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Yoga Journal: John Friend's Anusara Yoga Grand Gathering (3 DVD Set)
Yoga Journal John Friend's Anusara Yoga Grand Gathering
3 DVD Set
Actor: John Friend
Director: Yoga Journal
Genres: Exercise & Fitness
NR     2009     8hr 30min

Join celebrated yoga visionary John Friend on this three-day live intensive and catapult your yoga practice to new to new physical and emotional heights. — This three-DVD set filmed live and running over 8 hours, includes: ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: John Friend
Director: Yoga Journal
Genres: Exercise & Fitness
Sub-Genres: Yoga
Studio: Bayview Entertainment / Widowmaker
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 07/14/2009
Original Release Date: 01/01/2009
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2009
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 8hr 30min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 3
SwapaDVD Credits: 3
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
Edition: Box set
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A unique opportunity to be a part of the Anusara Yoga Grand
Beth Cholette | Upstate NY USA | 06/19/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This 3-DVD set was filmed at the very first Anusara Yoga Grand Gathering in Estes Park, Colorado. It features Anusara Yoga founder John Friend welcoming the crowd of 800 participants in an opening gathering, leading three master classes, and being interviewed on his thoughts about Anusara Yoga and life in general. During the Welcome Gathering, Friend talks about the growth and development of Anusara Yoga. Similarly, in his interview with Denise Benitez, he discusses Anusara as a method, including the association between Anusara Yoga and John Friend the man; he also answers questions about additional issues such as bringing the sacred into class, honoring tradition, and addressing suffering and despair.

The Master Classes feature Friend on stage teaching while one of his students, Tanya Beilke, beautifully demonstrates the postures. Each Master Class is approximately two hours in length, as it includes an opening talk by Friend, the Anusara invocation chanted by the musical group Shantala, long asana sequences interspersed with additional teaching from Friend, and an ending kirtan (chant), also sung by Shantala. Although Friend refers to savasana, the sessions conclude directly after the chanting. I have listed the Main Menus for each disc and have offered some further information for each of the three master class practices below. [Note: I have added approximate times for each segment in parentheses.]

Welcome Gathering (25m)
Interview with John Friend (48m)
Master Class Day 1
*Play All (1 hour, 54 minutes)
*Introduction (6m)
*Opening Invocation (11m)
*Warming Up (20m)
*Balancing (16m)
*Backbends, Hip Openers, Twists (26m)
*Forward Bends, Supine Poses (24m)
*Ending Kirtan with Shantala (11m)
Day 1 is a bit shorter and gentler. However, Friend still gets in a wide variety of postures, from triangle, side angle, half moon, and standing splits to pigeon, bridge, and wheel. For forward bends, Friend seems to particularly like pyramid pose, as he includes this in all three practices.

Master Class Day 2
*Play All (2 hours, 22 minutes)
*Introduction and Invocation (34m)
*Warming Up (15m)
*Standing Sequence (20m)
*Balancing (24m)
*Backbends, Hip Openers, and Stretches (36m)
*Forward Bends (20m)
*Ending Kirtan with Shantala (10m)
Friend introduces longer sequences and a bit of partner work (warm-up stretches and balance assistance) to Day 2. He adds plank/chaturanga flows to the standing series as well and has Tanya perform a handstand demonstration at the end of the standing postures. Friend also increases the challenge with both the balance work (standing hand-to-foot, side plank, boat, crow) and the backbends (cradle, lizard, pigeon, bow, bridge, wheel). Forward bends again include pyramid but also add a nice reclined leg series as well as a head-to-knee series.

