I bought two Ashtanga DVDs because I couldn’t decide which to give my cousin Debby for her birthday and wanted to review them first (she doesn’t have an Ashtanga teacher, so it is important that I give her the “right” DVD). (Hi Debby! Hope you enjoyed the retreat!)
So, I think it is fairly obvious which one I like, versus which one I think would be right for my cousin. Here’s how it boils down:
These two, Freeman and Sharath, are like complete opposites in their approach.
If you’re looking for detailed instruction, Freeman is the way to go. He is beautiful, his voice is beautiful, his alignment and drishte instructions are amazingly detailed and precise and resonate (with me at least, given that I have a background in detailed and precise alignment instructions). He even goes so far as to instruct, “Smile softly to open up the back of the palate”, “Come up like you’re swimming into Samasthiti” and “inhale straighten out the spine, open up the soles of the feet”. But I would imagine that it would be very difficult to listen to this level of instruction over and over again if this is to be a substitute for having a teacher. This is the kind of DVD that you watch once or twice, practice with a number of times and then move onto self-practice, referring to the DVD for specific poses that you need help on as you develop your practice.
If you are looking for a led class to follow along with or even just a beautiful Ashtanga practice to watch from start to finish without any chat to interrupt the flow, then Sharath is the way to go. While Freeman is a longtime student of SKPJ, Sharath is the grandson and, I would guess, the “heir apparent” to the AYRI in Mysore. Sharath chants the opening mantra as I would imagine it is supposed to be chanted. He leads his way through the Primary Series with minimal instruction, using instead the the Sanskrit counting tied to inhales and exhales that Guruji uses when he teaches on his world tours (and as I would guess he uses whenever he teaches led Primary). This is the kind of DVD that you use once you really KNOW the Primary Series and wish to take a led class without leaving your home.
Originally, I was sure that I was going to give Debby the Sharath video. I figured that if she is interested in learning Ashtanga, that she should learn it from Sharath. But as it turns out, the Freeman video seems much more appropriate for someone who wants to learn the Primary Series, as opposed to someone who just wants to take a led class from the “source”.
So, it looks like I’m keeping the Sharath for my viewing pleasure, and Debby gets the Richard for the incredible teaching contained within. Sergio…I highly recommend Freeman to you as well….