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by Shiva Rea
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Feb 20th 2007
Creative Core Abs is a nicely produced DVD featuring Shiva Rea demonstrating her free flowing exercise program for strengthening your core. She is in a dune field, in White Sands National Park, New Mexico, and as she performs the exercises, a drummer plays on the side while sitting on a rock. Behind her are dramatic white clouds. The camera work is sophisticated: crane shots show Rea from above and then come in down close to her. As with many of her other DVDs, the images is visually stunning and the editing is very professional. The program is divided into three sections: Water Core, Spontaneous Core, and Fire core, making a total of 36 minutes. In the background is music with a strong global new-age feel to it. It is possible to program the DVD so that one hears just the music or just the instructions. Rea starts off sitting and moving in circles, She moves down to her back and leads the viewer in a range of other movements, which she demonstrates in a continuously moving set. The exercises are particular aimed at the abdominals and buttocks, and are reminiscent of many Pilates exercises. After demonstrating the basic elements of the exercises for the Water Core and The Spontaneous Core, Rea recommends using spontaneous movement using them as building blocks. This use of spontaneous movement that lets the body speak for itself is also found in Kripalu Yoga. Not everyone will warm to it, because some people prefer to follow a set program. I found that when lying on my back with my arms and legs in the air, trying to be spontaneous, I felt like a beetle on its back struggling to get up, and I did not find it comfortable. However, with practice and increasing strength, it becomes easier to identify what sequences feel good. Due to the nature of the exercises, it can be difficult to follow Rea's example -- if you lying in your back, with both head, arms and legs up in the air, it can be very difficult to get a good look at the TV screen. Some of the movements felt particularly difficult to coordinate: for example, one late in the Water Core is called "Swimming with the Infinite," where you are lying on one side, and are moving your legs alternately backwards and forwards, and it turns out to be difficult to do this on a sticky yoga mat, because one does not have enough freedom of movement. Notably, Rea herself does use a mat, but is using a larger board of some kind. Yet there's no discussion on the DVD of what kind of mat to use or what kind of space is best to do these exercises in. The editing of images also gets in the way of following the instructions, since regularly we get two images of Rea from different perspectives mixed together, and this makes it difficult to see what is going on. It would have been helpful to have an additional section of the DVD that more slowly sets out how to do some of the more difficult movements. Similarly, it would be helpful to have more advice about modified positions for those who lack the flexibility of Rea. For example, Rea is able to lie on her back and bring her knees close up to her chest while her feet are extended upwards, but this is actually a very challenging position, and she does not give any hints about what to do if one can't get to that position.
So my enthusiasm for this DVD is considerably less than that I have for her other yoga DVDs. Often it felt that the beauty of presentation took precedence over making it clear how to do the exercises. Yet this is a very different set of exercises than we find on most yoga DVDs, and it is powerful exercise for the core: following Rea, one can feel one's core muscles getting a powerful workout, and one normally only finds this on regular fitness DVDs. So for those who are devoted fans of Shiva Rea, or those who are looking for a yoga approach to strengthening one's core, and are open to using spontaneous and creative movements, Creative Core Abs is worth trying.
© 2007 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews. His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.