If you’ve never tried this invigorating and fast-paced practice of power yoga, you might be wondering what it’s all about. Here’s our rundown on what power yoga is, where it came from, and how it might improve your health!
What is Power Yoga
Power Yoga - it sounds daunting, but what actually is it? Power yoga is a sequence of postures that are specially designed to build on strength, stamina and flexibility, all while being fast moving. Power Yoga is derived from the Ashtanga yoga tradition, which can be equally as physically demanding, but works through building heath in your body, and moving through the vinyasa sequences in a fast paced way.
Unlike Ashtanga, power yoga practice doesn’t have a set sequence of postures, and any class can be different from the next. However, it will usually start with Sun Salutation poses, to build heat within your body, and will often feature a strong focus on yoga poses that will build up strength and get your heart pounding and body sweating - power yoga can be a full on cardio workout!
Power yoga is growing in popularity, and it is a class prefered by the more hardcore gym goers, due to it’s aerobic style. Power yoga is predominantly fitness based, and is often referred to as ‘gym yoga’.
History of Power Yoga
Power yoga is fairly new and recent style of yoga, that came onto the scene in the mid 1990’s. The style of power yoga was founded by Beryl Bender Birch, in New York, and Bryan Kest in LA. Birch started practicing yoga in 1979, in the style of Ashtanga yoga - this is where the roots of Ashtanga and Power Yoga connects.
Bender Birch loved the traditional and dynamic ways of the Ashtanga Yoga practice, and wanted to take it to make it a little more accessible to western students - she wanted to achieve this by moving away from Ashtanga’s set sequences and allowing more freedom in the classes she taught.
To help differentiate between the intensity of her classes, and it’s fast paced style, and the more relaxed, meditation based yoga styles of the time, she named the practice Power Yoga.
Kest, who studied under Ashtanga guru Sri K Pattabhi Jois, also wanted to make Ashtanga more accessible to western audiences, and almost simultaneously adopted the practice - just on the other side of the USA!
Benefits of Power Yoga
Being a very intense form of exercise, there are a lot of benefits of practicing power yoga, which include, but not limited to:
Improved strength and endurance
Strong muscles are not only aesthetically pleasing but also help to support your body during day to day life. Improved strength and endurance can help to reduce your risk of injury in both exercise, and help to improve your cardiovascular abilities.
Improvements to your pulmonary function
Your lung function can have the best benefits on your overall body health. More oxygen getting around your body helps you to enjoy greater energy levels, and also reduces the risk of illness and disease. One study on the benefits of practicing faster paced sun salutations showed that pulmonary functions were improved. Additionally, breath work is vital when practicing yoga - so by breathing deeply and fully during a harder class like power yoga, you can increase your oxygen intake and use the full range of your lung function.
Power yoga, as well as yoga in general, can help to improve your flexibility. Holding postures that force you to stretch and twist, especially in a fast paced and dynamic way can help to build up your flexibility levels in your body. Being flexible helps to reduce the risk of injury, lubricate your joints, helping to keep your body healthy.
Boosts your mood
A happy mood and relaxed mind go hand in hand with yoga practice. The focus on your breath while moving through poses creates a moving meditation and allows your mind to quiet. Studies have proven that yoga affects your mind - decreasing anxiety and depression.
As power yoga is more aerobic, there’s no surprise that it will improve your fitness. The fast pace and hard poses have an undeniable impact on your overall fitness levels.
How is it different from other forms of yoga?
Although power yoga is heavily inspired from Ashtanga, there are a few key differences. Ashtanga will allow follow the same set sequence, which never changes - while Power Yoga can vary from class to class. It consists of a combination of varied postures practiced quickly. Power yoga is also a lot more relaxed, and offers more creativity, but Ashtanga has a heavy focus on breath and focus.
Power yoga is also similar to Hatha, in the way they both place emphasis on the physical side of yoga - but it’s much more passive. Hatha is a slower practice that holds poses for longer, while power yoga flows from one posture to the next quickly.
By Amy Cavill
Want to give it a try?
Power yoga is invigorating and electrifying. This faster, more physically challenging style of yoga makes you sweat and push yourself. If you enjoy a challenge, this week's classes are perfect for you. If you've never tried power yoga, give it a try!
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