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Instar Yoga; P.O. Box 6571, Kamuela, HI 96743; www.calleyoneill.com; VHS/DVD; 120 minutes.
Every now and then, a video comes our way that defies categorization and description. Full Body Elixir definitely qualifies as one of those. It might be a bit misleading to call this yoga–at least in the sense we’re accustomed to, in which one static position, held for several seconds to several minutes, follows another in a more or less logical sequence. Here the work is more akin to dance, whether performed standing or reclining. There are times when the position resembles a recognizable asana (such as Cobra Pose or Downward-Facing Dog), but it’s never fixed in place. Instead, O’Neill–who expertly models her own work–is in constant movement throughout the several sections, rhythmically swinging and swaying every part of her body.
Her work reminds me of the idea, popular among some yoga instructors, that the original asanas weren’t formalized structures, nor were they imposed on the body, as they mostly are nowadays. Rather (the theory goes), early yoga practitioners expressed their asanas fluidly and nonrepetitively, very much like a dance, as their bodies responded spontaneously to mysterious inner urges of the moving spirit.
The presentation is divided into two sections. Part 1, “The Fast Elixir,” which takes about 35 minutes, is divided into three sections: a standing practice (of about 11 minutes), a mostly supine practice (15 minutes), and a five-minute “yoga for the eyes” session of exercises (based on the Bates method, if I’m not mistaken) for strengthening the eyes and improving vision naturally. Part 2, “The Full Body Elixir,” which lasts about 75 minutes, is similar in organization to but twice as long as its “fast” companion. Divided into five sections, it’s composed of a brief standing meditation, 25-minute standing and half-hour reclining sessions, 10 minutes of yoga for the eyes, and a five-minute relaxation.
O’Neill has what I would call a joyous presence; she’s one of the few instructor-models in recent memory who actually smile–widely and genuinely–during their demonstrations. She has a soothing voice and, while her physical instructions aren’t especially detailed, an inspiring, heart- expanding message is fully embodied in her practice.
If you prefer a classical practice, this work isn’t for you–though O’Neill’s example might impress you enough to make you want to join in anyway. But if you enjoy a free-flowing practice that’s open to the myriad movement possibilities of the human body and spirit, you’ll find this one just right.
Richard Rosen, who teaches in Oakland and Berkeley, California, has been writing for Yoga Journal since the 1970s.