Not the first term that comes to mind when reviewing a Home Yoga DVD series; production value is a term tossed around the film industry. Loosely interpreted, production values are defined as: method(s), material(s), or stagecraft skill(s) used in the production of a motion picture or artistic performance; the technical quality of such a method, material, or skill.
Generally speaking, typical Yoga DVD programs are shown to take place on a beach with a solitary practitioner (instructor) using voice-overs and dubbed, re-dubbed, etc. or in a studio environment with perhaps one or two practitioners. That is not the case and would not be expected from any Udaya product. In other words, the production value of this Yoga DVD Series is expectedly not short of phenomenal. The sound quality is nothing short of amazing: it's almost as if you are in the studio with Mettia and the other participants. Note that they are participants and not necessarily there for displaying modifications to postures.
Having practiced with Ultimate Yogi Series (UY108: another Udaya offering), the writer would have expected to see a similar backdrop for this production however, that is not the case. The backdrop of the studio with its decor adds significantly to the production value of this series as well as UY108. In fact, according to CEO Yariv Lerner, the set used for this series (other than the woodland scene) was borrowed from the movie Spartacus.
Different product, same production company?
If Udaya were a beverage company one could surmise that the products are essentially the same. After all, Yoga is Yoga. However, it would be remiss not to mention that beverage companies generally have a wide array of products. So, in answer that question: yes, while the product is essentially the same this presentation has its own unique qualities. Charleston Yoga Examiner (CYE) interviewed Rudy Mettia and Yariv Lerner previously regarding this production: interview links are provided below.
The DVD Series (14 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 similar to that of the UY Series: 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.
Lerner discussed this aspect of the production with CYE. In Lerner's words, "We believe in an experience rather than a thing you buy it has to have a lot more than just a throwaway feel."
The series comes with a manual of sorts. This manual describes each practice, and provides a general schedule for practicing. However, there is no 'set' schedule or order for the practices. The manual provides a brief overview of the instructor, Rudy Mettia and what appears to be his theory and teaching methodology. Essentially, as it says on page 6 "Building Athleticism and Alignment". The theme of the program is encapsulated in one sentence (page 7) "…live as your fullest self, all year long." That also explains the "365" portion of the title.
Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced DVD?
CYE's initial impression of the Series was that it is a Beginner series. However, after practicing with the series for three weeks: no, this is not a beginner series. It may not be appropriate to consider it Intermediate or Advanced, either.
The most suitable explanation for such a reckoning could be summed up in these words: "In the beginner's mind there are infinite possibilities; in the expert mind there are one or two. Always keep a beginners mind."
As an example, a beginner flow generally takes a practitioner step-by-step to a "challenge" pose: Virhabhadrasana III (Warrior III) for instance. In this practice you may find yourself flowing into what Mettia calls "Crouching Tiger"; essentially Utkatasana/Chair/Lightning Pose with one leg (still bent) lifted toward the front of the mat and from there sweeping that raised leg behind while straightening the grounded leg and folding forward into Virhabhadrasana III (Warrior III) and then into a standing split. Beginner? Not exactly.
The recommended progression in this Series is to begin with "The Gathering". This aptly titled practice would, at the very least, be considered Beginner in nature. But don't let that fool you. It is very telling of what's to come through the remainder of the practices: intentional intensity through anatomically correct alignment.
The Yoga Warrior practices include "Coiled", "Stalking", "Seeking", "Versatile", "Responsible". Each title is a subtle hint at the emphasis of each practice. Consider that "Coiled" hints at twists, "Versatile" at cross-training while "Responsible" is for the shoulders. Throughout the practices there are various references as to why a certain practice is titled in such a manner. As another example "Stalking" is a core alignment series. In that practice while in "Crouching Tiger", Mettia references "like you're stalking your prey".
If the reader is looking for a fast-paced get-down-get-back-up type of Power Yoga (a fast-paced flowing), this may not be the program for you. However, if you are looking for correct postures and intensity with a flow to it; this is it. In fact, "Stalking Warrior" may be what you are looking for in that aspect.
Teaching Yoga vs instructing
There are teachers and then there are instructors. With Mettia you have a teacher. Rather than calling out a pose and giving subtle hints with flowery speech, Mettia gives direction throughout. For instance while in Ado Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) you may hear him remind you to look back at your feet and to position the heels of your feet so that they can't be seen. Instruction such as that is priceless and there are many others.
Throughout, Mettia discusses being safe and anatomically correct in postures. Mettia provides numerous modifications to each pose: a beginner as well as intermediate or advanced student stands to gain from the instruction and suggestions. It almost becomes mindful playfulness throughout.
Each practice is accompanied by bonus content. The bonus content contains tips and advice on getting the fullest experience from the accompanying practice. This is something that CYE has not seen before in a home Yoga practice. It could be compared to having private instruction due to the amount of detail provided.
To the reviewer, having a sense of humor while teaching is almost a necessity as it indicates that the teacher/instructor does not take themselves too seriously. As Lerner said during an interview in reference to YW365 and Mettia: "Rudy is hilarious, but has no ‘filter’ so we were constantly going back and forth on whether we should keep something or nix it." Not sure what was edited out in that aspect. It is notable that Mettia jokingly refers to editing in the "Versatile" practice as evidence that there was likely quite a bit of editing done.
Nonetheless, overall, Mettia's down-home Southern 'twang' is readily apparent and is infused throughout the Series. At one point he can be heard chiding a student to not "fake it" because, in his words, he (Mettia) has "a lot of experience with people faking it". The reaction of the students in the practice is genuine and is indicative of Mettia's connection with the students.
The topic of weight loss via Yoga comes up during the Series. Mettia, with his no-nonsense and compassionate delivery bluntly advises that weight-loss is a by-product of Yoga. He then reminds that through the practice you may find yourself realizing that you could more easily get into certain poses if you were to lose some weight.
So, in that aspect, if you're looking for a uber-serious, traditional Yoga-with-mantra-and-chanting-type practice you may want to look elsewhere. However, if you are looking for a down-to-earth approach this may just be the practice for you.
This is Udaya's second production of a home Yoga DVD Series. Given that Udaya is a professional production company and that this is a follow-up to the Ultimate Yogi Series (UY108) some may confuse this production as being a 'sequel' of sorts: it's not. YW365 is it's own 'animal'; separate and distinct from Udaya's first offering.
In summation, this is an excellent production: from the packaging to the content. This is a keeper. It could easily be considered invaluable; the experience and the teachings are something that a price-tag can not be reasonably put on. It truly is as Lerner expressed, "an experience".