Will Video Kill the Yoga Star?: A Skeptic Meets Seane Corn on DVD.

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With all due respect to elephant readers who live in caves and charnel grounds or permanently prostrated at the feet of their gurus, I’ve never been a yoga traditionalist.

Stoner yoga, naked yoga, leprechaun yoga, it’s all cool. And yet, I’ve never much liked the idea of “virtual” yoga classes, in which the teacher is on-line or on DVD. Did Patanjali teach by DVD? I don’t think so.

Then, there’s probably very little in my practice that the ancient sages would recognize, and I’m perfectly okay with that. Nonetheless, I love actual in-person yoga classes for the opportunity to practice within a supportive community (unlike many of my fellow yoga bloggers, I’ve never encountered teachers who make rude remarks about students’ body hair, students who steal each others’ spots with impunity, or much of anybody laughing at each other; and I live in a city that’s been called the rudest in America—who’d ‘a thunk it?).

And, as importantly, there’s a teacher who offer one-on-one guidance, such as pointing out that my alignment in trikonasana is so poor I’ll need a hip-replacement before I hit fifty, if my ill-conceived inversions don’t sever my spinal column first. My home practice, for its part, gives me the freedom to follow my own needs and instincts, to the sounds of my own playlists—Miles Davis and Sonic Youth rather than Sanskrit hip-hop or rain falling on flower petals. A virtual, electronic yoga class, on the other hand, would seem to mean practicing by myself without the freedom.

So, when offered a review copy of Seane Corn’s latest DVD, Detox Flow Yoga,  I demurred, at first…but then thought, “what better opportunity to try something new…for free?” Plus, I’ve been to a couple of workshops with Seane Corn, and found her a great teacher, who was far nicer, friendlier, and down-to-earth than a yoga celebrity’s supposed to be (at least according to some of my fellow yoga bloggers). Even got my picture taken with her.

Soon after, I received the DVD by FEDEX Express…in an envelope marked Extremely Urgent…and realized…“wow, Seane Corn really really REALLY wants me to practice some yoga with her DVD”…better get down to it.

Then I read the title: Detox Flow. Hmmmmm.. To detox, one has to be toxed in the first place, right? As a respected yoga blogger, with a 200 hr. YTT and a bunch of expensive retreats in heavily guarded third world paradises under my belt, I of course have no unhealthy habits I’d be willing to admit to in this forum (seriously—didja see the comments on that article where the author admitted to drinking a glass of wine after teaching her yoga class? No thanks…).

And so, for needed guidance on how to I might get some tox to de, I turned to counterculture hero and noted deceased Coloradan Hunter S. Thompson, who suggested: two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half-full of cocaine and a whole galaxy of multicolored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers…also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls. Combine all that with a week’s worth of food from the local Chick-Fil-A, and I’m ready for some detox yoga!

Just kidding. Insides lined as usual with the various toxic residues of Ben & Jerry’s pints, Chipotle burritos, Chinese take-out, ludicrously overpriced craft beers, and that strange gaseous substance we breathe and call air here in Philadelphia, I rolled out the mat and put on the DVD.

First up: an ad for GAIAM. Okay, that’s kinda like at the beginning of class when the teacher talks about the upcoming Death Metal Kirtan or the Yoga and Crystal Meth workshop. Familiar turf, so far.

Then the DVD started stuttering and pixelating, kinda like when the teacher has a seizure…. Okay, maybe not. I washed the fresh-out-of-plastic-wrap DVD with dish-soap and tried again.

And so: here’s the lovely Seane Corn sitting on a hill in what looks like a lovely southern California arid wilderness environment. Very nice. Personally, I’ve always found the idea of outdoor yoga a lot more appealing than the actual practice—kinda like naked yoga, in that respect—going au natural amidst the wonders of nature sounds nice, but, generally speaking, I’d rather be in a  temperature controlled, bug-free room with a nice, roomy pair of shorts on. So, I thought, how nice to bring the beauty of the outdoors into my comfortable indoor practice space.

And Seane’s awesome—leading me through some great basic sequences with lots of good cues and a calm, gentle yet authoritative voice. This is why she gets to make yoga DVD’s and I don’t. And she gives a number of different options—two different “classes” and two different voice-overs for each: one teaching each pose in a way that’ll be accessible to beginners, and the other leading the more seasoned student through the same sequences with less instruction on form and more attention given to the breath.

Throughout, she draws connections between asana practice and diet, as well as between personal and planetary health (thus making me feel guilty not only for the Chinese take-out, but its incredibly wasteful packaging; I’ll try to do better, Seane, really…), emphasizing that detox yoga means more than sweating out a hangover.

