Insight Yoga, Heaven

Sarah Powers
Year Released: 2012

Categories: Yoga

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NOTE: I received a free copy of this DVD to review for the web site Metapsychology Online Reviews; you can read a more detailed version of my review on that site.

INSIGHT YOGA HEAVEN is one of two new DVDs offered by yoga instructor Sara Powers. Powers and her husband, Ty Powers, are founders of the Insight Yoga Institute. The DVD insert 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

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.

YOGA PRACTICE #1: Strengthening the Lung Chi
This practice combines active postures with yin poses. Powers begins seated on the heels, using diaphragmatic breathing to focus on the hara (belly center). This is followed by holding happy babies pose. Next comes a series of flowing postures (cat/cow, downward facing dog, standing forward bend, dolphin pose, 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.

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 seated, 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.

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.

Instructor Comments:
I like Sarah, yet somehow she also feels a bit inaccessible and remote to me at times. Also, as noted above, her cues sometimes get in the way of the practice.

Beth C (aka toaster)