Ultimately (okay, yes, pun intended), I think what makes this power yoga DVD “ultimate” is the ability to customize some fairly diverse sections according to specific needs and preferences. The DVD contains 5 segments, each 15-20 minutes long, that can be mixed and matched. The segments are:
Power Foundations: — This is a series of mostly supine and seated postures designed to improve core stability. As someone whose core is already pretty stable, I don’t find it particularly challenging physically. However, as someone with chronic pelvic pain, I do find that a supine/seated flow is all kinds of awesome for my bad days. I don’t mean that it helps with my pain, but I do appreciate that since my pelvis is always supported, it’s a lot easier for me to actually do these. Additionally, that floor support means that yogis who are physically challenged by this series can use the support to keep movements smaller and safe while building their core strength.
Strengthening Sun Salutations: This is a standing series with relatively few explicit modifications (knees bent in forward fold, etc.). That said, for folks who know their modifications in traditional sun salutes (e.g., knees down or cobra instead of up dog), it’s relatively easy to work them in. There is a general element of “listen to your body and do what works for you” throughout the whole DVD, so this is well within the spirit of the practice. As for physical intensity, this segment always takes me by surprise. I start out believing it’s going to be easy, because that’s how it feels, but by the end I’m always wondering if we’re done yet. Not that the individual poses are strange or demanding of themselves, but there is some challenge, and the flow turns fast.
Sculpting Standing Poses: To be honest, I avoided this section my first few times through the DVD because I was afraid it was going to be frighteningly intense. While it does maintain the heat created during the sun salutation sequence, it doesn’t intensify that heat for me. There are some two=footed standing postures like triangle and warrior II as well as some standing balances like warrior III. This section is one that doesn’t modify a lot for physical needs.
Broadening Backbends: I like me some backbends. I have an accommodating, bendy back. Working my edge for each backbend for a total of 20 minutes? Serious heart opening. Rodney Yee’s instruction is pretty awesome for this, by the way. He repeats a number of times that it’s not necessary to go to one’s maximum. Still and all, even though modifications (even just in degree) are offered in most backbends, I get a heart- and spine-opening experience every time.
Ultimate Power Restoration: This is a series of some longer-held stretches, including a lot of forward bends. I expect that it was designed to complement the backbending series, and it does that, but it’s a good restorative conclusion to the other segments as well. Some modifications are offered, though some degree of strength and flexibility is assumed.
The DVD is designed to mix and match. Personally, I’ve used the first two segments as warmups. The foundations segment I think is a suitable beginning for most people who can move from supine to seated on their own. With sun salutations, I’d suggest using it as a beginning only if you’re used to practices that build heat quickly. I don’t think it’s unsuitable for a first segment, but I do think it’s best saved for folks who are going to be ready to move relatively fast.
For the standing series, I have only ever used it as a middle segment as that seems to be how it was created. Though there are moments for centering both at the beginning and end, it seems to be bookended by segments with more integration and restoration.
As for the end, I’ve done so on both the backbending and restorative series. For me, ending on backbending is therapeutic but also kind of sudden. It’s like “heart opening, heart opening, heart opening, BOOM! savasana,” which totally works with how my body is put together but may well not work for everyone. That said, there is a savasana at the end of the backbending segment, which suggests it was intended to be used as a possible final segment for folks who wanted it.
From a body diversity standpoint, I’m sort of in the middle with this DVD. The only body featured in it is Rodney Yee, who is trim and flexible. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not that this is a problem on its own. It’s more like, every DVD that features solely slimmer bodies is a DVD that doesn’t depict larger ones — and that absence of body diversity is a problem. Additionally, while some modifications are offered, they are largely flexibility-oriented and not body-size-oriented. However, there is no talk of weight loss and relatively little discussion of body image. The body image detail that does ensue is pretty relevant — in other words, talking about strengthening or stretching the specific muscle groups targeted in a given pose.
Overall, I find it versatile and accessible, at least for folks who have some familiarity with yoga and preferably with vinyasa-style yoga. While I would ultimately (again, pun intended) appreciate a practice of similar intensity that features larger body sizes, I think that’s a systemic criticism rather than a complaint against this individual DVD.