What Is Power Yoga? A Beginners Guide

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Want to take a more fitness inspired approach to your yoga practice? Then look no further than Power Yoga.

This increasingly popular style of Yoga is fast paced, challenging and centred around your physical fitness. 

But don’t think taking a power yoga class will just be about working out and getting a sweat on, you will undoubtedly leave the class feeling calmer and clearer in your mind, as well as energised in your body.

What Is Power Yoga?

Power Yoga is a fast moving sequence of postures designed to build strength, stamina and flexibility in your body.

Derived from the Ashtanga Yoga tradition, another powerful and physically demanding style of yoga, power yoga works with building heat in your body and moving quickly through vinyasa sequences.

Power Yoga doesn’t have a set flow of postures, unlike Ashtanga, and each class will be different.

The class will usually begin with Sun Salutations to build up heat in your body, and there will be a strong emphasis on postures that build strength and get the heart racing, making Power Yoga an intense cardio workout (1).

With the growing popularity of Power Yoga, the term is being used to describe many dynamic vinyasa flow classes.

You will find a lot of gyms and fitness centres holding Power Yoga classes, as this more aerobic style of yoga appeals to the fitness fanatic.

A Brief History Of Power Yoga

Power Yoga is a fairly recent style of yoga founded by Beryl Bender Birch in the mid 1990’s (2). Her personal practice began in 1979 in the style of Ashtanga, where the roots of Power Yoga are strongly connected.

Bender Birch wanted to take the traditional and dynamic practice of Ashtanga Yoga and make it more accessible to Western students by moving away from the set sequence and allowing more freedom in her classes.

She labelled her classes Power Yoga to differentiate between her intense and fast flowing yoga and the more relaxed and meditation based classes that everyone associated with yoga at that time.

Other recently established styles of Power Yoga are Rocket Yoga, founded by Larry Schultz (3), and Baptiste Power Vinyasa, founded by Baron Baptiste (4).

“Turn your ambition into intention”
Larry Schultz

Benefits Of Power Yoga

Improvement Of Strength And Endurance

Having strong muscles not only look appealing but support your everyday life.Improved strength and endurance reduce your risk of injury in exercise and daily tasks, and improve cardiac function.

One study, looking at the effects Sun Salutations have on your muscular strength and general body endurance, concluded that powerful yoga practices are ideal at keeping yourself at an optimum level of fitness (5).

Improved Pulmonary Function

Improving your lung function can have profound benefits on the health of your body. By getting more oxygen around your body you can enjoy greater energy and reduce the risk of disease.

A study taken on the physiological benefits of practising fast paced Sun Salutations, reported improvement of pulmonary function, strength, endurance and resting cardiovascular parameters (6).

Breath is an integral part of your yoga practice. By breathing deeply through an intense yoga class you increase your oxygen intake and use the full range of lung function.

Increase In Flexibility

When you hear the word Yoga, you think flexible. Holding postures that force us to stretch and twist muscles that we rarely use help us to gradually build up flexibility in our body.

Being flexible decreases our risk of injury and lubricates our joints, making flexibility a really important benefit to our overall health and fitness.

Mood Elevation

Mood elevation and a relaxed state of mind are benefits widely associated with yoga and with good reason. Maintaining focus on your breath creates a moving meditation and allows you to quiet the mind.

Many studies have proven the effects yoga has on your mind. One study in particular concluded that the practice of yoga increased GABA levels in the brain (7) and resulted in a decrease in anxiety and depression (8).

Increased Fitness

Being a more aerobic form of yoga it’s no surprise that it can improve our fitness. The rapid pace and challenging postures have an incredible impact on our overall fitness level.In one study looking at the physiological changes in adult women after practicing yoga, evidence showed an increase in cardiorespiratory efficiency (9).

Low Impact

Although Power Yoga is a physically demanding yoga practice, it is still a low impact workout. This means you can tone and shape your entire body without stressing the joints.

Reduced Stress

As a society we are super stressed. There are pressures hitting us from every corner of our lives and this has a massive impact on the overall health of our body and mind. Including some mindful practices like yoga into your daily routine are an excellent way of reducing some of that stress and will enable you to cope better in these testing times.

A study ran by Dr. James E Stahl (10) showed how including mindful based practices into your daily life improved relaxation and decreased the need to seek medical health care (11).

How Is Power Yoga Different From Other Forms Of Yoga?

#1 Power Yoga VS Ashtanga

Although inspired heavily from the Ashtanga tradition, there are differences.Ashtanga Yoga follows a set sequence which never changes, whereas Power Yoga will differ from class to class. A Power Yoga class will be a varied combination of postures practiced in a quick flow.

Ashtanga places a lot of importance on the breath, focus and bandhas (internal locks) (12). Power Yoga is much more relaxed in its approach with the freedom to offer creativity throughout the class.

#2 Power Yoga VS Hatha

YogaHatha Yoga also places emphasis on the physical side of Yoga but in a much more passive way.

A Power Yoga class will flow from one posture to the next, whereas in a Hatha class there is more focus on working deeper into postures and holding the poses for longer breath counts, without the need to jump from one pose to the next.

#3 Power Yoga VS Bikram Yoga

Like Ashtanga, Bikram follows the same sequence each class and never deviates. Bikram is a set of 26 postures performed in a room heated to 105% fahrenheit and with a humidity of 40%. A Bikram class will always be a 90 minute class and you can expect the same no matter where you attend a class.

#4 Power Yoga VS Yin Yoga

Yin Yoga is a very passive form of yoga where most of the postures are performed seated or lying down on the floor. In Yin there is no emphasis on warming up the body and postures can be held for as long as 3 - 5 minutes, with the intention of working into the deeper layers of the body.

Power Yoga is definitely a Yang style of practice.

Try Some Power Yoga For Yourself

1. Try this video with popular yoga teacher Adriene Mishler (13) for a great introduction to Power Yoga.

2. If you’re stuck for time then try this 15 minute Power Yoga sequence.

3. Want a full length class? Then give this video a go.

In Conclusion

There are benefits to practicing all styles of Yoga but if you are looking for a style that will enhance your fitness and physical health then Power Yoga is for you. 

Power Yoga will tone and strengthen you body and give you a great sweaty workout.

Try one of the great videos above or head down to your local gym to find a Power Yoga Class and begin to enhance your physical fitness with this dynamic form of yoga.

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