October 14, 2009

Rainbeau Mars’ Ra’Yoka DVD Review. ~ via Scott Rodwin

Developed by Rainbeau Mars, Adidas yoga spokes-model and LA celebrity fitness guru.

Ra’yoka (“integration through the sun”) combines breath-work, vinyasa flow yoga, martial arts and a touch of spirituality. Rainbeau just released (and self-directed) her first DVD of the system. I was fortunate to be able to catch a couple of live classes with her up at the Estes Park Yoga Journal Conference last week, which gave me an additional and perhaps more authentic perspective from which to check it out.

Overall, I personally loved Ra’yoka.

I come from a martial arts background, and the combination of fast and slow twitch movements was an interesting and enjoyable new flavor for my yoga practice. The cultivation and expression of an overtly Yang energy within the more typical Yin dominated yoga practice gave it an energetic balance that I liked. It might not be for everyone. If you prefer exclusively traditional forms of yoga, or extremely precise alignment, this may be a little too much of a funky hybrid for you. However, underneath the creative new sequences, poses, and influences, it’s clear that she has a firm grasp on and drew from traditional styles (primarily Ashtanga).

The DVD is itself beautifully and simply produced. Rainbeau is lovely to watch and her narrative is confident, clear and well paced. The background music is very subtle and the visuals are Zen simple. The practice includes mostly familiar vinyasa flow yoga poses, but often arranged in new ways. The sequences felt nicely composed, safely demonstrated and have a mildly athletic and dance-like quality.

Overall, the DVD seems generally geared to an intermediate level practitioner – it moved along smoothly and rapidly, but rarely included particularly difficult poses. There is a fair amount of focus on cultivating core strength, flexibility, flow and balance. I found the martial arts (mostly straight-forward karate or Kung Fu/Jeet Koon Do style punching and kicking) to be basic, but integrated and demonstrated with reasonable cohesion and integrity within the asana sequence.

For many years, I have woven my martial arts and yoga practice – the two seem to be first cousins, and a natural fit. Both use a disciplined system of physical, mental and spiritual training to hone the body and refine the spirit. That said, there was actually only a small martial arts component in the system, and I think there are substantial further opportunities to explore the merging of these two ancient arts.

In the live class at Estes the unfamiliar poses and creative sequences occasionally caused a little confusion for students. There are undoubtedly teachers with a more advanced asana practice or more experience and precision in their command of a class, but there is a certain non-intimidating accessibility to her style of teaching and demonstrating. She radiates a warmth, enthusiasm and genuine openhearted quality that is impossible to fake and makes her class a pleasure to be in. She falls down, sometimes forgets words and can laugh at herself in public. That’s a human yoga practice I am inspired by.

Scott Rodwin holds a 3rd degree black belt in karate and has practiced a wide variety of martial arts over the last 25 years. He has also been a professional dancer and teaches Contact Improvisation and Partner Yoga in Boulder.

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