Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, August
Journalist Karen Macklin spoke with four yoga teachers who have
incorporated meditation techniques into their yoga practice (and vice-versa).
CALIFORNIA BASED yoga teacher Sarah Powers became more interested in the
psychological and contemplative dimensions of her practice, she discovered
that in-depth teachings of that sort were scarce in the yoga community.
"We didn't have the opportunity for extended periods of stillness practice
in most of the yoga intensives I was participating in," she says. "I would
only read about them or have them alluded to in class."
Powers turned to an investigation into Buddhist meditation, which became,
over the years, a devotion. Eventually, her respect for both traditions
inspired her to develop a practice that combined them. She calls it Insight
"I find that many Buddhists could be greatly enhanced in their practice
by investigating the realms of the physical and energetic," she says,
"and many yogis can really be enhanced by the teachings that highlight
how to be open to not just concentration, but levels of ongoing awareness
Powers says she bases her model for teaching on the Tibetan vision of
every practice having three essential pieces, or "three excellences."
Thus, her classes consist of three parts: setting a conscious intention,
doing a mindful main practice, and dedicating the fruits of that practice
to one's teachers and to the benefit of all beings. The main practice
is a combination of yin (long hold) yoga asana, yang (flow) yoga asana,
pranayama (breathing), energetic visualization, and meditation.
Powers mainly teaches extended workshops and retreats. A day on retreat
might include a four-hour practice in the morning and a two-hour practice
in the afternoon, with half-hour seated meditation sessions interspersed
throughout the day. She sees elongated practices as a key to going deeper.
"It's more like a Buddhist retreat with lots of yoga in it," she says.
So is it yoga or is it Buddhism?
"Ultimately," says Powers, "we need to move beyond the classification
of certain dogmatic definitions that are held by any school, and evaporate
the understanding into our unique freedom that isn't defined by what we
call it. It's really an investigation into how we suffer and the potential
for living free."