Serpentine DVD Review: Just the Yoga

I just got Rachel Brice's new DVD, Serpentine. It's two discs and a ton of material so I will have to write up my review in several installments.

Today I did the yoga portions: Yoga for Bellydancing (about 30 minutes), Yoga for Backbending (about 15 minutes), and the Finishing Yoga Practice (about 20 minutes). I also watched the backbending lecture.

I know I'm biased but I think yoga is an excellent complement to bellydance. I warm up with yoga, I take yoga breaks when I'm practicing dance, and I cool down with yoga. That being said, I'm generally not a fan of yoga in bellydance DVDs and workshops. Most bellydance teachers are not yoga instructors, and in a workshop situation, if there is a large crowd, there's just no way to get around to everyone to see that everyone is safe. Also, not everyone who dances is into yoga, and they might not want to be paying for yoga when they signed up for a dance program. However, Rachel Brice is also a yoga instructor, and in fact, the yoga is a fundamental part of this DVD, so she gets a pass on my judgement on yoga in dance DVDs.

The yoga instruction is excellent, and all the practices are gentle enough to be appropriate to a beginning level yogi, with the exception of Urdva Danurasana (Upward Bow/Wheel) in the backbend portion, and even that is given as an advanced option. The postures throughout the practices are excellent for building strength and mobility in the shoulders and upper back, which is essential for developing stamina for the posture of tribal style. For that reason alone, I'd absolutely recommend these practices for my students who struggle with posture. In addition, she did many variations of Salambasana (locust), which, in my opinion, is one of the best asanas for your back because it safely works the the muscles while building flexibility at the same time. The finishing practice has lots of love for the lower back, which felt fantastic after working on some intense backbends.

On to the backbending portion: As I mentioned, the backbending lecture, while short, was informative and clearly presented, stressing again the importance of upper back flexibility. I feel like the backbending yoga practice could have been a bit longer, but I felt sufficiently warmed up to tackle combination 4 to the "Whisper Hungarian in my Ear" choreography which includes moving to the floor for "The Zipper" (a floorwork layback), and a rise up to standing in this twisty-layback thing. The instruction in the choreography was okay, but I would not recommend attempting it if you are unfamiliar with the zipper. For floorwork training, working one-on-one with a teacher is best, barring that, working with a partner and the FCBD Floorwork DVD would be better than trying to puzzle it out with the brief instruction on the Serpentine DVD.

Overall, I'm really happy with this DVD already. I'm especially looking forward to the drills because that is the one thing I struggle with in my own practice because I totally get bored with myself. I need someone to make me keep going, even if it's just through a screen!