I picked up Richard Freeman's Primary Series DVD from the library today. I borrowed this years ago, back in my 'reluctant' days and remember watching it with awe and a bit of disbelief. It was pretty fun to unroll the mat and actually *do* the practice I had once scoffed at.
My overall impression? It was a bit too slow and leisurely for my taste. I felt like the practice lagged in spots, allowing my body to cool down. Beryl may have her quirks, but her Primary Series is snappy, it moves along at a good clip and I've come to love that.
It goes without saying: Richard Freeman has a gorgeous practice. This DVD is worthwhile simply for viewing. And he has a really lovely voice - I could listen to him speak all day. This is important because he has a lot to say and he says it all on this DVD. There are few moments of silence in which to listen to your breath or contemplate the stillness of the mind or simply be. The steady stream of instruction is a bit overwhelming at times, but as a teacher, I appreciated the richness of his cues and his observations about the practice. I could, and will, listen to this DVD multiple time to pick up the nuances.
I noticed a few differences. He didn't offer a Parivritta Parsvakonasana (though the Parivritta Trikonasana was there). In Bhujapidasana, he put the crown of his head to the floor in what looked like a tripod headstand. Of course, I didn't do the pose that way - I decided to do some 'research'. I tried to put my chin on the floor (inspired by some tips Susan offered in a recent post) and in my enthusiasm I ended up falling forward onto my face.
Ouch. I had to ice my face for the rest of the practice to avoid a fat lip in my 4:30 class.
There's a nice section on jumps, but unfortunately, it's smack-dab in the middle of the practice, so if I were to use this DVD regularly, I would need to fast forward through it. I appreciated his thoughts about the purpose of vinyasa: it allows you to start each pose with a 'clean slate' (kind of like clearing the palate) and also offers the opportunity to re-engage the bandhas before moving on to the next pose.
There were some funny moments. In Ardha Padma Padottanasana, you're instructed to “grab the left toe, if available”, as if the left toe might have stepped out for a bite to eat or something (apparently, the right toe is more of a homebody; there was no question about its availability). There was a constant reference to 'enthusiastic legs' which oddly reminded me of 'The Joy of Painting' with Bob Ross and his 'happy trees'. I forget where the 'Power of your tail' came up, but it gave me a good giggle.
Some of his cues were powerful. As a yoga teacher, I really appreciate it when someone can tell me precisely how to deepen a pose, in words rather than adjustments. In Janu Sirsasana, he says more than once that the sit bone of the extended leg should be 'floating above the floor' and moving backwards (so the front heel and the sit bone are moving in opposite directions). Brilliant! I've always rooted down through that sitbone. By moving this engagement into the other sitbone, I was able to deepen the pose.
I enjoyed his instruction in the Marichyasanas. I didn't know that the foot of the folded leg should be six inches away from my thigh in Marichyasana A (I had been working with my foot almost touching my leg). Interestingly, this helped me go deeper in the pose. In Marichyasana C, he cues to 'ground down through the sit bone'. This helped me create more length in my spine and took some pressure off my low back (a common issue I experience in this pose). His instruction to “reach way, way up” before reaching around to bind also made a difference - both in spinal length and the depth of my bind.
Just prior to the section of the practice containing Bhujapidasana, he offered some advice, quite priceless in retrospect:
“The key here is having a good attitude. You should enjoy falling down sometimes.”
Looks like I get an A+ for that one!
More on this DVD as I continue to use it.