Health & Fitness

By Stef Schwalb

Ok, here’s the deal: I’m a gym-a-phobe. It’s not that I fear the actual building or the people who inhabit it, but let’s put it this way: I am very tall and extremely uncoordinated. For me to exercise with a group of people (or even near a group of people) would be an embarrassment for myself and most likely a hazard for everyone else. During several attempts at step class or cycling, I just couldn’t seal the deal. I was either out of sync or endlessly struggling to stay in the right position, so I’ve taken my routine and my right to practice in privacy back to the comfort of home. This monthly column, therefore, will showcase the highs and lows of going it alone with DVDs that do it for me (and some that don’t). I’ll try my best to advise and sympathize with those who share my pain, so let’s get physical ladies!


Yoga. Yeah, we heard it works wonders for sexy celebs like Madonna and Sting, but I wondered how well it could work for the regular folks who just aren’t as fab. Without being able to afford a personal trainer, I turned to Gaiam’s A.M./P.M. Yoga (for beginners, of course!) with Rodney Yee and Patricia Walden (specialists in the field). Since I was feeling tons of stress at work I started this regimen (20 minutes in the morning and 20 at night) not just to awaken my muscles but also to alleviate my anxious senses. I am a bad sleeper, which never bodes well for long days on the job.

Now I’ll admit when I first got going there were plenty of pauses in spots where I was stretching muscles I seriously never used, but the beauty of these exercise sessions (literally) is that they take place in environments that automatically put you at ease (the morning session was taped in Maui, the evening edition in Death Valley National Park). The background music is subtle and serene, which is important to note because some places that hold classes in the world outside make the “sounds of silence” overwhelming.

These workouts are couched in between relaxation and meditation sessions that really take the comfort level up a notch. I have a pretty weak back and what was the most surprising aspect to continual use of this DVD was not just increased flexibility, but stronger back muscles and a greater ability for restful sleep. I’m obviously not as limber as these experts, so some of the stretches (particularly those involving the use of a strap to stretch and guide your legs), were a bit hard to do at first. I modified those a little and instead of stretching my leg all the way, I went as far as I could. (Because seriously dear readers, ask anyone on our staff- my legs are really long and hard to handle!) However, a very helpful extra on the DVD is a bonus excerpt on How to Use Props since some exercises require it. Overall, I give A.M./P.M. Yoga 4 out of 5 flexes for at-home exercise excellence.

Got a DVD you want me to check out? Email me at stefanie@beautynewsnyc.com.
See you next month- same time, different session!

Originally published October 2006
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