First up, important disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with YogaDownload, nor do I receive any sort of compensation for reviewing their classes. It’s just that they tend to offer some shorter classes (with the option of paying for longer versions of the same class) for free — and I like free. I am especially fond of “free” when I’m trying out a practice for the first time, before I discover whether it’s a good fit for me.
I downloaded the free 20-minute version of Core Yoga #1 with Dawnelle and have tried it out maybe 4 times since then. While I ultimately liked it enough to go back to it more than once, I do think it’s best suited to a pretty specific audience.
Yoga Style: Core strengthening power yoga.
Suited To: Yogis who can move pretty quickly from pose to pose with just the asana name as a cue. Additionally, yogis who don’t tend to need modifications or who are comfortable enough in their own practice to self-modify.
Run Time: About 23 minutes from introduction through savasana.
For starters, this asana practice is definitely of the “workout” variety. It features a number of strength-based abs-focused movements in fairly rapid succession, with short and infrequent recovery intervals.
My first concern, actually, is based in this class’s pacing. While the instruction is detailed and careful in the warm up session and leading up to some key held poses, during the more fluid portions of the workout, it felt almost rushed. And in that, poses like plank and chaturanga received very little alignment instruction. Here is where some of the asanas are merely named rather than detailed or described, and here is where I might have issues if I didn’t know what those names were referring to. Additionally, even as a pretty experienced yogi, I found that the pace of the vinyasas often exceeded what was beneficial for me: the set-up into chaturanga or down dog was sometimes faster than would let me ensure good alignment.
That said, as someone who’s both familiar with yoga and comfortable making her own modifications, I found this program to have some excellent abdominal strengthening movements. (There are relatively few asanas that focus on building strength in the back of the core.) It starts with some cat-cows to warm up, then goes into some pendulum variation planks. After that, there are some boat variations. The class alternates between additional standing asanas and seated ones but revisits the pendulums and boats multiple times. I definitely feel like I got in a solid core workout. It could have involved more held postures as well as additional recovery (up dog is utilized a number of times, and bridge/wheel option is twice) — but I feel like that’s more a function of the “free sample” nature of the 20-minute audio than it is a true reflection of what a longer practice would feel like.
Similarly, I’m also wondering how Dawnelle’s instructional style might change with a longer practice time. In the 20-minute session, the visualizations for cat/cow and navasana were clear and detailed, which makes me think that the lack of instruction in other asanas is at least partly due to the condensed time frame of this workout. Moreover, though the majority of this practice was very “yoga as body conditioning workout,” there’s a short seated meditation at the end that talks about feeling spinal energy. I wonder if a longer practice might have more time to touch on subtle body aspects of yoga. I am tempted to purchase one of the longer programs — 45 or 60 minute — to see either of these wonderings hold true.
In terms of accommodation, there isn’t a lot offered. For navasana, the instructor approaches it in stages: first with the torso leaned back but the feet still on the floor; then with the feet raised, knees bent, fingers touching the backs of the thighs; then with the legs and arms fully extended. The first time through, the expectation seems to be to enter the fully extended expression each time. After the first or second time in navasana, though, she says it’s okay to stay in a different expression of the pose to build your base. While it’s awesome to acknowledge that, it might have been more useful to know the first time through the posture.
For other repeated ab work, the assumption is that one is able to hold plank with the knees off the ground, and in fact that’s key to the pendulum crunch movements. However, during those crunches, there’s also a number of times when Dawnelle instructs us to touch knee to nose as a way of intensifying the work for the rectus abdominis. As someone who carries a lot of her fat up front — both in the form of belly fat and, well, boobs — that’s not a realistic goal for me because in that position, there are other body parts in the way between my knee and my nose. I recognize the instructor’s intent, and I know “knee to nose” is more a visualization for engaging the abs, so whether my body actually conforms to the shape is irrelevant as long as the same muscles are working. But someone hasn’t had the time and body knowledge to work all that out might be frustrated that they’re not “doing the pose right.”
It’s a small thing, yes, but it’s also part of a much larger construct — the idea that “I can’t do yoga” if my body doesn’t look or bend a certain way.
Altogether, though, I like the practice enough to consider purchasing a longer edition of it — with just enough reservations to make me want to think on it.