One thing that kind of surprised me with the practicing-with-DVD experience was the realization that it could, in fact, be a far more interactive experience than I’d thought. I could stop the class when I wanted to use the bathroom or get a drink of water, could rewind if I wanted to hear instructions again, could hit pause and turn on the Coltrane if I wanted to do a headstand, could use just parts of the DVD’s sequences for particular areas I’m working on (I tend to go through sun salutations and vinyasas very rapidly, at home, which provides a nice rush, but it’s nice to have Seane setting a more reasonable pace).

And, it occurred to me, it can be a useful teaching tool, as well—instead of trying in vain to remember just what those cues my favorite teachers use for half-moon, I can hear Seane’s as many times as I want. And, of course, the DVD gives the option of practicing my own without having to decide what to do next—on those lazy occasions when freedom’s just another word for being too lazy to drag myself to class (such as those mornings when I’m most in need of detox).

If she doesn’t bring a lot of personality into her presentation—no jokes, no impromptu stories—I’d probably get sick of those pretty quickly with repeated use of the DVD, anyway. What’s here is practical and to the point, however I feel like using it. While it certainly won’t replace going to class or my free-flowing home practice, it’s nice to have yet another option, and this is a good one.

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About Jay Winston

Jay S. Winston, founder and proprietor of Yoga for Cynics (http://yogaforcynics.blogspot.com), has a PhD in English, making him the kind of doctor who, in case of life-threatening emergency, can explain Faulkner while you die, is currently (semi-)(un-)employed as a freelance writer and editor, teaches creative writing to homeless men, tutors recovering addicts in reading, was recently certified as a Kripalu yoga teacher, gets around mostly by bicycle, is trying to find an agent for his novel, resides in the bucolic Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia, State of Mildly Inebriated Samadhi, U.S.A. and, like most people who bike and practice yoga, used to live in Boulder.


8 Responses to “Will Video Kill the Yoga Star?: A Skeptic Meets Seane Corn on DVD.”

  1. sophie says:

    Great review, and hilarious too. I’m glad you’re bo longer a virtual yoga virgin.

  2. Enjoyed this very much, Jay. Love your writing. Will post all over the place, of course.

    Bob W. elephant journal
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    Yoga Demystified, Gita in a Nutshell

  3. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Video won't kill the yoga star, but will eventually enable them to branch out. My first-ever video yoga teacher was Patricia Moreno; and Seane Corn followed closely on her heels (yes, it was the eminently deconstructible and uncued Uniting Movement with Breath, "Breath Session") that led to my seeking a live class, the earliest, best days of my yoga-going life at a gym–not-studio … I still stand by that, excepting one or two studios that teach either a mild style or a middle-path-oriented style …

    I don't frequently use a video these days. But I still most recently have used Patricia Moreno's DVD. The one in which she extols John Friend and Anusara Yoga (which probably relegates this video to the great dustbin of history) …

    Not sure she's generally considered a "yoga star", but–like me–she (and even Seane Corn) long ago have branched out …

  4. Hi Jay,
    Enjoyed the commentary and the story of your personal yoga pecadillos. So the good news about another video is the fact that you can turn it on and off to do your own thing too? Sounds reasonable to me, why not?

  5. Loretta Pyles says:

    Nice piece. Well written. Thanks.

  6. @stylistad says:

    I really enjoyed this article! Great writing, definitely giggled out loud!

  7. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Maybe, I should turn in my membership badge to MyYogaOnline … there have been times I masticate, break up the order of, and deconstruct their videos, too … [easier to do with a download than streaming, btw]

    Seane Corn taught me how! I timed the pose sequences to each symphonic movement of the raga music in the uncued Breath session … I was always about a pose or two off when I glanced up at the screen (despite my writing down everything she did in advance) … anyone who's practiced to that Breath Session, was probably BORN out-of-sync unless they have an orchestra conductor's sense of musical timing …

    So, the beat of a different drummer RULES!

    When you have injuries or need an extra, extra, lengthy warm-up (that a video left out for some reason),…or, conversely, want to speed up the body-scan during savasana at the end … and, yeah though I mostly do MyYogaOnline's dance videos; if yoga, then if somehow the video doesn't seem to cover headstand or viparita ___(fill in the blank here)____ — but you still want to get your money's worth …

  8. I haven’t seen this DVD, but have done her first two and have her audio download, plus workshops. Needless to say, I like her teaching style. Glad to hear you liked it.

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