Free Yoga Friday: Core Strength and Stretch

The Practice: Core Strength and Stretch with Melissa McLeod at DoYogaWithMe.com.
Instructional/Physical Parameters: Ability to move through sun salutes and standing postures, including standing balances.
Props: None mentioned, but I could see where people might want a folded blanket or a block.
Length: 55 minutes

I tried this when I was ready for my first non-gentle practice as I was recovering from being sick the other weekend. I needed something more than restorative or yin but less than power vinyasa. That commenters described this practice as a “gentle” core workout suggested it could be right up my alley. Additionally, I inferred from some additional comments that while DoYogaWithMe.com currently classifies this as an “Intermediate” video, it was initially classified as “Beginner”. I went into the practice guessing this meant that while intermediate might be the more accurate descriptor of the two, there would be enough of the beginner in this to make it a reasonable label.

On the last count especially, turns out I was right. For starters, McLeod provides a lot of clear and detailed instructions for the poses. Though it was more instruction than I needed — which is what let me think someone less familiar with the poses might find the amount helpful — I didn’t find it tedious or overwhelming. (If you’ve ever felt that you were hanging out awkwardly in a pose for too long while the instructor explains how to get into that pose, you might understand what I mean about “tedious” direction.)

Moreover, McLeod provides multiple options for a lot of the poses, and she generally starts by introducing the more physically accessible alternatives first. For example, the first time she goes through a sun salute, she offers the options of knees down in plank-chaturanga, cobra, and moving to down dog through all fours. As the sun salutes progress, she gradually offers in the options of knees up through chaturanga, up dog instead of cobra, and transitioning directly back into down dog.

As for the sequence itself, McLeod starts with some supine abdominal work, which I really like. Because the torso is supported on the ground, there’s a lot of variability in how much the legs or shoulders are moving — which means that people can tailor the size of their movements for what’s appropriate for them on any given day. McLeod is also careful to give instruction here as to how to modify the movements and also when enough is enough (i.e., when you’re feeling strain in your back muscles because the abdominals are tired and therefore recruiting other muscle groups).

It moves into some standard and progressive sun salutes, followed by some standing work. The most notable of these for me was a transition from a high lunge twist into a side plank (or modified side plank). This was not easy for me, though — having tried the practice only once — I cannot say whether the difficulty was primarily in the physical exertion or whether it was predominantly due to unfamiliarity. I think, as this is a transition I’ve never tried before, the latter must be playing at least some role — but I don’t know how much.

On the wind down, there are some kneeling gate pose variations that are nice and unique, a good side body stretch. Finally, some more traditional reclined work as the practice winds its way toward savasana.

Overall, I felt that this was a very well paced and well balanced practice. I’m not sure it’s particularly my cup of tea — as in, not something I’d seek out from a pre-scripted practice (that I couldn’t achieve via a self-sequenced one) — but even as it stands, I’m tempted to revisit it. And it’s not outside the realm of possibility that I’ll pay to download a version if ever I travel and want a local copy of a prefab practice.

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4 comments on “Free Yoga Friday: Core Strength and Stretch
  1. G says:

    Is this a free practice? I checked out the website but everything had prices next to them…

  2. slightlysatan says:

    I’ve really enjoyed her beginners ‘Bend and Stretch’ practice (being a beginner – got the recommendation for the site from you), and this looks like a good next step. Thanks for the review :)

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