Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Exercise DVD Review: Rodney Yee's Power Yoga: Total Body Workout

Rodney Yee's Power Yoga: Total Body Workout.  This is my favorite DVD to do on Sunday afternoons. It's long - over an hour - and it builds as it goes, so you don't really want to do it unless you have enough time to do the whole thing.
This is not at all a fast workout, but it gets pretty strenuous by the end, as he has you hold various standing poses and, eventually, full upward bows. I would recommend doing one of his beginner DVDs first if you haven't done yoga before, but Yee is great at verbal cuing, and once you know what the poses are, you don't have to look up at the screen much to see what you need to do (which is good when you're upside down).
What I really love about this is the symmetry. You do something on the right, and then you do it on the left. Then you go back to center and put every part of you straight again. Over and over. And every move is done to completion; it's a great remedy for that frequent, harassed feeling of never getting to spend enough time on your tasks to do them thoroughly and well. Here, for an hour, you get to do things thoroughly and well, with your body. I find that very soothing.
There isn't a lot of yoga philosophy in this one, so it's easy for me to take the physical instruction and not worry about spiritual instructions I might disagree with. Whenever Yee says anything about emptying or surrendering the mind, I just use the Jesus prayer ("Lord Jesus, have mercy on me") instead. I would warn that I think following the instructions to empty or surrender your mind is a very bad and dangerous idea (what, after all, might enter into that empty space you make?). Instead, invite the Lord in to the relaxed, meditative space these exercises can help produce.* But if you're comfortable taking what's good while tossing what's useless, you will find a lot of good to take with this DVD. Yee's instruction is excellent and this vigorous workout is, paradoxically, one of the most relaxing things I do all week.
Here's a video clip from the DVD:

 Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell
*I know there's a lot of debate over whether Christians can do yoga, and I think it's only rational to acknowledge that it comes from an opposing religious tradition. (I also imagine some yogis would argue that I'm not really doing yoga if I reject the spiritual component.) For what it's worth, my take is that it's been a normal thing in Christian history to take what we see as good from other traditions under the belief that all good is God's good (see Aquinas using Aristotle as an example of this). I think you can take what's good in yoga - and the practitioners have certainly tapped into something true about the mind-body connection in human beings - and use it in a Christian way.

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