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Gary Kraftsow, yoga instructor and founder of Viniyoga Therapy in the United States, has released his first-ever DVD series. As the title suggests, this DVD focuses on issues of the upper body, specifically the upper back, neck, and shoulders (the other DVD in this series focuses on the lower body). These Viniyoga Therapy DVDs differ from other yoga media offerings in that they contain a strong educational component in addition to the practice element. Furthermore, the practices offered are designed for rehabilitation and strengthening, and thus they are more similar in feel to a physical therapy session than to a yoga class.
The main menu of this DVD consists of four separate segments: 1) Understanding Back Pain, 2) Technique Workshop, 3) Therapeutic Practices, and 4) Special Features (includes Gary’s biography, lecture slides, subtitles, and other resources). The first of these provides a short (20 minute) lecture covering the basics of back pain, including the types and causes of pain. Using a Power Point-type visual aid, Gary presents simple anatomical information and explains how yoga therapy can be beneficial for the treatment of upper back issues. The Technique Workshop provides the opportunity to study individual postures in greater depth. Here Gary offers one-on-one instruction of each pose, providing detailed information about breathing and movement patterns. This section is organized by category (i.e., kneeling poses, standing poses, prone poses, supine poses, and seated poses), but postures can also be accessed individually. Furthermore, during the Therapeutic Practices that follow, an option appears on screen at the start of each pose which allows the viewer to return to the Technique Workshop for review as needed.
Finally, the Viniyoga Therapeutic Practices offer three complete practice segments tailored to meet different needs as described below. (Note: the DVD also provides bonus MP3 audio versions of each practice.)
- Upper Back and Neck Therapy (22 minutes). This is the most gentle of the three practices, and it is designed to address misalignment or instability by strengthening and mobilizing the upper back and neck. In consists mainly of movements which serve to lengthen the upper spine.
- Neck and Shoulder Therapy (32 minutes). This practice is more specifically geared to releasing pain or restricted movement in the neck and shoulders via stretching, aligning, and balancing work. Many of the postures here involve moving one arm as you twist your neck to the opposite side.
- Strength and Stability (41 minutes). This longer practice is intend to build sustained, long-term health in the upper back, neck, and shoulders. It is a bit more intense than the previous two, containing many of the same posture sequences but adding some stronger work as well.
The practices feature a single student working on a mat against a rather sparse white set, with Gary providing instruction via voiceover. Each practice begins with basic breathing and lengthening in a seated position and ends with savasana (relaxation pose; Gary encourages the viewer to remain here as long as is comfortable). Most people are likely to find the practices rather dry--Gary’s voice is a big monotone and repetitive, and there’s little “fun factor” here. However, these are therapeutic in nature, and as such, they are largely effective. I found the twisting motions from the Neck and Shoulder Therapy practice in particular to be extremely beneficial for my nagging neck soreness and frequently tight upper back and shoulders. This DVD would be useful for virtually anyone who is at risk for upper back issues, from those who work at a desk daily to those with more chronic conditions. I definitely recommend Viniyoga Therapy for Upper Back, Neck, and Shoulders as an excellent tool for alleviating pain and promoting health in the upper back, neck, and shoulders.
© 2007 Beth Cholette
Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students at SUNY Geneseo. She is also a Top 100 Reviewer at Amazon.com and the official yoga media reviewer for iHanuman.com.