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Paul Herbert 5th Dan
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The Art of Zen Yoga

Aaron Hoopes

There are many very senior Shotokan Instructors who perform other arts besides their karate training. Kanazawa especially has been famed for his keen interest and dedicated practice of Tai Chi, so the Team here at The Shotokan Way felt it would be useful to have exposure into other practice, to enhance our studies.

‘The Art of Zen Yoga combines the gentle, flowing movements of Tai Chi, the energy breathing of Qigong and the deep, relaxed stretching of Shanti Yoga and the calm serenity of meditation. It is a wonderfully simple process designed to make life more enjoyable through a coordinated integration of your body and mind to give your spiritual nature the energy it needs to develop and flourish.’

This is the best description of this Art, founded by Aaron Hoopes, and the DVD really does encapsulate the very essence of relaxation and total liberation from the stresses of modern life. I will begin by making it totally clear that I have no experience of Zen Yoga, or any of the above mentioned, so I will be reviewing from a beginner’s point of view, and primarily how I feel this Art can enhance my study of Shotokan. This is not to say that Zen Yoga cannot be practiced singularly, for it can I’m sure work very well in this case.

This DVD was sent to the Team many weeks ago, but I decided to review the DVD from a totally practical level. With many karate DVD’s I need not do this, as I can see what works and what does not, as experience allows me this privilege. As I said however, as a total novice to Zen Yoga I needed time to witness and appreciate the value of this practice. Therefore, this DVD review is written from a first hand experience.

Aaron Hoopes I should also mention is a 3rd dan Shotokan Instructor, and successfully applies the principles of Zen Yoga into his karate training. In the introduction to the DVD, Aaron Hoopes gives a brief insight into the Art of Zen Yoga, explaining its fundamental principles and the benefits of its practice. He highlights the emphasis on abdominal breathing, one of many similarities to Shotokan, saying ‘Breathe to feel good’. He then concludes the introduction stating ‘Zen Yoga is profound in its simplicity, yet vast in its scope’, and when you practice the methods, which are excellently demonstrated by Hoopes himself, you can understand why.

With beautiful music by Tarshito, Aaron Hoopes carefully talks you through the basic routines you should practice daily, along with careful demonstrations, which reflect the benefits of the Art. Along with the physical demonstrations and the careful narration by Hoopes, you also have the option of listening to just the music, which works wonderfully once you’re into the routine of daily stretching.

All of the daily routines are very basic, but involve deep effective breathing and stretching, which undoubtedly enhances agility, flexibility and relaxation. Not quite so easy are the advanced moves, also terrifically demonstrated by Hoopes, which include the Scorpion, Extended wheel and the terrifying Leg Capture (Which I haven’t even attempted yet because of fear – but I do declare that I will get there eventually).

Such complexities are then wonderfully balanced with the silk reeling exercises, which resemble the movements of Tai Chi. This I found totally relaxing and exceptionally soothing.

As I said earlier, I wanted to explore this DVD from a Shotokan Practitioner’s point of view, and true to my word, I will. I vowed for a week I wouldn’t practice karate at all, just devoting time to these basic practices daily so I could measure the value of the stretching and breathing exercises after this period. Then on the seventh day, I proceeded to punch gyaku-tsuki, and to my total amazement I was faster and more relaxed than ever. Coincidence? I think not.

Of course, I’m not going to hang up my gi just yet, but I’ll be sure to fit time into my schedule to maintain my Zen Yoga practices, as I feel more refreshed, healthy and relaxed than ever, and if I feel obvious results after just a week, I’m excited to see how else this will enhance my karate training in the future.

Mark Thompson

19/11/06

Order now from www.artofzenyoga.com