Power Yoga Isn’t What You Think
Power Yoga is Not What You Think It Is
By Alissa Rodgers
If you think power yoga is super hard, hot or even scary, think again. If you’ve been shying away from trying a power yoga class, you could be missing an opportunity for some amazing breakthroughs in your body, mind and life.
Power Yoga’s Origins
Often it’s athletes or those who already are regularly doing physical exercise who are attracted to power yoga. The name itself leads people to think it will be extremely physical challenging. The truth is, the “power” in power yoga is short for “empower”. The original power yoga teacher who coined the name, Bryan Kest, says he simply shortened it because it was easier to say. Many years after creating the style he said he considered changing the name to “grandma yoga” because these classes can truly be for anyone – from kids to centenarians. How is this possible?
While there are opportunities galore to challenge yourself in a power yoga class, the empowering intention of the style means you are encouraged to honor your own body’s needs and boundaries. This means modifying postures to make them work for your body that day. It can also mean skipping postures that don’t feel right or simply don’t work for your body’s structure. It’s never expected in a power yoga class that you do every single pose. For most, that’s not a wise decision. The poses are like a menu of options from which you are able to pick and choose what will serve you best on any given day.
More is Not Always Better
In fact, more can lead to injury. One of the biggest misconceptions about power yoga – that it’s fast – is one that misses the mark of the intentions of the practice. Are some “power yoga” classes taught fairly fast? Sure. Do you have to keep up with what feels like an unmanageable pace for you? Absolutely not. You’d be way smarter to not rush your yoga practice. In a life that can often feel busy, rushed and hurried, why would we want to bring these qualities to our yoga practice?
Work Smarter. Not Harder (or Faster).
In most classes, we warm up the body with moderately paced movements call Sun Salutations. Beyond the warm up section, the major benefits are gained through sinking into and holding poses for a handful of breaths. When you hold a strong pose, you give yourself an opportunity to develop a heightened sense of awareness of how your body is feeling and what you need to be in balance. This might mean making an adjustment that gives you more of a challenge and helps you grow. It might also mean backing off so you don’t exhaust yourself or push too far. Learning to strike this balance between effort and ease (especially for us overachievers), is actually a wonderful growth opportunity.
Power Yoga is About Much More than Exercise
It’s about improving your life far beyond what happens on a yoga mat.
You do this through focusing on a few key elements of health and wellness in each class: focus, breath, foundation, heat and flow.
Focus Your Eyes to Focus Your Mind
This is the first pillar because focus is the impetus for getting grounded in your yoga practice and your life. As the saying goes, where our eyes go, energy flows. Therefore learning to focus your eyes and therefore mind can unleash great possibility and potential in your life. When your mind is busy ruminating over the past or worrying about the future, you may be missing the most important time of your life – here and now.
Physiologically, when you focus and steady your gaze on one point, you begin to calm your mind, which in turn sends soothing messages to your nervous system. Practically, when you cultivate a focused mind and a focused gaze, you create the experiences of grounding, mindfulness and presence both on and off the mat. You also open up to the possibility of your greatness when fully focusing on a task or experience. Athletes often call this being in the zone and when you get in that zone during more periods of your day and life, you can be at your best more often.
Your Breath is the Key to Unlocking Your Body’s Potential
Breath, which is at the heart of many yoga practices, is an incredible tool for mental and physical wellness. Taking conscious deep breaths can change your mind, mood and physical condition. Breath awareness and equanimity induces a balanced experience in your sympathetic nervous system, which then signals to the brain that you are safe and are calm (versus being in a state of fight or flight). Essentially by slowing down your respiratory rate, you give your body (as well as your mind) time to self-regulate.
Deep breath work has also been scientifically proven to positively affect the heart, digestion, the immune system and new research is showing possibly the expression of genes. There are now numerous studies showing the impact “taking a deep breath” can have on reducing symptoms and even reversing conditions such as asthma and heart disease.
Often the best way to advance a yoga practice or posture is not through going deeper; rather it’s by bringing in more conscious breath awareness. Utilizing your inhales to create space and lengthen and your exhales to let go and soften. If you treat every breath as though it’s the fuel for serving your purpose and uncovering your potential on and off the mat, you can unlock more potential and joy in body, mind and spirit.
If You Want to Get Anywhere New, You Must First be Present Where You Are
As the foundation is laid, so the walls of the house will rise. To build anything, you must first start with a stable base from which to work from and grow. Beyond breath, in power yoga we focus on building a solid connection to our feet, our hands and our core. When we stabilize what’s touching the earth and holding us up, we are able to embody strength and confidence more easily. Feeling strong and connected physically, you are able to deepen your understanding of the foundation of who you truly are. This means connecting with your values and purpose and better aligning your thoughts, words and actions with the your truth.
Life Doesn’t Change, You Change
Heat doesn’t mean cranking up the furnace to 100 degrees. Much of the heat built in power yoga happens internally – through deep breathing and by challenging yourself physically. This internal fire helps relieve tension, purify thoughts and cultivate passion.
The heat is a reminder that you can unlock tremendous energy through being consistent and disciplined. Most all great things come to fruition through constant practice. As you come to your mat each day, you build strength and start to believe in your own potential. When you feel good in your body, your confidence will soar both on and off the mat and stress and discomfort will melt away, igniting your personal power.
Let Go and Surrender to Flow
Flow is the absence of resistance and it is also your most natural state. Not only are you intelligently designed to be in balance, so is all of nature. As you move through life, though, you accumulate habits, thoughts, unresolved emotions and other stuff that becomes obstacles to being in the pure flow of life.
When a power yoga class moves at a steady and manageable pace, you experience this power of flow. Often in this state, you are able to shut off life’s distractions for an hour and establish a deeper connection to and understanding of your present moment experience. When the first four elements mentioned above are in place, you start to tap into the flow, the vinyasa, the linking of body and breath. This creates the feeling of harmony. Take this feeling off your mat and life starts working for you and not against you.
To sum it up in one word – power yoga is about balance. We can all gain by challenging ourselves and on the flip side, an important component of wellness is spending time at ease. Your power yoga class is not meant to be full blast for an hour. It’s meant to provide you plenty of opportunities to explore the many components of physical fitness and wellness. You are empowered to take what you need and leave the rest behind. You are empowered to move at your own pace. You are empowered to take rests as you need them. And you are empowered to move into healthy challenges in the name of confidence, strength and resilience.
If you’ve never tried a power class, step outside of your comfort zone and give one a try. You may just find you are far stronger and more capable than you think and you’ll also give yourself an experience for growth and new possibilities! They are not as scary as you might have thought.
To try out a power yoga class in the comfort of home, check out our vast selection of classes you can do anytime, anywhere in our Digital Studio.
To take a power yoga class in one of our studios, check out our weekly schedule of classes.
Alissa Rodgers is a long time power yoga student and instructor residing in Dublin, Ohio. She truly fell in love with the power yoga practice after taking a class from Bryan Kest many years ago and has since gone on to complete multiple power yoga teacher trainings with him and has hosted him for workshops, master classes and teacher trainings several times at the GoYoga studios she owns in Columbus, OH. Through power yoga she was able to cultivate a greater sense of confidence, inner and outer strength and resilience, while also freeing herself from much of the stress that comes along with her tendencies toward perfectionism, over-achieving, comparing and self-criticism. She loves sharing the empowering nature of this style of yoga with others through her classes both in studio and online and through leading aspiring instructors in trainings.