By Gary Kraftsow (Director) Bayview Entertainment, 2011 Review by Beth T. Cholette, Ph.D. on Nov 1st 2011
This DVD (along with its companion, Viniyoga Therapy for Depression), represents the latest partnership between Gary Kraftsow, yoga instructor and founder of Viniyoga Therapy in the United States, and pranamaya.com. As with Kraftsow's prior Viniyoga Therapy DVDs, he has designed these new releases to include not only a practice element but also a strong educational component in the form of lectures on both yoga therapy in general and the treatment anxiety in particular.
The Main Menu of the DVD is broken up into two sections, Lectures and Practices. Also on the Main Menu, there is a link to a short (less than 1 minute) introduction from Kraftsow providing an overview of the DVD plus a second link to Special Features. The latter include Gary's Biography, information on The American Viniyoga Institute, Bonus: Anxiety Practice MP3s, About Pranamaya, and DVD Credits. For the Lecture segments, Kraftsow is in front of a small group using a slide show; the chapter breakdowns are 1) Foundations of Yoga Therapy, 11 minutes, 2) Viniyoga Therapy for Anxiety, 18 minutes, and 3) Questions and Answers with Gary, 32 minutes.
Selecting "Practices" opens a submenu which lists the following options:
Guidelines for Practice, 10 minutes
Practice 1, Physiological Rebalancing
Full Practice, 45 minutes
Practice 2, Shifting Mood and Self-Concept
Option 1, Full Instruction, 54 minutes – Explain Option 1
Option 2, Concise Instruction, 47 minutes
Kraftsow emphasizes five guidelines for practice: 1) breath-centric asana practice, 2) pranayama, or breath control, 3) chanting, which is used in the second practice, 4) meditation, and 5) modifying the practice as needed. The Concise Instruction option can be selected once viewers understand how to incorporate "mantra japa," or chanting, that is used in Practice #2. (Note: the four chants used in this practice are listed in the DVD insert; they also appear on screen briefly.)
I have provided a general overview of each of the two practices below. Each practice is performed by a different model in an airy studio with light wood floors. Kraftsow provides all of the cuing via voiceover; he does not mirror his instructions to the viewer. Initially, Kraftsow refers to each posture by its Sanskrit name (which will also appear on screen), but he will sometimes follow-up by using the English term as well.
1. Practice #1: Physiological Rebalancing.
This first practice does not incorporate the use of chanting. Rather, the focus is on pranayama, or control of the breath. In particular, Kraftsow leads the viewer through simple postures combined with brief intervals of breath retention. He begins with a body awareness exercise lying on the back, then comes to the knees for child's pose to a cat flow. The breath retention work first appears within downward-facing dog pose, but it also occurs with more flowing movements. To conclude this practice, Kraftsow first cues a 6-minute guided savasana centered around increasing awareness of the left and right brain; an additional 5.5 minutes of pranayama closes the session.
2. Practice #2: Shifting Mood and Self-Concept.
This session begins in a lying position, with a focus on gradually extending the breath. Many of the movement are asymmetrical in nature—for example, lifting one arm overhead while flexing the opposite foot. The middle of the practice includes a long mediation with an accompanying self-reflection regarding a source of anxiety in one's current life. The chanting work is incorporated throughout the practice, in various postures from mountain to hero's pose. The final 12 minutes of this session involve pranayama and meditation. Here Kraftsow chants aloud while the viewer is expected to follow along by chanting silently to oneself.
Kraftsow's credentials and knowledge are undeniable. Unfortunately, however, as with his last series of DVDs, his approach is rather dry. There is no music to accompany these practices, and because Kraftsow does not perform the asanas himself, there is a general lack of warmth and connection to the viewer. Combined with Kraftsow's often overly intellectualized vocabulary (e.g., "cogitate on…"), there is a rather cerebral feel to these sessions. As a psychologist myself, it is difficult for me to imagine someone with anxiety easily connecting with these practices—which is a real shame, as I have no doubt that they would be helpful.
One final note: this DVD is packaged in 100% Recycled Packaging, including a recycled cardboard folder (full-length but slimmer than a regular DVD case), recycled plastic DVD tray, and vegetable-based dyes. While I personally appreciated the eco-friendly approach, I did not like that the case was held closed only with tape (which tore at the cover when I attempted to remove it).