter two though, only the most skilled of yoga practitioners can expect to keep up.
The second portion of the workout focuses on the "breath of fire," a rapid, shallow breathing through the nose, which is synchronized with the movements. The problem with this concept is that the breath is far too rapid for the movements to be performed in sync. Thus, the participant is left panting and flapping their elbows about with little opportunity to focus their energy. In addition, many of the movements are repeated for a significant length of time, leaving the exerciser breathless and in pain. This section is definitely not for the yoga novice; it seems more appropriate for highly advanced participants.
After nearly 25 minutes of rapid-fire movement and breathing, the DVD oddly shifts gears to what it labels "active meditation." In this segment, participants are encouraged to repeat a mantra provided by the instructor while performing a simple arm movement, circling the hands around the ears. This position continues for nearly twelve minutes of monotony, watching the instructor perform the same move as her workout shorts inexplicably change from white to camouflage and back to white again. Then, to complete the workout, the concluding fifteen minutes are spent lying prone on the floor breathing from the diaphragm. A nice rest, but not particularly challenging.
The three principles of yoga are strength, balance, and flexibility. In general, this workout lacks variety, with movements and poses focusing primarily on the arms and shoulders. There is little emphasis on balance or flexibility, while the opening sequences require more strength than the average yoga novice possesses. The movements that are do-able are done in such a rapid succession that they too are far too difficult for even an intermediate level of skill. Overall, the DVD was a schizophrenic mix of beginner and expert moves that satisfies the needs of neither group.
© 2011 Lynn DuPree
Lynn DuPree is an Associate Professor of English at a private university in Madison, Wisconsin. She holds a Masters Degree in Secondary Education from Viterbo University and a Masters Degree in English-Literacy, Technology and Professional Writing from Northern Arizona University. She has been an educator for over 20 years teaching students in grades from middle school through college.