Appropriate for beginners, or for more experienced yogis on days you just need to be gentle with yourself, this well-rounded practice aims to gently build strength and stamina, improve flexibility and range of motion, heighten body and breath awareness, revitalize and relax. Filmed in a yurt at her spiritual teacher, Shantimayi's, ashram in the French Pyrenees, Sara Avant Stover (also known as Shiromani) draws from Anusara-Inspired Yoga and breath-centered movement in the tradition of TKV Desikachar, striking a balance of vinyasa (flowing through poses with the breath) and static poses. With clear alignment cues and poetic imagery, Sara's instructions aspire to deliver safety and inspiration while guiding you to a still and vibrant place inside - a place that you can come home to everyday.
This 75-minute gentle practice from Sara Avant Stover is reminiscent of both Anusara’s heart-centered yoga and TKV Desikachar’s therapeutic teachings. After a brief introduction, Sara begins the practice in a seated position, slowing moving through proper seated posture, relaxed breathing, and setting an intention (8 minutes). To continue the gentle warming-up process, Sara offers a reclined series of wind-relieving pose and thread the needle, then comes to hands and knees for cat/cow, kidney crunches, and twisting table, all of which felt wonderful for awakening the body. More strength-intensive poses follow, as Sara moves into down dog, a down dog to plank flow, and finally, five bent knee push-ups.At this point, the practice comes to a standing position, where Sara starts off with Chi Swings (swinging arms overhead and then down, rising onto the heels). She then moves into slowly flowing, beginner’s-level sun salutations, performing a total of six series (or three complete rounds). A standing posture sequence follows, with Sara using a block under the hand for triangle, warrior 2, and side angle and then finishing with wide-angle standing forward bend and eagle pose; she adds flowing arm movements to most of these standing postures. Then it’s back to the floor for a bridge series, reclined twist as a counterpose, hamstring stretch, and reclined cobbler’s pose. The practice ends with a nice extended (7 minutes) savasana; soft music with singing Sanskrit is dubbed in for this segment, but Sara returns to close the practice in a seated position.Overall, this is definitely a nice, relaxed practice that would be appropriate for most beginners, especially those who are already fairly fit. Sara uses a lot of imagery to describe how your body should feel and provides a fair number of alignment cues for the standing postures, but those newer to yoga might prefer a bit more form detail than she offers. Also, as you can see from the video clip, this is a fairly simple presentation, not a polished production, and Sara herself seems a little inexperienced being in front of the camera. Although I mostly didn’t mind these issues, I did have a problem with the ambient noise—the bird sounds were enjoyable, but other noises (sounded like bubble wrap being popped) continued on and off throughout the practice, which I found to be a major distraction. Still, those looking for a basic, soothing yoga routine and who can overlook these factors are likely to enjoy this practice.