This is a continuation of a series of reviews of home Yoga practices. Up for review: The Ultimate Yogi 108 with Travis Eliot.
It should be noted that this Series is the initial home Yoga DVD series directed by Jason Reim, produced by Udaya Entertainment, co-produced by Inner-Domain Media and Associate Produced by Lauren Eckstrom and Aaron Copeland.
Filmed in Bulgaria at Nuboyano Studios, this Series set the standard for Yoga Series' produced by Udaya. One might even say that it raised the proverbial 'bar' in terms of home Yoga practices. In fact, this is an award-winning Series.
Charleston Yoga Examiner (CYE) previously interviewed Eliot and Udaya CEO Yariv Lerner: links are provided at the end of this no-holes-barred review. It should also be noted that CYE completed two rounds of this program.
As stated in the review of Yoga Warrior 365 (YW365); production value is a term tossed around in the film industry. It's a rarity to discuss such topics in reference to Yoga DVD's or series'. However, it's a term that should from this point forward be considered more closely. After all, most Yoga DVD's feature a beach back-drop: edited, dubbed, and re-dubbed with voice-overs. Others make an attempt to provide a studio environment appearance with a minimal of two other participants.
UY108 differs in that while it is filmed in a studio environment; the studio is built much like a movie set with filming and lighting set from various angles that enhance the experience. Additionally, the sound quality is amazing.
There are those series and Yoga DVD productions that make an extra effort to add in production value however, this is the very first time that CYE has observed this degree of attention to production values.
The end result is attributable, in large part, to the production values: because of this it becomes an experience.
The DVD Series (12 DVD's) comes in a catalog-like packaging with individual sleeves for each disk. The package dimensions are approximately 5"x5"x1.5" for easy storage and space conservation. The only potentially negative comment regarding the packaging is that it is sometimes difficult to put the disks back into a sleeve, leaving room for possibly scratching the DVD. Solution: burn the DVD's to a laptop.
In a conversation with CEO Lerner, it was explained why Udaya went the route they did with the packaging. In large part it was due to an opportunity to get into CostCo. According to Lerner, CostCo "...wanted us to produce it in a plastic amaray case and break it up into separate discs." He went on to say that they felt it "...would then lose the impact of the arc we tried to create." That, in itself, is telling of the faith and confidence put into this production and it shows.
Ultimate Yogi 108
The title of this program may sound bold: it is bold. This is 108 days straight of Yoga practice and Sadhana. Included in the practice are individually emphasized sequences. A few that are included: "Cardio", "Balance", "Strength", "Cross-Training", "Vitality", "Detox", and "Flexibility". There is a separate DVD provided for Pranayama and meditation (a first for any series CYE has seen). Additionally there is a practice designed specifically for abdominal strength: oddly enough (note sarcasm) titled "Hardcore".
The pre-printed schedule takes the user from Day 1 to Day 108 with a planned routine for each day; similar to a standard Sadhana practice; there are recommended times for meditation (guided) and Pranayama.
The schedule (separate from the manual) consists of 36 day segments that each mark the end with a celebratory round of Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskara A): 36, 72, and 108 on their respective days.
While the production company and/or Eliot could have opted to present a single 36 day celebration; they went the extra mile by including the 72 day and 108 day Sun Salutations. In that way, the participant can perform the 36, 72, or 108 Sun Salutations along with the DVD participants.
Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced?
This Series is accessible to anyone with a basic understanding of Yoga postures and poses. The intensity and the flow of the practices may leave the participant, as Eliot says in the "Cross-Train" practice wondering what they got themselves into. However, as with any exercise 'program', over time a participant can and likely will become accustomed to it. With that said, it would possibly be most appropriate to consider this in the "Intermediate to Advanced" range.
While it seems the intention of the Series is to provide a Power Yoga type practice; it also provides for other aspects that are as, if not more, necessary to a solid Yoga practice. For those who prefer a slower pace there are "Gentle", "Mountain Pose", and "Yin" Yoga practices. As Eliot is quick to remind "it takes strength to go slow".
More Bonus (guidelines)
At or near the end of each 36 day segment there are three days dedicated to encouraging a change in diet. This is done through an explanation of a vegan lifestyle, a raw food "detox", and finally a "juice feast". No reason to despair because on the flip side of the calendar and in the manual are helpful hints for accomplishing just that. It should be noted that during those three day periods the Asana schedule is considerably light. In this way when the program is taken as a whole, it becomes an almost complete Sadhana practice (minus studying of scriptures, etc.)
The manner in which a teacher or instructor presents themselves can either be distracting or conducive to the learning environment. Eliot's delivery and cadence makes this Series both challenging and serene. So, if you're looking for a home Yoga series has a healthy mix of intensity followed by serenity: this is your program.
Teaching Yoga vs Instructing
There are teachers and then there are instructors. With Eliot you have a teacher. In the reviewers opinion, Eliot is akin to a conductor. In other words, in this program Eliot seems to play the part of Conductor as he guides you through the rhythm of the sequences. This is accomplished through subtle hints and challenges intertwined in the sequencing: challenging you to go further and 'deeper'. Deeper into your own mind and pay attention to "what your body is telling you". Funny: Eliot has a music background.
In Yoga philosophy the idea (or notion) is that the individual is his or her own best source of instruction. By listening to the subtle hints and cues provided through the practice one stands to learn a lot about the practice itself.
UY108 was a bold undertaking. The end result is a superior product that necessarily raises the proverbial "bar" for home Yoga programs. Anyone looking to deepen their practice and understanding of Yoga in general should be very satisfied. As a direct result of this Series, the reviewer embarked on a Yoga journey that has lead him to become a Registered Yoga Teacher. A more in-depth and personal review can be found here.
At the beginning of most Yoga classes, participants are encouraged to set an intention. The intention of this Series is to "Transform your body and mind in 108 days": it delivers.