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by Jill Miller
Pranamaya, 2008
Review by Beth T. Cholette, Ph.D. on May 6th 2008

Yoga Link: Hip Helpers

This DVD is part of the new Yoga Link series offered by Pranamaya.com.  The instructor for this series is Jill Miller, who had previously created her own self-produced video series called Yoga Tune Up.  This new series from Pranamaya incorporates many aspects of Miller's prior work but adds excellent production values plus a variety of additional workout and DVD options.  For starters, there are two main aspects to this DVD, the Hips Workshop, in which Miller uses live instruction to break down the individual moves in great detail, and the Hips Practice, where Miller presents the same exercises via voiceover for a more flowing experience.  Also included is a 16-minute Breath Primer:  this same segment appears on all three of the DVDs in the Yoga Link series, and it offers an opportunity to obtain detailed instruction on the types of pranayama, or yogic breathing, which Miller utilizes in these practices.  Miller uses various props throughout this DVD, including a yoga mat, 2 blocks, a strap, a wall, and a chair/other ledge.  There are also several segments in which she glides along her smooth wood floor on a blanket; if you have carpet instead of flooring at home, Miller suggests substituting a trash bag, but I found that this didn't work very well.

The Hip Workshop includes a 60-minute instructional session, 7 minutes of Hip "Extras," and 16 minutes of Advanced Asymmetrical Standing Poses.  The workshop itself focuses on the six basic directions of movement for the hips (a brief primer on this precludes the workshop).  The Workshop chapters are broken down into Hip Warm Ups, Flexion/Extension, Internal/External Rotation 1, Adduction/Abduction, and Internal/External Rotation 2.  Starting immediately with the long Warm Ups sequence, Miller brings fire and heat to the muscles of the entire lower body with Monk Walks, or static lunges; additional warm-up moves offer variations on lunges and hip circles.  The leg stretches which follow are performed lying on the floor, and then Miller leads the viewer through a pelvic series which includes a slow cycle of Kapalabhati breathing. 

Upon completion of the Warm Ups, Miller returns to standing for the more targeted stretching work.  Some of these moves are more traditional, such as lunges, but Miller often adds unique variations, such as an asymmetrical element (e.g., placing one foot on a block or a chair).  Then it's back to the floor for more rotational movements.  I found the Adduction/Abduction segment to be particularly challenging; this is where Miller uses a blanket to slide on the floor, likely making it very difficult for those practicing on carpet to complete this segment.  Notwithstanding the potential practical problems, these movements are quite physically strenuous as well.  The final sequence of Internal and External Rotation includes many types of rolling motions for the hips in both standing and lying positions; the blanket is used for sliding again during this series.  The two chapters found in the Extras segment, "Sitting Seiza" and "Ankle Churning," focus on stretching mainly the ankles and toes in a seated position.

As mentioned previously, the 58-minute Hips Helper practice offers all of the same exercises that are in the workshop, but here Miller is instructing via voiceover for a more flowing routine.  Also, she sets aside time to rest in savasana at the end of the practice (although she encourages practicing savasana at the end of the workshop as well).  The Advanced Asymmetrical Standing Poses, part of the Workshop section, can be performed after either the workshop or the practice.  In this 16-minute series, Miller teaches some tricks for working on warrior 2, side flank pose, and reverse side flank, using the blocks and the wall to demonstrate how to go more deeply into these postures. 

The main goal of these hip exercises is to mobilize the hips from every angle, and Miller certainly achieves this objective (your muscles will no doubt achingly bear witness to this fact).  Overall, Miller's advanced knowledge of anatomy and human movement shines through her teaching, and her easygoing, down-to-earth style allows her to connect with her students in a straightforward manner.  However, although the DVD case rates the intended audience for this practice as "beginners to teachers," I think that those new to yoga are likely to be intimidated by the level of flexibility and endurance demanded by this practice.  Also, I think that the specific formatting of the Yoga Link series, which separates the more intensive workshop-type tutoring from the actual practice, fails to make the most of Miller's best quality, which is her vibrant live instruction; in her own Yoga Tune-Up series, the teaching and practice were seamlessly rolled into one.  Despite this, I'm definitely glad to see Miller getting the increased attention and recognition that she deserves through this new series, as she casts a unique light upon a crowded yoga media field.  And finally, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Jill Miller's Yoga Link series in general and this DVD in particular to any experienced yoga practitioners; few other yoga teachers will challenge you to explore your body in such an intense yet accessible manner.

© 2008 Beth Cholette

Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students at SUNY Geneseo. She is also a Top 100 Reviewer at Amazon.com and the official yoga media reviewer for iHanuman.com.