In yesterday’s post, “Self Practice vs. Home Practice,” I mentioned some of the helpful tools I use to get myself to practice at home, especially when I don’t feel up to self-directing my own practice. I’ve tried a wide range of yoga DVDs, podcasts, and some guided audio classes. Most are pretty forgettable, so when I run across something that’s of higher quality, I’m happy to recommend it to others. Today, I’d like to review a new hybrid product: Visvamitrasana: Vol. 1 of the Sage Series -- it’s part e-book, part audio class, part Sanskrit dictionary, and part philosophy/history book. First and foremost, though, it’s a solid 90-minute guided yoga session. I’ve done it several times now, and overall I’ve been very impressed.
The primary way to interact with this e-book is to just hit “play” and do the 90-minute practice session, led by Nikki Vilella (a yoga instructor in New York). It’s a challenging class, and I certainly would not recommend it for absolute beginners. Since this is a recording, not a live teacher, you’re not going to be able to pause and ask questions. And since the class is an audio recording, not a DVD, you won’t have a constant visual reference to look at. In other words, you’ll need a solid understanding of basic yoga postures if you want to keep up with this class.
One thing that’s really unique about this e-book, though, is that if you do have questions, or if you need modifications, you can jump to another section of the book for a short video that will walk you through different options, and/or show more explicitly what the pose or sequence is supposed to look like. So if you do get lost — and I did a few times — you can literally hit “pause” and find out some more information. I’ve never seen this feature on a DVD or CD, but the benefit of having this option should be pretty obvious.
In terms of the asana sequencing, I found it to be intelligent, challenging, and mostly well-executed. (There are one or two spots where the sequencing and instruction are a bit choppy, but it’s hardly noticeable.) The entire 90-minute session, as you’d imagine, builds up to the very difficult pose Visvamitrasana, which is named after the sage Visvamitra. In case you wanted to know more about the sage and his eponymous pose, this e-book also has an entire section devoted to explaining and retelling the legend of Visvamitra.
For some folks, the overtly religious and quasi-religious aspects of yoga are uninteresting, so this “bonus material” may seem silly and superfluous to them. But, if you’re in a place in your yoga journey where you’re trying to go beyond asana, then an opportunity to learn a bit more about the history and philosophy of yoga will be a welcome addition to your practice. This particular book doesn’t exactly qualify as a scholarly resource, but it’s certainly a great introduction. And it includes a nice bibliography for yogis interested in further study.
At just $9.99, this book is a great deal — much cheaper than a typical yoga class these days. You can buy Visvamitrasana: Vol. 1 of the Sage Series on Amazon, and have it delivered directly to your Kindle or other e-reader device. You can also buy the book on a memory stick and play it directly off your computer.
It’s my understanding that Visvamitrasana is just the first installment of an on-going series. I can imagine these e-books becoming an important part of my own home practice. They are designed specifically with more advanced yogis in mind, working up towards a particularly difficult asana that we may not get a chance to really focus on in a typical class setting. And, as I’ve discussed, this e-book is multifaceted, so you can “choose your own adventure,” so to speak, and engage in a variety of ways. There’s the standard 90-minute session, as well as shorter 45- and 65-minute versions of the same practice. There’s also an extensive video library demonstrating the poses in the class, a little dictionary of Sanskrit terms, as well as a section on the legend of Visvamitra. I’m looking forward to the next installment — hopefully it’ll be Astavakrasana, or maybe one of my favorite Koundinyasana poses!