Power Yoga: Flexible Strength
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Are you looking for a workout that combines strength, cardiovascular conditioning, flexibility and mental discipline? If so, power yoga could be your ideal jam.
No two power yoga sessions are alike. However, they all share the potential to get your heart rate cranking like a sprinter’s without any impact. They can also sculpt your body without weights — although some teachers might use creative props in their classes.
This style combines an element of calisthenics, making it challenging even for dedicated athletes. Are you ready to develop flexible strength? Here’s what you need to know about power yoga.
A Brief History of Power Yoga
Power yoga draws its origins from Ashtanga and the teachings of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois but varies from the structured series of poses known in this practice. Western minds credit two practitioners with its near simultaneous creation — Bryan Kest and Beryl Bender Birch. They were both second-generation ashtangis, one based in Los Angeles, the other in New York.
From there, multiple teachers played with the techniques used to invent unique styles. Today, most gyms use the term “power yoga” to let practitioners know they aren’t in for gentle Hatha or Yin. Your guide designs your flows for intensity, and you’ll leave your session feeling sweaty and spent.
What Makes Power Yoga Unique?
What makes power yoga unique from practices like Ashtanga and vinyasa, which also offer intense challenges? One difference is the sequence — unlike Ashtanga, you’ll do different poses in each class instead of a fixed series. Power yoga differs from vinyasa in that you may hold stationary poses for a considerable time instead of flowing more quickly from one to the other. Your guide may interject static holds in between vinyasa flows to sculpt muscle.
One of the founders, Birch, employed eight axioms to describe the practice’s purpose. They are:
- It is best to combine strength work with stretching.
- Strength work and flexibility complement each other — developing one will assist in the other.
- Sports create tight, short muscles that require lengthening to build true strength.
- Sports injuries develop from imbalances that accumulate over time along with loss of motion and agility.
- The same principle of using heat to make iron flexible also applies to muscles.
- Training pauses do not correct muscular imbalances.
- Easing into the practice of yoga is best.
- Stretching is not a warm-up but integral to strength-building exercises.
Although power yoga classes will get you sweaty, you’ll notice that there aren’t any beginner options. Instead, your guide will strive to integrate you into class at your pace, giving you tips to accommodate your growing abilities.
What this means to you is that you must be patient with your progress. Power yoga typically won’t use the intricate flows seen in vinyasa — you’ll focus more on the basics. However, you might have to observe a class or two before feeling fully comfortable jumping in and trying the moves.
Power Yoga Moves to Incorporate in Your Workout Today
Are you interested in trying some power yoga moves to build flexible strength today? You can try these poses anytime and anywhere. If you typically lift weights, try adding these exercises into your rotation and see how they impact your overall muscular development.
A chaturanga is essentially a pushup — with a few notable exceptions. Instead of elbows out, you keep them tucked into your body, working your triceps. They’re great for blasting that underarm area so that you don’t keep on jiggling long after you stop waving.
Begin in a pushup position — a straight plank. Holding this pose alone works your core, but you also want to target your arms. Shift your body weight slightly by leaning forward on your toes, projecting your shoulders to the front a tiny bit and bend at the elbows. Lower until your shoulders nearly rest on your hands and your torso hovers about an inch off the ground.
From here, you can do a chaturanga pushup and return to a plank position — a few of these will tone your triceps like few other exercises. You can also push into an upward-facing dog, one of the core moves in a typical sun salutation-style vinyasa.
2. High Lunge
High lunges really burn your legs. You can also add variations that engage your core. In most power yoga classes, you’ll get into this move through a vinyasa, so perform a sun salutation until you get to downward-facing dog step.
From there, do a three-legged downward dog — or down-split, as some instructors call them — pulling one leg through and placing it between your hands. Rise to standing with your front leg bent at a 90-degree angle and your back leg relatively straight, keeping a slight knee bend to protect that delicate joint.
From there, you can blast your quads and hamstrings with a stationary hold — how long can you go? You can also lift and lower yourself vertically, feeling your leg muscles and core engage as you struggle to balance. A little twist adds extra core work and balance challenges.
Navasana or boat pose is a great core blaster. To perform a classic version of the move, you balance on your hip bones, lifting your legs and torso into a “V” shape. Extending your legs and pointing your toes increases the intensity of this move, although the most important element is to maintain a straight spine.
Therefore, you have variations to protect your lower back. The easiest method is to bend your legs at the knee, keeping your calves parallel to the floor. What if you have severe tenderness in the low-back area, as many do? Lie flat on your back, elevating only your shoulders and heels off the floor — you might even find this variation tougher on your core while gentler on your sore spots.
Power Yoga: Flexibility and Strength
Do you want a workout that combines strength with flexibility? If so, power yoga may offer the ideal one-two punch for your lifestyle.
Try adding some power yoga moves to your conventional gym workouts today. Better yet, step into your nearest class and gain mental discipline while toning your body.