Yoga enthusiasts seek out yoga lessons for a variety of reasons, ranging from a desire to get fit to a need to get in tune with themselves on a deeper, more fundamental – maybe even on a spiritual level.
Many people start yoga hesitantly, sure they need something greater than themselves in their lives but unsure if yoga will give them the fulfilment they seek.
Others might see yoga as a way to find their inner balance; a level of peace that has long been missing from their lives.
And there are yoga devotees who swear that practicing yoga is the true path to fitness. Naturally, that statement can be made true by also eating right and keeping stress levels in check.
What type of person practises power yoga?
The shortest answer happens to also be the truest one: anybody who has attained that level of fitness and wishes to may practise power yoga… but we all know that embracing this vigorous style of yoga is not as simple as that.
Power yoga, as its name implies, is dynamic. Unlike other types of yoga where holding a pose is the goal, for power yoga, attaining the pose and then the next one is how it’s done.
That doesn’t mean that the fundamental trinity of mind, body and spirit are cast aside in favour of a sequence of challenging poses!
Let’s sort out exactly what power yoga is before we talk about sequencing any power yoga sessions.
What Is Power Yoga?
It might be easier to start this segment by saying what power yoga is not.
If what you’re picturing as power yoga is something vigorous, like Zumba or Pilates – which borrows substantially from yoga, you’re a little off the mark.
The fundamental difference between yoga and all of the other fitness routines, no matter when or by whom they were developed – or for what reason, is that yoga is primarily a meditative practice.
So, while you may cycle through asanas more rapidly in power yoga than you would, practising other types of yoga, it is still about exercising your mind as well as your body.
It is vital, before joining a power yoga class, that you will also have already established your mind-body connection, have a bit of practice working from your core and a bit of experience with meditation.
If you have experienced other types of yoga and are looking to expand your understanding of yoga, you will likely benefit from power yoga.
With that out of the way, let us now discuss what power yoga is.
The name was coined in the 1990s, when the fitness craze was really cresting; many now consider power yoga to have initiated the ‘gym yoga’ trend, meaning that yoga become seen as more of a fitness workout than a spiritual one.
Power yoga has its roots in Ashtanga yoga, another very dynamic type of yoga that synchronises breath with movement.
A typical Ashtanga class will follow a set series of poses, each one held for five breaths. Power yoga moves a bit faster than that; you may only hold a pose for a few moments before your yoga instructor calls the next asana – typically by its Sanskrit name.
For that reason, we too will only use the Sanskrit names when we describe a typical power yoga workout.
Whereas other types of yoga are ideal for meditation and to improve your flexibility, power yoga is great for strength training because you are constantly lifting and holding up your entire body’s weight.
Yoga instructors in such classes often call for vinyasas, something you might liken to ‘returning to home position’, say, on a keyboard. It is how yogis balance energy flow in their body after a sequence of poses.
The typical vinyasa in power yoga consists of a chaturanga, an adho mukha svanasana and an urdhva mukha svanasana.
For those of you not yet familiar with the Sanskrit terms, those are the four-limbed staff pose, the downward-facing dog and the upward facing dog.
For example, your yogi may call out asanas for Surya Namaskara A (Sun Salutation A), followed by vinyasa.
An essential component of a power yoga class is flow. You should be able to smoothly segue from one pose to the next. Oddly enough, for as relaxing as that aspect of power yoga is, you will leave your session decidedly energised!
Not the type of energised that will drive you to run for miles. You won’t get hyper-energised but you will definitely have a bit of an extra spring in your stride when you leave your power yoga session!
Discover also how you can sequence any yoga class…
Getting Started with Power Yoga
Clearly, this is not a type of yoga that you can go into cold, so we will start by warming up.
The ideal warmup is, of course, Surya Namaskara A, followed by a vinyasa, from which you would flow into Surya Namaskara B, a slightly different salutation.
Now that you are nicely warm, you will start with the first of 40 to 70+ asanas, depending on the time allotted for your class. Here, we list the first 10:
- Pada Hastasana
- Privritta Trikonasana
- Utthita Parsvakonasana
- Parivritta Parsvakonasana
- Prasarita Padottanasana
- Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana
- Ardha Baddha Padma Uttanasana
All of this may seem like so much Sanskrit to you now but, once you get familiar with the poses and can flow into them effortlessly, you will be happy to master all of them!
You might wonder about the number of asanas in power yoga; after all, we did mention that there are anywhere between 40 and 70 of them, not counting the vinyasa or sun salutation sequences.
Don’t forget to finish with savasana, you will have earned it!
The important thing to remember is that you are not supposed to hold each pose for more than a moment. The idea is to flow rather than to feel your muscles and joints burning.
And, on that note, a word of caution: if you can match your yoga teacher pose for pose, good on you! But if you can’t – and that is perfectly okay, please don’t feel compelled to reach; you will be defeating the purpose of practising yoga.
Also learn about yin yoga, a type of yoga where depth is key!
Making Power Yoga Count
So far, we’ve discussed the sequence for a general power yoga session but did you know that power yoga can be targeted to specific areas of your body?
Let’s say you wanted to target abs and glutes.
You may start with a mountain pose, do a swan-dive forward into a forward fold, from which you would flow through a vinyasa. From your downward-dog position, you reach your right leg up, keeping it in line with your back, coming out of it with a knee-to-nose which segues into a lunge position and then into a crescent moon pose.
From that lunging asana, flow into a forward fold pose. Come out of it by reaching high as you breathe in, and ease yourself back into the mountain pose. Don’t forget to work your other leg, as well!
Power yoga is fundamentally a hatha yoga, even though there are far more asanas per session and there is less of a focus on breathing. That is because power yoga teachers understand that you must have mastered yoga breathing before signing up for their class.
If pranayama does not yet come naturally to you, you may ask your yogi for breathing exercises.
As exciting as these power yoga classes might sound, you should approach them with a measure of caution; they require a bit more stamina than a basic yoga class might, say a vinyasa flow class or an Iyengar yoga class.
And they move fast! On a breath intake, you adopt one posture and expel that breath while flowing into the next one. That is one reason why breathwork is so important in power yoga.
Discussing with your yoga teachers any health or mobility concerns you might have.
Naturally, each asana may be slightly modified to accommodate power yoga for beginners – maybe alternating between heel lifts instead of adopting the more demanding Tiptoe pose.
But if you are keen to get back into yoga after a long time away – and especially after an injury, the yoga poses in power yoga and the speed they are adopted may hurt instead of help your healing.
You may, in fact, consider restorative yoga or some other, more gentle yoga until you get back to your old self.
In all, one might consider power yoga to be a misnomer.
There is indeed power to be tapped in this type of flow yoga, and it can be quite demanding but, unlike any cardio routines, it won’t demand every ounce of energy and power from you.
Maybe its power lies in the fact that it can lift you up…