There is not one "yoga" but a multitude of different styles of yoga, capable of appealing to all types of practitioners. Generally, yoga is considered a gentle practice, ideal for relaxation. Some people may even tell you that it's the activity to choose if you don't want to work too hard or sweat too much. However, yoga also has some very dynamic styles that may surprise you. This is the case with Power Yoga. An intense yoga, born in the United States, which mobilizes the body in depth. Where does this style of yoga come from? What are its characteristics and benefits? I explain everything in this article.
What is Power Yoga?
Power Yoga could be seen as a somewhat peculiar interpretation of Ashtanga Yoga. Indeed, it uses the same type of postures as this traditional style of yoga, but adds fitness and Pilates exercises. For example, there are abdominal exercises, push-ups and cardio.
Less conventional, Power Yoga draws from Ashtanga's postures to create a unique sequence with each new class. In this way, the teacher can adapt to the energy and rhythm of his or her students, unlike Ashtanga Yoga, which is more codified.
Furthermore, Power Yoga is a style intended primarily for athletes. Thus, during the sessions, the rhythm is sustained and intense. One sweats a lot and even suffers a little bit at times... Nevertheless, this style of yoga is not totally detached from the traditional teaching and philosophy of yoga. Indeed, one can find pranayama (breathing) exercises, meditation sequences and relaxations. Ujjay breathing, important in Ashtanga Yoga, is also practiced during Power Yoga classes. This allows a better oxygenation of the body during the exercises and a deeper relaxation.
A physical yoga, but not only...
The goal of Power Yoga is to strengthen the body while improving flexibility, balance and suppleness. There is no denying it, this style of yoga is very oriented towards physical benefits. However, working and sculpting one's body is an excellent way to achieve greater self-awareness. In the end, it's not so much the exercise that counts, but our attitude when we practice it. The student, by focusing on the postures, forgets his preoccupations, relaxes, lets go... All of this leads little by little to calm the mind and to an internal balance.
Moreover, as in any yoga practice, the student is not forced to go beyond his own limits. On the contrary, we do not hesitate to go backwards to avoid hurting ourselves and we use our breath to adjust the depth of each posture. Finally, the idea of having a harmonious relationship with your body is paramount in Power Yoga, as much as in any other more conventional style. This is what differentiates this practice from any other fitness class.
Finally, we sometimes hear about "Hot Power Yoga". It is a variation of Power Yoga, practiced in a heated room like Bikram Yoga. This feature would notably allow for the elimination of toxins more easily.
How was Power Yoga born?
It is mentioned that several people have contributed to the development of Power Yoga over the years. Nevertheless, its founder would be Beryl Bender Birch. This American would have developed this style of yoga in the 80's in the United States. It was the heart of the "fitness years". We can therefore better understand the particularity of Power Yoga which is dynamic and tonic. Beryl Bender Birch combines traditional yoga postures and breathing exercises while adapting to an audience of athletes. This discipline quickly became a great success. In fact, his book "Power Yoga" was the best-selling book on yoga in 1999. Beryl Birch is also the founder of the Hard & Soft Ashtanga Yoga Institute in New York, which she now co-directs with her husband.
On the other hand, one of the big names in Power Yoga is the American Bryan Kest. He began yoga in his youth in Hawaii alongside David Williams, who was the first Ashtanga Yoga teacher in the United States. He then went to India to Mysore to train with Pattabhi Jois himself. Little by little, he came to create his own style in the 80's: Power Yoga. His goal is to take back the bases of Ashtanga with sequences of postures that can be modified and open to all.
With Byron Baptiste, they aim to create a yoga that is more fun than traditional Ashtanga yoga. Classes are less repetitive and the atmosphere is more relaxed (often with music for example).
Who is Power Yoga for?
I believe that this style of yoga is primarily for people who do not want a meditative and static activity. In Power Yoga, we move, we activate, we sweat... We don't come here to rest. So, people who need to let off steam will find a pleasant form of yoga here. Power Yoga will allow them to both meet this criterion and relax.
Moreover, one can start yoga by taking a Power Yoga class at any age. Of course, you must find a class adapted to your level and your rhythm. Is Power Yoga suitable for seniors? Again, it depends on you, your physical condition and your desires. I would say that Power Yoga is primarily intended for sports people, who are in good physical condition. Nevertheless, if you are not sporty at all, you can always turn to this activity and see it as a challenge. Even if it will be a little intense and difficult at the beginning, you will inevitably progress over the sessions.
Personally, I enjoy dynamic styles of yoga like Vinyasa, but I often find Power Yoga too intense for me. Knowing that I am looking for spirituality as much as movement in yoga, this style of yoga is not my favorite. However, when I have a lot of energy and a great desire to move, I gladly offer myself a session of this type of yoga.
How does a Power Yoga session take place?
Power Yoga can be practiced in a classic room or a heated room depending on the studio. Classes are often held with music, hip-hop or soul. Usually you start with a time of refocusing sitting on your mat with your eyes closed. This moment allows you to forget about your preoccupations of the day and to ease tensions.
Then, the postures take the form of a sequence that changes with each class. We will sometimes start with floor exercises or greetings in the sun. The rhythm is relatively steady and it is not uncommon for fitness exercises to creep into the practice.
Finally, the class ends with a relaxation as in any yoga practice. While lying on your back, you take a moment to relax by closing your eyes, guided by your teacher's voice. Each session lasts between 1 hour and 1h30 on average.
How do I start Power Yoga?
There are many Power Yoga videos on the internet. However, they often have one thing in common: they are mainly aimed at experienced yogis. Indeed, the level of the practice is often advanced. In fact, there is a tendency to put the word "Power" in a title simply to inform the student that he will sweat!
However, if you don't find many Power Yoga videos for beginners, it's probably because the practice of intense yoga must be done in the company of a teacher. It is he who will know how to guide and correct you. Indeed, if the rhythm is fast and the postures are difficult, you may want to go too fast or too far and hurt yourself more easily. I therefore advise you to take Power yoga classes in a studio near you to start.
The benefits of Power Yoga
The Power Yoga postures will strengthen the muscles and gain the silhouette. If you're looking for a style of yoga where you're going to sweat and feel like you're "working out", then this is the yoga for you. However, this is not the only benefit of this type of yoga.
As after any sport activity, Power Yoga tends to soothe us. However, it is still yoga. Thus, it is also the mobilization of the body, concentration and breathing that allows us to reach this state of mental calm. Finally, this type of yoga has an anti-stress effect in particular thanks to the practice of Ujjay breathing.
Power Yoga will help you develop a different relationship with your body, more conscious and intuitive. You will want to listen to yourself and do good to yourself. In addition, it will allow you to mobilize areas of your body that you are not used to moving. This will help you to evacuate your tensions, but also to decrease your small daily aches and pains.
Moreover, Power Yoga is sometimes a challenge, especially for beginners. It will help you gain self-confidence as you progress. Finally, Power Yoga is an intense practice that above all allows you to energize yourself. Thus, after your session, you will feel full of energy and serenity.
After this description, you may think that Power Yoga is not for you at all or on the contrary that you dream of getting into it. In any case, don't hesitate to make your own opinion on this practice by testing a class and reassure yourself that there is necessarily a style of yoga made for you.