Yoga Challenge IV: Hatha Yoga with Tony Sanchez

United States Yoga Association; 2159 Filbert St., San Francisco, CA 94123; (415) 931-9642; VHS; 165 minutes.

Tony Sanchez, founding director of the United States Yoga Association and the San Francisco Yoga Studio, is the creator of a system called Yoga Challenge, based on the 84 classic asanas taught at Ghosh’s College of Physical Education in Calcutta, India, where Sanchez was certified in 1979. (The college was established in 1923 by Bishnu Ghosh and his brother Paramahansa Yogananda, founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship.) This video is the fourth in a series of increasingly vigorous asana practice sessions. Just over two and a half hours long, it consists of 144 asanas (including variations) divided into 21 series, varying in number of asanas each from just a few to more than 10. There are also two short Pranayama sessions, one at the beginning and one at the end of the asana series.

Each series is organized around an asana or theme, such as Half Moon, Eagle, or Lotus Pose (the latter is by far the longest in the session), or a “stretching” sequence that includes forward bends and backbends. In general, the asanas in each series progress from less difficult to more difficult, though overall, this is definitely a practice session for advanced students with lots of time on their hands. Even if you think you’re advanced, you probably should consider beginning your study of this system with one of the earlier videos.

Sanchez trained with Bikram Choudhury (who himself studied with Ghosh), founder of Bikram Yoga, and Bikram’s fingerprints are evident in the content, terminology, and sequencing of the Yoga Challenge system. Sanchez has a no-nonsense approach to the practice. His instructions are fairly basic, but his modeling of the asanas is quite impressive, especially considering the demands many of them make on both strength and flexibility. I’ve seen teachers balance upside down on one arm before, but never with quite as much assurance as Sanchez. Although the practice itself is for advanced students, Sanchez’s extraordinary demonstration of asana will serve as an inspiration for students of all levels.

Richard Rosen, who teaches in Oakland and Berkeley, California, has been writing for Yoga Journal since the 1970s.