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Shiva Rea is known for making beautiful yoga DVDs, and she does this again with the 2 DVD set Fluid Power Vinyasa Flow Yoga. However, it does not compare well to her earlier yoga DVDs because her instruction is hard to follow. With most yoga DVDs, they can be a little confusing the first time you follow it, but it gets easier with the second time, and by the third and fourth time it is very clear what you are meant to do. That was true for Shiva Rea's earlier DVDs. Unfortunately, on this DVD, the emphasis on making a visually interesting experience has got in the way of providing instruction that is easy to follow.
One has a choice of following one of six pre-set practices
· Backbend Flow (108 mins)
· Hip Opening Flow (77 mins)
· Creative Flow (63 mins)
· Beginning Flow (43 mins)
· Lunar Flow for Flexibility (41 mins)
· Meditation (26 mins)
Alternatively, one can program one's own practice using a "Yoga Matrix" with a choice of 20 different segments. The matrix is easy to use and works well. Since the DVD has over 200 minutes of different practices, it takes a long time to sample all of it, and thus it takes a long time to get used to.
The yoga practice was filmed at the White Sands National Monument, which provides a stunning setting. The production quality is high, with very professional camera work and subtle editing. They show the white sands, often in wide angle so that Shiva Rea occupies a small portion of the screen. It looks great, but when you are trying to follow what she is doing, so you are on your yoga mat moving around, it is frustrating to not be able to clearly see what she is doing. At other points, there are many people all following along with the practice, and we see them all, sometimes with one perspective superimposed on another. It makes it nearly impossible to get a clear view of what each is actually doing. At other points, the camera focuses too close onto Shiva Rea, so you only see the top of her body, when you want to know how she is placing her feet. In some of the practices, she gives you the choice of following Option 1 or Option 2, which would be good if you want more options, but since it is hard to follow what she is instructing, it just makes the practice more confusing.
Some of the practices include chanting, which may not be for everyone. Only those who really believe in the Eastern ideas behind yoga will find much of what Shiva Rea claims convincing. She often refers to positions just by their Sanskrit terms, so this DVD is definitely only for people who are already quite familiar with yoga. Often the positions she shows are advanced, and she does not provide much in the variations, or indeed, she will just tell you to choose your own modifications and variations, which isn't very helpful unless you are very experienced with yoga.
One of the central ideas of Fluid Power is to move in circular ways, with plenty of spontaneous movement. Shiva Rea recognizes that sometimes your back will be to the screen, but unfortunately her instructions are often not specific enough to follow without looking carefully at the screen.
The music with the practices matches the beauty of the setting, and is well chosen. You can choose to hear the music with the instruction, which is done in voiceover, or just have the music on its own.
The second DVD has talks by four experts on Eastern thought and yoga, along with a very short documentary featuring the thoughts of Shiva Rea, and some texts about yoga. This second DVD is full of mystical ideas. The production quality is not great and at some points is quite poor, but for those who like this sort of thing, this will probably not be a problem. Personally, I find talk of the relevance of chaos theory as applied to yoga, or references to cosmic energy very hard to take. The general message is that yoga helps us become more spontaneous and less stuck in our ways, which seems plausible.
The actual practices that Shiva Rea demonstrates are invigorating and even fun once you get used to them. They are quite unusual since they were developed by Rea herself. For those who have plenty of experience and the patience to learn them, this could be a valuable DVD. It certainly provides many practices and is very nicely put together. However, for most people who are looking for a fairly straightforward yoga practice, using this DVD may be a frustrating experience, and they would be better off with a different practice that is easier to follow.
© 2007 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews. His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.