October 8, 2012

Exploring the Garden of your Belly with Shiva Rea. ~ Miri McDonald

{Note: the author received this DVD for free in return to review the said offering. That said, she says what she wants—good and bad, happy and sad.}

Let me start off by saying that my abs are really sore.

In a good way. I just did Shiva Rea’s Core Yoga DVD and I can personally tell you that it definitely works the core. A lot.

But before I go into the review, I thought I’d share something with you. Shiva Rea and I have a bit of a history together—although she has no idea about this said history. Her Yoga Shakti video (released in 2004) was a big part of my practice when I earned my teaching certification in 2005. I admired Shiva’s style, grace and her sense of ease even in the most challenging of yoga poses. So, I jumped at the opportunity to see what my favorite yogini was up to these days.

Willingness to suspend your disbelief

There’s no question that Shiva Rea’s yoga practice is incredible. The thing about her, to me, that is more incredible is her conviction that we can also do everything she can do. She begs us to willingly suspend our disbelief in ourselves.

Yes, she offers modifications and asks the viewer start off in the first phase offered, but her manner suggests a confidence in all yogis that had me trying and doing poses I haven’t been able to do before. For example, I always struggle with Eka Pada Koundiyanasana II, a very challenging arm balance. Shiva’s invitation to try it was so welcoming that I didn’t stop to doubt myself and was in the pose more than my usual second!

Additionally, you usually don’t see teachers on DVDs encouraging free form expression. Even in studio classes, students get nervous when a teacher suggests the class flow on their own for a few minutes. Shiva Rea asks for us to suspend our sarcasm and judgment and be vulnerable enough to try it.

With that said, I do think this DVD is a bit intimidating for a total beginner. It is well-suited for an intermediate practitioner and advanced yogis will soar with Shiva Rea’s Core Yoga.

The yoga matrix
Many of Shiva Rea’s videos have her signature yoga matrix at the start of the video, allowing you to create your own sequence by selecting modules on the DVD. It’s a great feature, one that I really liked in her Shakti Yoga DVD, but I’m not sure it works as well for this one.

Every time I did a different version of the matrix, I left feeling like I wished Shiva had suggested an order that works best. On the flip side, it is nice to have the option to do them in the order you prefer. Just know that you won’t necessarily feel like they flow from one to the next.

Did I mention my abs were sore?

Back to my sore abs. The practice is quite unique and does not include a single crunch. Instead you’ll do things like pulsing planks with dolphin arms, reclined uddiyana bhanda with the legs lifted up in the air and belly pressing down into the earth and a “leg mandala” (a circular motion of the leg) with your hands in “neck hammock” beneath your head and neck.

My favorite move is called the “Rockin’ Bridge.” You start on your back and roll back with the legs coming up high, as if you are about to come into shoulder stand and instead, come forward quickly, push up on your hands and pull the belly in. Shiva goes on to suggest, with absolutely no irony in her voice, “if you can, your heels can come up off the ground, suspending yourself.” Which she does, effortlessly. And although I couldn’t do it (yet!), Shiva had me imagining my future self doing it one day.

Language to inspire

At first, you may be inspired to laugh at some of the language Shiva uses (I admit it—I did), but then realize that it’s actually quite helpful and inspires you to go deeper.

For example, did you know your belly had a garden to explore? At first it sounds funny but then if you allow yourself to imagine it, you realize the complexity within your core that can be accessed and strengthened.

Another few phrases that at first invoked my sarcastic self but then allowed me to go deeper were these two, said during a very fluid core sequence:

“Imagine you are skateboarding in the empty bowl of your pelvis.” Followed by, “Your hands are moving as if they were the puppeteers of your pelvis.”

The last one I’ll mention is part of Shiva’s agni namaskar (fire salutations) series. This segment is a sun salute series with 108 “prostration push-ups” broken down into nine rounds of 12. This term felt the most forced to me. As if a push-up would only be palatable in yoga if it was given a spiritual-sounding name. I still kind of feel that way. However, 108 is a sacred number in the yogic tradition and Buddhists prostrate as a form of giving and purification which is inspiring.

And, if you willingly suspend your disbelief in your own ability to do 108 yogic-style push-ups, you’ll be pleasantly surprised in your strength, the amount of heat you’ll build in your body and, did I mention, your abs will be very sore?


Miri McDonald works in strategic communications and a yogini on and off the mat. She earned her 200 hour teaching certification in 2005 from Tranquil Space Yoga in Washington, DC. Miri lives in Madison, WI where she is doing her best to live in the moment, learning from her favorite gurus, her two young boys and a crazy black Labrador. She tweets at@mirimcdonald.



Editor: Kate Bartolotta

Like elephant reviews on Facebook.

Read 8 Comments and Reply

Read 8 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Elephant Journal  |  Contribution: 1,510,185