Health & Fitness

Stress-reducing DVDs

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A few people on your gift list probably need relaxation more than anything else.

If you can't afford a spa vacation or even a spa day, consider a stress-reducing DVD. (Come to think of it, you could probably use one yourself after all that shopping.)

We reviewed the year's video releases to come up with our list of the best blood-pressure-lowering, calm-inducing workouts for every body.

Trudie Styler's Warrior Yoga

Ready to take a mental vacation? How about a 45-minute yoga retreat at Trudie Styler and husband Sting's Tuscan villa, Il Palagio?

In this video, Styler and her fitness guru James D'Silva lead you through a flowing sequence of sun salutations, standing poses and forward bends set to some soft acoustic versions of Sting's music.

D'Silva's instruction is solid and soothing as he guides you to "yawn it out" in more strenuous postures and conducts period body awareness checks to make sure you're in alignment.

However, this DVD is probably best suited for intermediate yogis with endurance and a wider range of movement. (The moves are not illustrated with props such as straps or blocks.)

Included on the disc are a 25-minute express workout and two pleasant five-minute guided meditations for further relaxation.

Price: $14.98; available online and in stores.

Element: Tai Chi for Beginners

Learning tai chi from a video often can be more frustrating than relaxing. But this video, starring Samuel Barnes, founder of Tai Chi Works in Beverly Hills, does a great job of breaking down the postures, as well as the subtleties in the gestures, shifts in weight and breathing. And the excellent camera work captures the movements clearly, zooming in close when needed.

Throughout the 23-minute instruction, Barnes moves as a mirror image to you, coaching you on how to synchronize your breathing with the movements.

"Go to sleep with your energy on the exhale," he instructs, as hands sink down in one of the classic postures, such as "ride the dragon" or "guard the temple." A flowing 11-minute sequence follows the instruction and can be done separately.

However, just as important for the Type-A person on your list is the 19-minute qi gong breath-and-movement meditation to relax and loosen up tight muscles and joints.

Price: $14.98; available in retail outlets and online.

Yoga Journal: Complete Beginner's Guide

You probably know at least one person who won't learn something new unless he or she can achieve total mastery of it. This two-disc DVD set is for just such a perfectionist.

The set doesn't contain anything revolutionary. The basic 60-minute yoga practice is led by Yoga Journal's quietly competent Jason Crandell, and it includes basic shoulder openers, sun salutations, seated twists and standing poses. For more experienced yoga practitioners, this DVD might be a bit of a snooze.

But for those starting out, it's a good foundation on which to build. The set comes with a video pose encyclopedia that lets you click on each of 35 poses and see it demonstrated and explained while the camera moves 360 degrees around the model.

The flowing sequences included on the practice disc are suitable for beginner or intermediate yogis and can be modified with blocks and straps. Some of the more difficult poses -- such as boat pose -- start with modified versions before suggesting the full pose.

The disc includes a 15-minute awakening routine suitable for the morning and a quieting routine of twists and forward bends to do before bedtime.

Price: $24.99; available online and in retail outlets.

Hemalayaa: Bollywood Dance Blast

This workout is for people who hate yoga but still need to blow off a little steam.

Don't let the name fool you: There's not much Bollywood dance instruction here. But you can probably guess that with moves such as the "shake-and bake" and the "Indian grapevine."

What instructor Hemalayaa will do, however, is shake you out of a bad mood . . . if you let her. In this video, separated into two 20-minute dances, she coaches you on how to shake off the bad mojo with simple, bouncy dance moves and some creative visualization.

At times, the approach can be a bit much, such as when she has you "lace up your spiritual boots" and stomp on all those bad vibes you just cast off. But if you can handle that, you might just get in a little cardio workout -- and an attitude adjustment.

Price: $14.99; available at www.acaciacatalog.com and in other online and retail outlets.

Kundalini Yoga for Energy & Super Radiance

For that person on your shopping list who's a little bored with his or her traditional hatha yoga practice and is looking for something different, this unique program might be just the ticket.

Seasoned kundalini yoga team Ana Brett and Ravi Singh guide you through a series of vigorous stretches, 18 minutes of heart rate-elevating movement and two endurance-testing salutations or exercises before slowing things down with a deep relaxation and "solar power" mantra.

Think of this as kundalini with training wheels. The traditional music has been updated with an electronic edge, some of the poses have been slightly modified and there's a design-your-own-workout option that lets you include or omit whatever you wish. That's a good thing if you're pressed for time or don't care to sing or chant.

What you'll get is a relaxed, limber body and greater energy to handle the rest of your day.

Price: $14.49; available at www.amazon.com.

health@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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