DVD: 95 minutes; Workout: 56 minutes
There is no question that fusion workouts are popular, with mind-body disciplines like Pilates and yoga, along with dance-inspired routines, leading the pack. Zen*Ga Power & Strength from Merrithew Entertainment (the company behind Stott Pilates) features an effective blend of yoga, dance and Stott Pilates that is designed to enhance core strength and build dynamic stability throughout the body.
Zen*Ga is the fusion of Zen (search for inner discovery) and yoga, and its four principles are breath, support, yield and flow. The goal is to use mindful movement to clear the head, release tension and stress, and strengthen the body, thus creating the ultimate mind-body connection. Additionally, the workout features five basic principles, which are covered in detail (separate from the actual workout) and help the viewer perform the exercises safely and get the most benefit from the workout: breathing, pelvic placement, rib cage placement, scapular movement and stabilization, and head and cervical placement.
The first 30 to 35 minutes of this flow-based workout concentrates largely on standing yoga-inspired postures like warrior and reverse triangle. These moves are made more dynamic by adding dips and reaches to increase the intensity, typically for eight or more repetitions. Similarly, floor moves alternate between plank and downward dog to keep the body moving and the core and upper body engaged as well. After about 40 minutes, the workout moves to the floor and features a Pilates-inspired series of floor exercises targeting the abdominals and legs and glutes. The final nine minutes focuses on stretching, using a strap to move deeper into many of the stretches.
This workout will largely appeal to those who enjoy bar- or ballet-inspired workouts, as well as to Pilates and yoga fans (although traditional yogis may prefer a more “pure” yoga workout). The first 30 minutes definitely get the heart pumping and challenge the large muscles of the lower body, while also creating great opportunities for stretching the entire body. Dynamic balance is greatly challenged in this portion of the workout, with many of the moves requiring the exerciser to stand on one leg while moving the other leg in ballet-type motions.
The 15 minutes or so devoted to Pilates-based moves are also a challenge, particularly for those without experience in Pilates. Abdominal and core strength is not built overnight, so beginners should be aware that it might take some time to become strong enough to complete all the moves. While this video is suitable for all levels of fitness, beginners will simply have a slightly longer learning curve.
The instructor and demonstrators (two females, one male) represent varying body types and offer clear demonstrations of each exercise. The instructor’s instructions and cueing are effective. The workout requires the use of a block and a strap—you could improvise these (e.g., a large book and a narrow towel), but the right equipment really does help. There is one particularly irritating aspect to this video—you can’t forward through the introduction of the other Merrithew products, which means you have to watch it every time you insert the DVD. A small irritant, perhaps, but something that should have been considered.
What we liked:
· Detailed instruction and demonstrations of each exercise, making it easy for the viewer to achieve good form
· Workout challenges dynamic balance, while also providing a total-body workout
· Ideal for those who enjoy ballet- or bar-based workouts
What we didn’t like:
· It’s not possible to skip or fast-forward through the pre-workout segment highlighting Merrithew offerings