Article by Chandresh
Power Yoga has its roots in the Indian Ashtanga (Sanskrit for “eight-limbed”) style of yoga, which has an emphasis on the development of physical flexibility while nurturing the desire for self-discipline. Ashtanga yoga was initially popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois in the mid-1900s.
Whereas the order of Ashtanga poses is completely predefined, PowerYoga doesn’t follow a set series of poses, and therefore PowerYoga classes can vary depending on the teacher’s style.
“PowerYoga” is commonly used as a generic term to describe any vigorous yoga practice. The term first became popular in the mid-1990s, when several yoga teachers were looking for a way to make Ashtanga yoga more accessible to western students. It had a near simultaneous invention among four people: Larry Schultz, Bryan Kest, Beryl Bender Birch, and Baron Baptiste. What Larry, Bryan, and Beryl Bender share is that they were all students of K. Pattabhi Jois. Baron Baptiste created his own variation, which is only taught by teachers he certifies.
Larry Schultz is primarily known as the creator of Rocket Yoga, which he developed in the 1980s, and with its creation came the foundation of PowerYoga. Baron Baptiste, Bryan Kest, and Beryl Bender Birch went on to found three of the most popular schools of PowerYoga – based in Boston, Los Angeles, and New York, respectively – which largely impacted its assimilation into mainstream.
Upon the creation of Power Yoga, Westerners began to see yoga in a new light: instead of a slower, less intense meditative form of stretching, it became known as a more vigorous, fitness-based approach to Vinyasa-style yoga, which is largely the basis of yoga’s current popularity. As the interest of aerobics programs in gyms began to wane, Power Yoga rekindled people’s passion for fitness classes in the gym, as well as studios.
So what is it?
In Power Yoga, poses are followed up with strength training while synchronizing one’s breathing patterns to each Vinyasa (movement), with attention given to Tristhana (posture, breath, and focal point for the gaze). This routine strengthens, while simultaneously stretching the muscles and focusing the mind, thereby improving mind / body connection. This results in actions with perfect unity and grace and can appear to be smooth and free-flowing by spectators. The transitions between asanas in Power Yoga are sometimes held longer than the traditional five breaths. This aides in increasing physical endurance and the ability to focus on one thing for an extended period of time without breaking concentration.
From the perspective of the Power Yoga practitioner, it can be a rigorous workout that’s made more intense by the control required to maintain a strong sense of equanimity.
An example of a Power Yoga series would be an upward dog (asana) followed by a push-up (strength training). Power Yoga classes are most commonly between 40 and 60 minutes. More intense classes are 90 minutes, while retreat classes can last several hours.
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