Master Class Day 3
*Play All (2 hours, 43 minutes)
*Introduction and Invocation (23m)
*Warming Up (21.5m)
*Standing Sequence (27m)
*Twists and Hand Balances (14.5m)
*Backbends (48m)
*Forward Bends (7.5m)
*Ending Kirtan with Shantala (21m)
Day 3 starts of similarly to Day 2: Friend begins with partner stretching, performs a similar warm-up flow, and includes balance poses such as hand-to-foot, half moon, and a half moon variation during the standing sequence. However, this session adds more challenging one-arm balance work and an extended backbend sequence. During the latter, Friend provides detailed instruction for King Pigeon pose, using not only Tanya to demonstrate but also a member of the band, Benjy, as well as another audience member.

Throughout the practices, Friend does not devote much time to discussing Anusara Yoga's Universal Principles of Alignment, particularly the loops and spirals; instead, he focuses on joy, from enjoying the breath to enjoying the presence of each other. His sense of humor is ever-present, frequently soliciting laughter from the audience. (Surprisingly, the cameras rarely scan over the large gathering of people in the room, instead remaining trained on John, Tanya, and occasionally, the band Shantala.)

This DVD set is described by Yoga Journal as being for all levels of practitioners, but I'm not sure that I'd agree; although I don't think prior experience with Anusara is necessary, I do think that those brand new to yoga might feel a bit overwhelmed by the intensity of the long class sessions--really, they are more like workshops--and the challenge level of some of the postures. (Furthermore, Friend uses mainly Sanskrit terminology to cue the poses). However, no inversions are included in any of the practices, and Friend does encourage a spirit of playfulness, making these sessions accessible to a wide range of experienced yoga students.

For those who, like myself, have never had the opportunity to see John Friend live, I can't say that this set is just as good as being there, but I can say that it is the next best thing. Although the workshop-like format may not easily lend incorporating these discs into regular home practice, the exposure to Friend in this way is a unique experience and one that I would recommend highly."
Inspiring, informative, shri!
paisley peters | Los Angeles | 08/20/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"While I wish I could have attended this event in person, the dvd is the next best thing. John Friend, founder of Anusara yoga, skillfully and playfully leads three master classes while clearly articulating the alignment and keeping the practitioner focused on the breath and the deeper meaning of the practice. Classes are both accessible and challenging. Depending on your level of practice, you may sit some poses out, but John offers modifications, and for me, being challenged with more advanced poses just inspires me to want to keep learning. The poses are beautifully and precisely demonstrated by Certified Anusara yoga teacher, Tanya Beilke. Enjoy!"
Just got it
Fitness Freak | NJ | 06/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"All i have to say is, "WOW", I have heard about john and took a chance on this and it was MUCH more than I thought it was. Great set and he made me think, work, experience and feel like he was in the room with me. Very good instructor."
Friend's Grand Gathering is swell.
Sharon Frost | Brooklyn, NY | 11/23/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I was reluctant to order this set because of the sheer size of the group gathered (800 students???!!!). Even though I love Friend's Omega series, I didn't see how the material could be presented in a clear enough manner in the even vaster scope of this event. However, the focus is so consistently on the model Tanya (who executes the postures and transitions beautifully) and Friend's instruction and sequencing that the set is a real winner for me.

And the chapter points have been a great help in integrating sections of these practices into my home routine. I focus mostly on my own practice, but like to add in material from DVDs and CDs for spice, balance and sometimes (even) depth. I've taken class with various anusara teachers for years and did two days with Friend when he came to NYC during his Mystery tour and love how the DVD releases help reinforce what I've learned.

Great grounding in the standing poses and exploration of hip openers and then there's the fun circusy stuff that you can try just because. Day 3 is my fave. It's been with me to Argentina, and now it's keeping me company in Spain.

This set is best for people with a little yoga experience under their belt. If you're really attached to fast flow vinyasa, this set may not be for you. Anusara is a strength and spirit building practice, with long holds and explorations of the poses through the anusara principles involving organic and muscular energy and the spirals and all the other stuff that makes this style so flavorful. I would use the word alignment of course, but that term has become so over and miss used that it's pretty meaningless today.

My own yoga background: I've been doing daily yoga since the mid-90s, taken class since 2000 or so, completed teacher training and done a little teaching."