“Bend and Stretch, Reach For the Sky”

Hello and welcome to Week 5 of Library Life Hack! Today, we’re checking out whether or not a person could realistically use library materials to learn yoga.

But First, a “Prior Knowledge” Disclaimer
I do have a little background with yoga: two six-week worksite classes and exactly one hot yoga session (which I decided was the new-age equivalent of Opus Dei). But I tried to approach this life hack with fresh eyes, pretending to be someone who was exploring the idea of regular yoga training but didn’t necessarily want to commit to regular studio classes.

So … I didn’t look for books on yoga – that just seemed like an impossibly tortured way to learn a physical skill. Instead I checked the DVD holdings in my home library, and came back with Yoga Journal’s “Complete Beginner’s Guide” and “Complete Home Practice”.

I skimmed both DVDs and started with the Beginner’s Guide. This is a two-disc set. One disc is a visual encyclopedia of basic yoga poses and the other is set of three “practices”: a 60-minute “Essential Practice”, followed by two shorter practices for awakening or quieting. I watched a few poses on the encyclopedia disc and then decided to dive right into “Essential Practice”. You need three props: a yoga mat, a yoga block and a yoga belt. The disc also advises on suitable substitute props – I found that a bath towel, textbook and the belt from my bathrobe worked just fine.

The first thing that struck me is how well thought-out this program is. When Instructor Jason tells you to put your hands behind your back and do something with your fingers, the camera moves behind his back so that you can actually see what he’s doing with his fingers. That being said, I did have to shift around to follow everything that was going on. (In the “Downward-Facing Dog” pose – which happens a lot in beginner yoga practice — I eventually turned my back to the TV and watched Instructor Jason through my ankles.)

60 minutes of Essential Practice went by quickly. At the end of it, I was nicely stretched but not overly tired. To me, this felt like I had lucked into the perfect beginner’s yoga workout – some of it was fairly easy, some a little more challenging and some of the poses I would need a lot of practice to be able to hold at all. In other words, there was plenty of room to grow.

Could You Actually Use a DVD to Learn Yoga on Your Own?
I went into this a little bit skeptical, and expected that I’d be advising you all to take a few classes with a professional and then try training with a DVD. But these videos are so well-executed that I’m going to say I think it’s quite possible to life hack this skill and learn yoga on your own. Mastering the “Essential Practice” would probably take several months, and then you’d be able to branch into Yoga Journal’s “Complete Home Practice” DVD, which goes through nine advanced routines. To help you along the way, Yoga Journal also maintains a comprehensive website, full of articles designed to support practitioners at every level.

A Word About Solitary Practice
One of the things I learned in this week’s experiment is that we aren’t always as solitary as we think. For example, I share my household with my trusty editorial assistant, Jack the Cat. Jack saw my 60-minute yoga class as an ideal time for us to bond. While I was sitting on the floor doing the first few poses, he hopped into my lap. My lap disappeared quite soon, but Jack was undaunted. When I rolled onto my stomach for “Cobra Pose”, Jack decided to strike “Triumphant Cat Pose” on my backside. That didn’t work out either, so Jack harumphed over to my yoga mat/bath towel and stretched into full-length “I’m Not Done With You Pose”, forcing me to finish the rest of the class on the bare floor.

This is pretty funny, but there is a point: practising yoga at home is maybe not as simple as I’d assumed. If a mere cat could generate this much interruption, I can only imagine what a husband or toddler would be capable of.

And Now, the Numbers
These two DVDs aren’t available at chapters.indigo.ca, but amazon.ca lists both Yoga Journal’s “Complete Beginner’s Guide” and “Complete Home Practice” at 22.49 each.

If you trained twice a week, I estimate that these two DVDs could keep you busy for at least four months. Based on the cost of a 30-class pass for the yoga studio nearest my house, you would be saving $345. Added all together, that’s a total of $389.98 saved with this week’s library life hack. Cha-ching!

Here’s the information on this week’s library resources:

Yoga Journal: Complete Beginner’s Guide
Released Nov 24, 2009

Yoga Journal: Complete Home Practice
Released Sept 6, 2011

And that’s it — thank you for reading this week’s post! Next week, we’re going to tackle another food hack – homemade goat cheese. We’re also going to check in on our imaginary portfolio of stocks from Week 1, and see how they’ve done. In the meantime, have a great seven days. Namaste!


P.S. A Little Extra Research
As part of this week’s blog work, I also watched the 2008 documentary “Enlighten Up!” This quirky yet thought-provoking little movie was made by Kate Churchill, filmmaker and dedicated yoga practitioner. She recruits Nick, journalist and yoga know-nothing for an intense six months of yoga training, convinced that he will undergo a dramatic spiritual transformation. (If this story sounds familiar to you, it should. It’s “My Fair Lady” in stretchy black pants. Except that Nick and Kate don’t fall in love. Or sing.)

Nick spends most of the next six months being followed by a camera and trotting around the globe, talking to and training with a whole palette of gurus. His physical skills improve, but he infuriates Kate because he doggedly refuses to reach any kind of enlightenment – and some of the scenes are laugh-out-loud funny. I highly recommend it. : )

One thought on ““Bend and Stretch, Reach For the Sky”

  1. I am really enjoying this blog, Sally! I am especially glad that Jack the cat seems to instinctively know the same poses as my cats. They also know Pilates poses, just so you know. Especially the: Does this make it a LOT harder? which involves sitting on your abs and interfering with the small amount of air you were getting in the first place.

    – Les (from the sorter room!)


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