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by Sarah Powers
Review by Beth T. Cholette, Ph.D. on Mar 27th 2012
Insight Yoga Earth: Balancing Yin 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 Earth, the emphasis is on drawing strength from the “hara,” or the belly center. Both the two yoga practices and the two meditations on this DVD focus on deriving energy from the hara to nourish the entire 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
- Grounding Down (55 min)
- Spiraling the Universal Chi (31 min)
- Meditation Practices
- Shamata Meditation (20 min)
- Vipassana Meditation (18 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: Grounding Down
This practice is designed to maintain a healthy spine. Powers begins on the floor in butterfly pose, moving this into a forward bend. Coming to standing, she performs side stretches as well as lifts onto the toes. Several standing sequences follow. The first is a lengthy warrior series which includes warrior 1, warrior 2, side angle pose, and a flow from warrior 2 to reverse warrior to side angle that is repeated for several minutes. After each side, a wide-legged standing forward bend series is performed. The second standing sequence is a series of balance poses, including tree, a variation on dancer’s pose, and standing knee to chest. Powers then performs flowing movements to open up the upper back and shoulders (e.g., arm circles, spinal twists, and elbow circles). She concludes the standing work with chair pose, adding in lion’s breath, and finishes out the practice by returning to butterfly.
2. Yoga Practice #2: Spiraling the Universal Chi
This practice is described as a combination of seated twists and core strengtheners. Powers begins seated with a focus on diaphragmatic breathing; she uses the mantra “om mani padme hum” (heard in the background) to regulate the breath. For the twisting segment of the practice, three versions of Sage Marichi’s pose are performed. This is followed by abdominal work that includes table/boat pose, lifted thread-the-needle pose, reverse plank, and full forward bend. The practice ends with a 2.5-minute savasana.
3. Meditation Practice #1: Shamata Meditation
Powers notes that the translation of “shamata” is “calm abidance” and that the general practice of shamata involves attending to a simple object—in this case, the breath. Most of this meditation is silent, as Powers encourages the breath focus. She also suggests simply observing when the mind is wandering and then returning to the breath.
4. Meditation Practice #2: Vipassana Meditation
Vipassana means insight, or seeing things as they are. In order to do this, Powers explains that this meditation combines mindfulness with inquiry. Rather than a simple breath focus as in the Shamata Meditation, this meditation involves a focus on ALL details of the present moment. The three actions of mindfulness which Powers teaches here are pausing, softening, and connecting.
Powers has a soothing manner in these practices, and those who have enjoyed her previous work will likely enjoy this DVD as well. On the other hand, those familiar with other styles of yoga might have some difficulties connecting with her approach. The first practice offers flowing movements, but it is certainly not a vinyasa or even a “yang”-type practice. And while the second practice is relaxing, the postures are not held at length as in the “yin” tradition. Furthermore, 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, Powers frequently talks over the mantra, making it difficult to hear. Second, the meditation practices are quite lengthy, especially for those new to meditation; Powers might have better served her viewers a by offering shorter options.
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
Link: Pranamaya DVDs
Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students.