by Jennifer Kries Razor, 2006 Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Jul 24th 2007
The Hot Body Cool Mind DVDs featuring the approach of Jennifer Kries are different from other yoga/Pilates DVDs. Kries emphasizes a diverse collection of ideas based in some parts of Eastern medicine and metaphysics. She uses some elements of Chi-Gong, also known as Qigong. This presents some problems. To take a simple example, for those of us committed to Western medicine, it can be hard to take seriously the claim that one can pull earth energy up through one's feet. Kries makes other claims that are surprising. At one point, she says that when you stick your tongue out, since it is connected to the heart, it stretches the muscles of the heart. She says that circulating your arms around your body will clear your auric field. Kries brings in many other ideas from diverse traditions, and mixes them all together, and she explains them all briefly but with conviction. Personally I would prefer a far more tentative approach to such knowledge claims: Western medicine has shown that it is often flawed and overconfident, and it can be wise to open to alternative approaches; however, Kries verges on endorsing some bizarre beliefs.
Fortunately, the benefit of the DVD lies in the bodily activity she and her models demonstrate, rather than the theories she refers to in explaining them. The DVD has the following segments:
Waking Energy Introduction
Waking Energy "Before You Begin"
Waking Energy Sitting
Waking Energy Standing
The 5 Tibetans Introduction
The 5 Tibetans
Pilates Magic Circle
Pilates Sculpting Series
Yin Yoga Introduction
Yin Yoga and Meditation (Full Yin)
Yin Yoga and Meditation (Shorter Practice)
9 minute interview with a shiatsu practitioner on Yin Yoga and Meridian Theory
There are seven custom workouts featuring different combinations of the exercise sections:
The "Waking Energy" Workout
Hot (Yang): Energizing, Cardio-Pumping Power
Cool (Yin): Calming, Gathering, Recharging
Hot (Yang) & Cool (Yin)
The Perfect Balance: Yang and Yin
On the Fly!
Some of the Pilates sections require equipment: a "Magic Circle," a "PhysioBall," and a pair of hand weights. For some of the Pilates exercises, especially with the Ball, it will be necessary to have a good amount of floor space available. The exercises on this DVD are more advanced than on the "Level 1" DVD, but few of them are extremely challenging.
The quality of production is high; the camera work and the background music are done professionally, and it is easy to hear what Kries is saying as she speaks while demonstrating the exercises. Occasionally it would have helped if she gave more detailed descriptions of what you are meant to be doing, because it is hard to look at the screen and follow directions at the same time. Her dancer models show some variations, but they are all fit and strong, so you don't get a very clear sense of how those of us who are less fit and flexible can really follow the exercises.
I find this collection of exercises to be too eclectic to be appealing. Using Waking Energy, Qigong, Pilates, and Yin Yoga all in one DVD means that each different approach is dealt with swiftly. This is especially problematic with the Yin Yoga, where the poses are meant to be held for several minutes at a time, yet Kries only allows several breaths for each. This DVD will appeal most to people who already liked the Level 1 of Hot Body Cool Mind.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Philosophy 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.