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Lights! Camera! Asana!

Go behind the scenes for the inside scoop on the making of Yoga Journal's Yoga Step-by-Step video series.

By Phil Catalfo

San francisco yoga instructor Jason Crandell had, in his words, "never modeled anything except bad behavior" before. His colleague Autumn Alvarez had done a few modeling gigs but had otherwise never been in front of a video camera. So when the pair were selected to appear in our recently released video series, Yoga Journal's Step-by-Step: The Total Guide to Beginning Your Home Practice, they didn't know quite what they were in for. Both Crandell and Alvarez found the production, which was filmed last summer in Boston, at once exhilarating, tedious, challenging, and rewarding, they indicated in a recent freewheeling conversation.

During the two-week shoot, at which the entire three-video series (Session 1: Foundation Poses for Strength & Stamina, Session 2: Bending & Twisting Poses for Flexibility, and Session 3: Balancing Poses for Focus & Energy) was filmed, Alvarez and Crandell served as on-screen assistants to presenter Natasha Rizopoulos. Alvarez was the model for hands-on-adjustment demonstrations, and Crandell demonstrated pose modifications for less flexible practitioners.

Rizopoulos brought an unusual combination of credentials to her role as "star" of the videos: She teaches at Yoga Works in Santa Monica, California (where she completed the advanced teacher training program), and has studied with K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, India; she also has some acting experience, having performed with the 42nd Street Collective in New York and with Shakespeare & Company in the Berkshires, Massachusetts. This was reflected in both the yogic skill and on-camera poise she showed during the shoot. "Natasha was trained as a professional actor and had spent far more time than either Autumn or I had in front of cameras," Crandell says. "Since we had all been working in the yoga business for a while and had been practicing seriously for even longer, I felt we were peers as far as the yoga component was concerned. But really, it was amazing to watch heróshe was able to look good, sound clear, and remain sane during the stress of constant performance. She's an excellent yoga instructor, but she works very well with the camera too." Alvarez agrees with Crandell's assessment: "Natasha possesses an exceptional charm. Her eyes glimmer when she speaks into the camera, while she captures and draws the audience in through the harmonious sound of her voice. I was inspired to learn from her."

Although a tremendous amount of planning preceded the shoot, the days of filming were nonetheless full of fits and starts. "Everything was carefully and explicitly scripted," Crandell recalls, "but there was a constant revision process that occurred while we shot." The sessions were thus characterized by frenzied activity, technical problem-solving, and numerous takes, interspersedófor Crandell and Alvarez, at leastówith periods of extended waiting (for the next shot to be set up, for example), practicing, munching, and attempting to stay loose for the moment they would need to take a pose instantly as though they were in midpractice. That's harder than it sounds. "We used four cameras that needed constant calibration," Crandell notes, "and the lighting was always being adjusted. The poor make-up artist was attending to our sweaty brows moment to moment. And all of us needed to be attentive and somewhat warm after having been sitting or snacking or reading for the past 20 minutes."

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