Trudie Styler’s Warrior Yoga DVD – a change of cadence

Gaiam has been one of the pioneers of yoga merchanising, and has a strong cast of yoga instructors: Rodney Yee, Patricia Walden, Shiva Rea, Seane Corn, Jill Miller, Suzanne Deason, Nicki Doane. But Gaiam has broadened its scope to a “Life Style Media Company” so it sells household furnishings, appliances and green living, plus other offerings like travel, online education and even a dating network.

In a way, the Trudie Styler’s Warrior Yoga is a blend of fitness and green life style, plus the media recognition associated with rock star Sting and Styler. The bonus material on the DVD include interviews with Sting and Styler and a feature on their Tuscan estate Il Palagio featuring the green technology they’re using to be as friendly to the environment as possible. They are pitching their yoga, life styles and even environmental and humanitarian causes (a portion of the sales will go to a UNICEF drinking water project in Ecuador – read more about the plight of rainforest and natives).

Level — Intermediate: Although there is nothing exceptionally difficult in the poses in the routines, the DVD does not give detailed instructions about the poses so I would not consider it appropriate for a beginner. D’Silva gives good audio cuing as a voice-over so once you’ve gone through the routines a couple of times, you’ll have no problem following up. But if you are a novice, it would be a challenge to make the transitions from pose to pose. Plus, there are a few poses Styler and D’Silva make look deceptively easy because of their years of practice and discipline. That’s not to say that a beginner couldn’t take shorter segments and work with them until he/she is comfortable. There are two sessions: a 50-minute practice and a 20-minute “express” practice.

London-based fitness empresario James D’Silva clearly takes the yogic lead. He builds his practice with relatively long sequences of poses (like 10-minutes) that focus on one side of the body, and then the sequence is repeated on the “other” side, even though there are many poses that are “neutral” — facing forward. These long sequences are a lot more than just a Sun Salutation, but less than any of the Ashtanga series. This approach at first seems repetitive. At one point, I had the sensation that I was seeing a video loop, paying over again. But this repetition is really functional: you go through movements and poses repeatedly, each cycle a little deeper.

Grace in movement: D’Silva draws strongly from his background in classic and contemporary dance to give the sequencing a dance-like quality in which poses are strung together in smooth succession so that one asana blends gracefully into the next. I thought his use of the arms, especially the archer-like movements in warrior II, was a stroke of inspiration. D’Silva gives good cuing for breath with movement, and I never got the sense of being out of sync. Since the poses are held for several beats, there is always a chance for you to catch your breath. The pace is moderate and controlled. On the other hand, D’Silva’s phrasing (and accent) is different (he’s British, dah!) and I noted a couple of pose names that did not jive with asana names used in the States.

For some American yogis, it may take some time to get used to D’Silva’s style because it is so studied and choreographed. Compared to most vinyasa sequences, there are few jump-backs and jump-forwards so it seems less athletic.

I’ve been referring to D’Silva too much. It’s Styler’s video and she gives a more human stance, compared to D’Silva’s near perfection. She modifies some of the poses to a more accessible form. For a woman who’s in her mid-50s, she shows that a regular yoga practice has its rewards.

As might be expected from an experienced film producer like Styler, the production quality is superb. In addition, the filming takes place at Styler and Sting’s Tuscan villa Il Palagio so there’s some extraordinary settings for each practice. Warrior Yoga takes place in the garden, with manicured lawns, trimmed shrubbery and stately trees. Camera angles are varied and interspersed so you get multiple takes on poses, sometimes focusing on Styler or D’Silva, or both of them together. Did I mention that Sting provides background music? Just the right tone for the practice.

What I did not like: the meditation segments. There are two six-minute versions with the same script. The voice-over (Styler in one and D’Silva in the other) is giving instructions throughout the whole segment, no silence, no break, so when exactly are you supposed to meditate? I guess Styler and her team thought they had to give a nod to meditation as the ultimate goal of yoga. It’s overkill.

In the end, I think this video would be a great change of pace if you are looking to shake up your habits on the mat, and break out of standard fare of Americanized vinyasa calisthenics. The DVD was being released today. Trudie Styler Core Strength Pilates and Trudie Styler Cardio Dance Flow will be coming out in early December, just in time for Christmas. Yoga Warrior has lots of teasers to give you a glimpse of what the future ones will contain.

Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of the DVD at no cost. The final retail version may be different. I did not receive any compensation for this review. (Drat! It was hard work.)

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