Power yoga has gained popularity recently as individuals seek to get in a workout while also calming their mind. The hustle-bustle of the standard workweek can take a toll on people’s mental health and can cause chronic stress. In an effort to relieve that stress, power yoga has been the exercise class of choice for some people. The combination of strength training and meditation provides a great benefit for people of any fitness level. From beginners to advanced yogi masters, power yoga can be used to relax you, work your muscles, and provide a deep stretch to enhance flexibility. The type of power yoga that fits your personal goals, such as weight loss, and its general benefits will be discussed.
The term “power yoga” is actually the Americanized term of the Indian style known as “Ashtanga”. The three concepts that power yoga encompasses are Vinyasa, Tristhana, and internal purification. Vinyasa refers to the flowing system in which breath and movement control the transition between postures. It is important to allow the breath to move the movement instead of the body alone. Inhaling and exhaling in a rhythmic manner helps the body ease into the positions and enhances flexibility. When you exhale during a pose, it can provide a deeper stretch than if you you’re your breath. Tristhana is defined as posture, breathing, and focal point for gaze, otherwise known as the three places of attention. This aspect is what helps people channel their attention to something other than work or personal life stress. It can put your attention on the simple things, such as the pattern of the breath, to help you relax. Taking your mind off the challenging portions of your life can help with mental clarity and peace. Internal purification allows for inner peace and clarity by burning away the stress, greed, envy, laziness, and lust that we can feel on a daily basis.
For a beginner that is new to power yoga, you can expect to be led through a series of poses, or “Asanas”, that require some form of muscular endurance. Some poses are held longer than others and may work different muscle groups. Power yoga typically moves a bit more quickly through each pose than a typical yoga class. This type of yoga is not meant to be extremely easy, as your muscles will feel the burn at some point during the class. When the term “yoga” is used, most people are referring to Vinyasa yoga. This type is of a more relaxing nature that puts the emphasis on the breath and calming the mind. While your breath is important in power yoga, it is meant to be a little more demanding as far as a workout goes. This is not meant to scare you, as beginners can still find their niche in power yoga classes. A good yoga instructor will offer modifications to make poses easier for beginner yogis. You can always come out of a pose and rest if needed; you should not feel embarrassed for needing a break as a beginner. Some sample modifications could be doing a plank on your hands instead of your forearms or not raising a leg when doing a downward dog pose. If you don’t know what those terms mean, no worries! You can always ask your instructor for clarification or an example.
Another benefit of power yoga is that it can be used as a form of strength training since you are moving and holding your entire body weight throughout the class. Your shoulders will be burning after holding yourself in downward dog for minutes at a time while your abs work to keep your body in the correct position. Some lower body work will have your glutes and thighs shaking, hoping the instructor will eventually say “relax into child’s pose”. In order to motivate your body to keep holding poses, it is important to use your breath to your advantage. Inhaling and exhaling to the beat of the movements can help the Asanas feel less challenging. Holding your breath can cause dizziness, especially if you are doing an inverted pose. Utilize your whole lung capacity by making sure you inhale deeply and exhale all the air out. The combination of deep breathing and isometric muscle contraction can energize and revive you without leaving you feeling overly weak or tired, such as after a Bootcamp or cycling class. This can help with adherence to a fitness regimen, as you won’t feel like the class wore you out instead of invigorating you. The goal is to make you want to return to the class, not scare you away with intense burpees and endless box jumps.
Weight loss is a common goal for individuals, but trying to navigate a weight room can be overwhelming and cardio machines can get boring over time. Power yoga can be the answer since it is a low-impact activity where you are competing against none other than yourself. Seeing yourself improve from class to class can be motivating, whether it is holding a pose for longer or creating a deeper stretch. By building the muscles with isometric holds, you are also boosting your metabolism and providing a platform for weight loss. Any time you are not sitting on the couch or at a desk is beneficial; power yoga will challenge the mind and body in a new way. The potential for injury is lower than a CrossFit workout or high-intensity exercise class since you are guided through the poses with the instructor and impact is kept to a minimum. If you have injuries or chronic pain, your instructor can offer modifications or other poses to do instead of having you push through the pain. The secret to lasting weight loss is creating a fitness regimen that you can commit to. By scheduling classes and enjoying the supportive environment, you can make power yoga the cornerstone of your regimen.