P90X is a wildly popular home exercise system developed by trainer Tony Horton. The program is based on the idea that you should do a lot of different kinds of exercise on a regular basis, both so that you don't get bored and to trick your body into avoiding a plateau after an initial period of improvement. To this end, the introductory package includes 12 different workout DVDs, which you use on a rotating schedule.
I was only dimly aware of P90X through its celebrity fans and pop culture shout-outs until a friend mentioned that she was using the system to keep up her regular workouts while she was traveling a lot on business. "You know," she said, "the yoga workout is the hardest." Yoga workout?! Naturally, my interest was piqued, so I arranged to borrow her P90X Yoga DVD to check it out for myself. I was curious to see what kind of yoga was being distributed to the masses and how closely it might resemble a class you would find at your local yoga studio.
As it turns out, if your neighborhood studio offers power yoga, it would be pretty much along the lines of Yoga X. Tony Horton himself leads four students of differing ability in a 90-minute class that looks to be taking place on the set of an amateur production of Footloose. The program gets underway with a pep talk from Horton, encouraging us not to fear the yoga ("There's a whole bunch of people that say 'I don't want to do no yoga. It's silly and it's weird.' Expand the mind here a little bit and try something new."). Given this, I was encouraged that Horton isn't afraid to throw around a little Sanskrit along the way, dropping a namaste here and a vinyasa there.
The first part of the workout is based around a series of sun salutations, with an extra chaturanga encouraged on each vinyasa to make things a little more extreme (this is Yoga X, after all). It is nice that the assembled students are working at different levels of flexibility and strength because it gives Horton a chance to encourage the use of props and modifications as well as acceptance of one's current ability. Horton does a good job moving around the room, checking alignment and demoing poses as necessary. The standing sequence includes many challenging poses, including revolved triangle, twisting chair, and bound side angle, which most teachers probably wouldn't introduce to a class of beginners. As the sequence progressed to balancing poses, including crow, I began to see why my friend wasn't a fan. This is some hard yoga.
The Problem Areas
Some of Horton's language is not what we are used to hearing in yoga classes, where the teacher usually avoids telling us to push ourselves, and for good reason. This is how injuries happen. Alignment-wise, I saw some wonky arm positions in shoulderstand, which is an important pose to get right since it places the neck in a vulnerable position. Though the possibility of using blankets as a prop is mentioned, it would have been nice to have shown that variation. In the backbending series, Horton instructs the students to hug their knees to their chests between backbends, a practice that is usually frowned upon. Savasana is included, but only lasts one minute, possibly because that is the longest Horton can bear to stop talking "I know I'm screaming too much for yoga," he admits as one point, but in general he is a positive, encouraging presence. I was interested in finding out more about Horton's yoga background, but several attempts to contact his PR people went unanswered. It seems he prefers to remain a man of mystery.
Should You Do Yoga X?
If you were an experienced yoga student looking for a pretty intense power yoga home workout, I wouldn't have any problem recommending Yoga X. However, in order to get the yoga DVD, you have to purchase the whole system, and it doesn't come cheap at over $100. It makes me a little uncomfortable that this workout is getting into the hands of lots of yoga beginners, since some of the poses are best learned in a classroom setting where you can get plenty of alignment feedback from your teacher. Horton teaches in a knowledgeable, respectful way, but he's not in your living room giving you thoughtful adjustments. I do hope that this exposure to yoga will inspire some of the many P90X fans to more fully explore this practice.