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Yoga Video Exercises Calm : Interest in slower pace is increasing. Mental as well as physical well-being is emphasized on taped program for beginners.


The '80s boom in aerobics videos brought us leotard-clad celebrities galore, frenetically bouncing to disco beats and exhorting viewers to "feel the burn."

In contrast, the '90s are bringing along a new kind of fitness video--one that moves at a slower, calmer pace while emphasizing mental as well as physical well-being. The leotards are still there, but the music is tinkling New Age stuff, and the movements are fluid and controlled rather than fast and beat-conscious.

Yoga videos may never sell at the pace that made Jane Fonda as famous for her leg lifts as for her acting, but they are finding a receptive market. Interest in yoga in general is on the rise, according to Steve Adams, director and co-producer of one of the most successful yoga videos to date, "Yoga Journal's Yoga for Beginners."

Adams, a student of yoga for 15 years, says yoga's popularity now "has never been greater. . . . Through my experience, I can't remember a period when yoga had more interest or more coverage."

Linda Cogozzo, managing editor of Berkeley-based Yoga Journal and co-producer of "Yoga for Beginners," attributes the rising interest in yoga to a rise in stress levels.

"I think our lives are very busy, very demanding," Cogozzo says. Yoga is attracting more attention because it addresses the psychological and emotional in addition to the physical, she says: "A deepening awareness of one's body leads to a deepening awareness of one's self."

"Yoga for Beginners" has sold about 60,000 copies since it was released in 1990. Last month, a three-tape sequel was released by Santa Monica-based Healing Arts Home Video, "Yoga Journal's Yoga Practice Video Series."

Each tape features poses and practice routines designed to emphasize a specific facet of yoga: strength, flexibility and relaxation. The tapes on relaxation and flexibility feature instructor Patricia Walden, who was also in the "Yoga for Beginners" tape. Rodney Yee, a ballet dancer and yoga instructor, leads the taped session on strength.

Cogozzo says the videos are not intended to replace a teacher, although they can function that way for people who don't have access to an instructor. "These videos provide support and motivation," she says.

Also, she says, they help put to rest some of the stereotypes of yoga and its practitioners.

"I think these tapes make yoga user-friendly," she says. "It's not some funny practice that one has to change one's name to do, or wear funny clothes or even move to a different country."

Each tape begins with a series of poses by the instructor, performed in a flowing sequence set to music, sans narration. The segment is demonstration, rather than instruction. "There's something very grand and lyrical about practicing yoga, and we felt that this was the best way to show it," Cogozzo says.

The tapes then go into the instructional mode, with two narrated 30-minute practice sessions that can be further broken down into shorter segments. The videos are "designed so that it's like a class that works in real time," says Adams, founder of Healing Arts. "You can always stop at one pose and repeat it if you need it."

Adams says the videos help augment personal instruction by giving students a better view of the poses than is often possible in the classroom. "A lot of times, you don't have the best point of view," he says. "It's a very intimate experience, and the poses that you see are very accurate."

The video series is meant for people who have at least some experience with yoga, through an instructor or through a beginning video or book. The type of yoga taught is one of the most popular styles, as developed and taught by Indian yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar. Walden studied with Iyengar in India in the '70s and founded the B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga Center in Somerville, Mass. Yee also has studied with Iyengar.

Many of the poses in the video are adaptable, with the help of props, for people who do not yet have the flexibility to perform them unaided. The videos do not include some moves and poses that could pose a danger to the neck if performed incorrectly, such as free-standing headstands. "We keep the videos at a level where they would be injury-free," Cogozzo says.

Cogozzo recommends that even with the tapes, people interested in yoga enroll in a class or arrange for private lessons. Places to find an instructor include the Yellow Pages, Yoga Journal (which publishes a national directory of instructors annually), through local colleges, YMCA or health and fitness clubs.

"Once you find a class, go and watch and check it out," she recommends. "Make sure the teacher and style is right for you." One way to tell is whether the instructor is receptive to questions; also, the ideal class size is no larger than 15 to 20 people.

The next step is finding the time for regular yoga practice, says Cogozzo. "Find a spot that's your spot, unplug the telephone, and do a little bit every day, because a little bit every day is better than a whole lot once in a while," she says.

"Yoga Journal's Yoga Practice Video Series" is available at some chain and specialty bookstores for $24.98 each, or $59.94 for the set of three.

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