So, I’m on my 16th day of yoga and for the past 11 days I’ve been using Elsie Escobar’s yoga podcasts.
When I first came upon Elsie’s website I wasn’t sure what to think and actually, the first time, passed it by without downloading anything. She seemed too personable and I didn’t quite trust that. But I returned the next day and pondered a bit more and again almost didn’t download a podcast because again there was this very personable thing going and I was skeptical. I sat and stared at the website, this strange no-no-no-no-maybe-no-no inner dialogue going, and I really have no idea why because how simple is it to simply listen to a few minutes? Finally, I admitted I was curious and so I downloaded the first of Elsie’s yoga podcasts. And I did that one.
Then I downloaded another of Elsie’s podcasts. And another.
Here’s my strictly beginner’s assessment.
Not only does she give a lot of information on the poses that I wasn’t hearing elsewhere, I liked the stream of her classes (most of which run about 115-130 minutes), how she threaded the poses together and the encouraging mix of elaborations on alignment and use of muscles with the reminders of the spiritual nature of the discipline.
On Friday and Saturday I went ahead and viewed a couple of other highly recommended DVD resources that I’d ordered before finding Elsie’s podcasts, and I found that I am so used to her flow, her descriptions, her sequences, that with the others I felt I was just getting a flat routine of calisthenics that weren’t physically, emotionally, intellectually or spiritually engaging. Her balance of push and pull, of resisting while opening, of tension and relaxation, really does feel like it’s awaking the body’s mind and demands my concentration be in the postures rather than my brain sitting somewhere outside observing and nowhere near in touch with what’s going on physically except for measuring ease or stress like an accountant.
Her gentle enthusiasm, with her clear elaborations and reminders, had me digging in for experience with a kind of physical and mental commitment that I wanted. I’ve realized one of the things that’s so inviting about Elsie is her voice is strong when she’s inviting strength and relaxing when she’s encouraging relaxation, all of this in the matter of a few seconds, she shifting back and forth in her descriptions of the desired balance, as one adjusts one’s posture for a single pose or set-up. Which is great for a podcast. Her voice even seems to bypass the ears and go straight for the muscles themselves, so they hear the strength in her voice and the muscles that are supposed to be strengthening respond and tense, while another set of muscles hears relaxation and relax. She says pull and I can tell from her voice just how to pull. She says push and those muscles can tell from that voice how to push. She says widen and I feel in her voice how I should widen.
When I’m done I feel I’ve done something and I feel that what I’ve done is well rounded and satisfying rather than disjointed and,well, lifeless.
And I breathe throughout. No matter what we’re doing I’m able to remember to breathe.
I am really kind of baffled that here I spent this money on several highly recommended yoga DVDs and I’ve no use for them. They either leave me stressed or pathetically limp and unengaged (which is in itself stressful), plus it’s exasperating trying to learn the poses from mostly watching how it’s done when, it seems, hearing how it’s done is a superior way of learning. And I’ve listened to a number of podcasts and not everyone can tell you how it’s done. Many voices never modulate or simply lay out the poses like a flat drive-by menu, which is perhaps fine for someone who’s advanced, but as a beginner my muscles and body seem to need to hear and feel through hearing what to do.
There’s nothing like first hand experience with a good teacher but in my day-to-day here at home Elsie’s podcasts are wonderful. If someone offered me, free, more yoga DVDs than I could watch in a year, in exchange for Elsie’s podcasts, without hesitation I’d tell them, “No, I’m keeping Elsie’s podcasts.”