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What is Power Yoga?

Power Yoga emerged in the 1990’s as a response to the cardio rat’s demand for a more rigorous, cardiovascular form of yoga. Power yoga links the two very different worlds of the industrialized, americanized gym -- filled with muscular jocks pumping iron, and the hippie dippie world of yoga as a spiritual and meditative practice. Also known as “Gym Yoga”, Power Yoga is technically derived from Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, which features asanas that flow from one pose to the next and are connected with the breath. Power Yoga kicks Vinyasa Yoga up a notch, and is extremely fast-paced. Asanas in Vinyasa practice are usually held for five breaths each. The Power Yoga flow is faster, and each pose is usually only held for one or two breaths each.

Power Yoga is a difficult, low impact cardiovascular workout that usually runs through several quick sun salutations. Sun salutations warm the body and get the blood pumping. They are thought to bring the power of the sun into your body and heart. Sun salutations, or Surya Namaskar, can vary from teacher to teacher and can be modified to include additional or varying poses, but generally feature the following 15 asanas and their accompanying pace of breath:

  1. Start in Mountain Pose (Tadasana: standing up on your mat, facing one end of the mat, arms by the sides, palms facing forward).
  2. Bring palms together at the heart chakra.
  3. Breathe in, push the hands up, palms together, towards the sky and look up.
  4. As you exhale, bend from the hips and swing the arms out and down towards the feet onto the floor.
  5. Inhale, look up into Standing Forward Bend.
  6. Exhale, fold completely.
  7. Inhale, stretch one foot back into a lunge.
  8. Exhale, bring both feet back into Plank.
  9. Chaturanga: high push-up to low push-up pose.
  10. Inhale, move into Cobra or Upward-Facing Dog.
  11. Exhale, Downward-Facing Dog.
  12. Inhale, bend from the hips looking forward, bring one foot forward in between hands.
  13. Exhale, bring the other foot forward to standing forward bend.
  14. Inhale, stand up and sweep the arms all the way over your head and look up.
  15. Finally, exhale back to Mountain Pose.

This is a quick rundown on how power yoga is performed, but many modifications can be made to this sequence. It is standard to incorporate dynamic poses into the sun salutations.

Power yoga is not for the faint of heart or timid yogi. Enter a power yoga class expecting a challenging, intense workout. While it may be difficult, power yoga has many physical benefits. It builds strength and energizes the body and the mind. Incorporating power yoga into your workout routine will greatly increase your strength, range of motion, and flexibility.

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