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by Sarah Powers
Review by Beth T. Cholette, Ph.D. on Mar 20th 2012
Insight Yoga Heaven: Balancing Yang Energy is one of two new DVDs offered by yoga instructor Sara Powers through pranamaya.com. Powers and her husband, Ty Powers (who is featured as a background model here), are founders of the Insight Yoga Institute in San Jose, a school offering yoga teacher trainings combining yin and yang yoga, the three schools of Buddhism, and personal/emotional work.
The DVD insert further explains that Insight Yoga involves a balance between the lower body, which is the earthy or "Yin" region, and the upper body, the heavenly or "Yang" region. In Insight Yoga Heaven, the focus is on the relationship between the earth-based energy, which represents stability, and balancing the opening of Yang energy in the upper body.
The Main Menu of the DVD offers the following options:
- Introduction (1.5 min)
- Practices Menu
- Special Features Menu [Sarah's Biography, Other DVDs from Sarah, Insight Yoga Institute, About Pranamaya, DVD Credits, Practice MP3s, Subtitles]
Selecting the Practices menu opens the following submenu:
- Practice Overview (9 min; audio only)
- Yoga Practices
- Strengthening the Lung Chi (65 min)
- Ground Support: Breathing Into the Hara (45 min)
- Meditation Practice
- Karuna Meditation (16 min)
I have provided a general overview of each practices below. Powers and her husband are shown in a studio with wooden floors, and Powers instructs via voiceover.
1. Yoga Practice #1: Strengthening the Lung Chi
For this practice, Powers begins seated on the heels, using diaphragmatic breathing to focus on the hara (belly center). This is followed by rolling onto the back and holding happy babies pose. Next comes a series of flowing postures which includes cat/cow, downward facing dog, standing forward bend, dolphin pose, and plank; Powers concludes this sequence with shoulder-opening work using a strap. She then cues an inversion, giving viewers the option of kicking up into handstand at the wall, coming into headstand, or repeating dolphin pose. Pranayama (breathwork) follows, including kabalabati and single-nostril breathing. The final phase of this practice is the yin segment: each yin posture is held approximately 4-5 minutes. The poses include quarter dog, sphinx or seal (with breath retention), half dragonfly, and a repetition of happy babies pose. Powers concludes with a 3.5 minute savanasa which uses the mantra "om mani padme hum" to regulate the length of the breath.
2. Yoga Practice #2: Breathing Into the Hara
Powers notes that this practice will center around yin poses lying on the back. She again starts the practice in a seated position, timing diaphragmatic breathing to the "om mani padme hum" chant. Most of the yin postures are held approximately 3-5 minutes each. Lying on the back, the first sequence involves a series of poses performed with one leg, including knee-to-chest, head-to-knee, hamstring stretch, half stirrup (a.k.a. half happy baby), thread-the-needle, and a crossed leg twist; the entire sequence is then repeated on the other side. Additional yin poses are bridge (moving into supported bridge) and happy babies pose. The final sequence is an abs series which includes a vinyasa, flowing in and out of revolved stomach pose, and small upper body crunches with wide legs. Powers concludes the practice with 2 minutes in reclined butterfly and then a final minute (or more, if you have the time) in savasana.
3. Meditation Practice: Karuna Meditation
Powers explains that karuna, meaning compassion, is based on the Tibetan meditation Tonglen, or giving and taking. She states that there are five steps towards this meditation, including consciously relaxing ideas of right/wrong and using the breath as a vehicle. Although Powers provides occasional instructions, much of this meditation is silent.
Powers has a soothing manner in these practices. This DVD is likely to appeal to those who have enjoyed her previous work, as it has a strong yin focus. However, there were a few things about Powers' presentation that I didn't like. First, although the inclusion of the "om mani padme hum" mantra was potentially an excellent tool for breath regulation, it is difficult to hear, especially given that Powers frequently talks over it. Second, the meditation practice does not seem appropriate for those trying to establish a new meditation practice, as it is fairly long as well as lacking in sufficient instruction for the novice.
One final note: this DVD is packaged in 100% Recycled Packaging, including a recycled cardboard folder (full-length but slimmer than a regular DVD case), recycled plastic DVD tray, and vegetable-based dyes. While I personally appreciated the eco-friendly approach, I did not like that the case was held closed only with tape (which tore at the cover when I attempted to remove it).
© 2012 Beth Cholette
Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students.