Illuminating the Core: Yoga with Amanda Smith

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(859) 624-0413; www.amandayoga.com; CD; 70 minutes.

This cd provides some remarkable instruction. The cover photo, which shows Amanda Smith in profile in a beautiful Bow Pose variation, should have tipped me off right away: It's a pose that only serious practitioners and Cirque du Soleil performers can easily accomplish. But if you think this is another shoot-'em-up Power Yoga trip, think again. The pace is extremely slow throughout—excruciatingly so if you're a fan of straightforward doing rather than achieving subtle understanding.

The first track—which is the longest, at 28 minutes—includes a six-minute seated breathing meditation; a 10-minute reclining warm-up stretch for the hips, torso, and shoulders; and another 10-minute exercise series that moves from a reclining Mountain Pose to Bridge. Next comes an 18-minute asana track—but again, expect quality, not quantity. The session begins with the practitioner on hands and knees, then moves to Downward-Facing Dog, Standing Forward Bend, Mountain, a lunge, and Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend—remember, all of this takes almost 20 minutes. Finally, track 3, which is again 18 minutes long, offers instructions for a seated twist, supported Child's Pose, and relaxation.

This entire practice is essentially an intense meditation on breath and its relationship to what Smith calls the "fluid body"—a vision of the body as supremely malleable, not only physically but energetically. With her nurturing voice and mantralike reminders to "root to rise"—as B.K.S. Iyengar says, you must go down before you can go up—Smith emphasizes physical symmetry and the integration and coordination of normally fragmented parts or areas of the body. This is one of the most useful and inspiring CD presentations I've heard in a long time, appropriate for thinking students of all levels.

Contributing Editor Richard Rosen teaches public yoga classes in Northern California. He is the author of The Yoga of Breath: A Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama.