Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Richard Freeman's Ashtanga DVD versus Sharath's Primary Series DVD

I bought two Ashtanga DVDs because I couldn't decide which to give my cousin Debby for her birthday and wanted to review them first (she doesn't have an Ashtanga teacher, so it is important that I give her the "right" DVD). (Hi Debby! Hope you enjoyed the retreat!)

So, I think it is fairly obvious which one I like, versus which one I think would be right for my cousin. Here's how it boils down:

These two, Freeman and Sharath, are like complete opposites in their approach.

If you're looking for detailed instruction, Freeman is the way to go. He is beautiful, his voice is beautiful, his alignment and drishte instructions are amazingly detailed and precise and resonate (with me at least, given that I have a background in detailed and precise alignment instructions). He even goes so far as to instruct, "Smile softly to open up the back of the palate", "Come up like you're swimming into Samasthiti" and "inhale straighten out the spine, open up the soles of the feet". But I would imagine that it would be very difficult to listen to this level of instruction over and over again if this is to be a substitute for having a teacher. This is the kind of DVD that you watch once or twice, practice with a number of times and then move onto self-practice, referring to the DVD for specific poses that you need help on as you develop your practice.

If you are looking for a led class to follow along with or even just a beautiful Ashtanga practice to watch from start to finish without any chat to interrupt the flow, then Sharath is the way to go. While Freeman is a longtime student of SKPJ, Sharath is the grandson and, I would guess, the "heir apparent" to the AYRI in Mysore. Sharath chants the opening mantra as I would imagine it is supposed to be chanted. He leads his way through the Primary Series with minimal instruction, using instead the the Sanskrit counting tied to inhales and exhales that Guruji uses when he teaches on his world tours (and as I would guess he uses whenever he teaches led Primary). This is the kind of DVD that you use once you really KNOW the Primary Series and wish to take a led class without leaving your home.

Originally, I was sure that I was going to give Debby the Sharath video. I figured that if she is interested in learning Ashtanga, that she should learn it from Sharath. But as it turns out, the Freeman video seems much more appropriate for someone who wants to learn the Primary Series, as opposed to someone who just wants to take a led class from the "source".

So, it looks like I'm keeping the Sharath for my viewing pleasure, and Debby gets the Richard for the incredible teaching contained within. Sergio...I highly recommend Freeman to you as well....



neti said...

I agree that the Freeman DVD is much better as an instructional tool. Especially when your a beginner and have tons of questions about how to do this and that and what not. However the metaphors tend to drive me a bit up the wall, Especially the parts about "rotating Your kidney down"

I heard Melanie Fawer's DVD is pretty good too, but I haven't seen it myself.

Where does debby live? is there no teacher she could contact? Even just like once a month? A teacher is always the best bet. Maybe you could show her? Last I heard your a yoga teacher. =)

yoga chickie said...

She is like an hour and a half from any teacher - and any informal Mysore practices as well. She lives in Colorado Springs. I could show her, and I've made her a cheat sheet, but when I see her, it's usually holidays and hard to fit in a time when we can work together (although I did take her to Guy's in April).

Yeah, I could show her Primary, but Richard will do a far better job of that than I can, and if she needs to consult a real-time-in-person teacher, then there must be someone out there with more experience in Ashtanga than me....

Yogamum said...

I like Melanie Fawer's DVD a lot. You can actually learn "Mysore-style" as the instructional and practice DVDs are separate. But there's no one like Richard for metaphor and explanation and sheer inspiration.

Sergio said...

I totally missed this post (don't know why). First of all, thanks for the recommendation. I almost bought Freeman's Primary Series DVD when in London but it turned out that they only had it as part of a pack and in the end I decided it was too much. Melanie Fawer's DVD is great. Best of all, there are actually two DVDs, one to learn the series and another one to actually practise along. I wholeheartedly recommend it: it's well worth its price and has quickly become my favourite DVD (I have Swenson's, too. Good to learn but bad to practise to).

If Sharath goes as fast in his DVD as he goes in the CD, I'm not up for that challenge yet.

Joy said...

I live out in a very rural area where the nearest certified Ashtanga teacher is an hour ferry ride and twenty minute drive away. Last June I bought Nicki Doane's Ashtanga video on a whim because I wanted to start cross training yoga into my endurance running routine (I used to run marathons). Well I fell in love with Ashtanga immediately.
A couple of months ago when I was ready to really get into the primary series I came across Melanie's DVD on the Ashtanga.com site's online store. It's wonderful! Mysore instruction brought into your home.
It is so wonderful in fact that a little over a month ago I decided to give up endurance running to pursue my Ashtanga practice full time. It's been a life changing experience for the better.
I do intend to attend a retreat in the near future, and I do get across the water for some instruction as often as I can. I realized if it's at all possible that's a must. But her DVD has really made my home practice a solid one.

Anonymous said...


Your story is a mirror of how I fell into Ashtanga. Instead, I turned to Ashtanga since I was sick and tired of soreness from strength training. Now I left the gym altogether and I'm debating whether to give up my biweekly runs as well. Good luck with your home practice! I'm currently using Swenson's and Kino Macgregor's DVDs for my home practice.


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I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.


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