Having its roots set in Ashtanga yoga, Power yoga is an intense and vigorous type of yoga that was created in the west in the 1990’s. Unlike Ashtanga however, it does not follow a set series of poses, and therefore Power yoga classes vary. This allows some to find it more fun as opposed to the classical kind and is believed to have been created to make yoga more accessible to the people in the west. It is evident that interest in yoga has flourished during the past decade and yoga has now become an addictive lifestyle that many are following. Some people consider yoga a trendy movement and try it out because others are! However, I believe this addiction is directly related to the health benefits that yoga provides. Power yoga, as with other types of yoga, provides both physical and mental health benefits. Some are evident such as flexibility and strength, while others are subtler and require a commitment to regular and longer periods of practice.
If you ask people why they practice yoga, the first thing they would say is that it makes them “feel better”. This feeling is attributed to the health benefits of yoga that contribute to that state of well-being that people are experiencing after their practice. Power yoga is more dynamic than other types of yoga as it focuses more on building strength and less on meditation. Being a more intense form of yoga due to its fast-paced sequence of postures, it is more physically demanding and as a result you will sweat more and feel more energetic.
One of the many physical benefits of Power yoga is flexibility. Power yoga improves flexibility by allowing the body to move and stretch in new ways that expand the range of motion in tight areas making the body more flexible. As we age we become less flexible, and this low flexibility may cause pain and lead to more serious health issues. With yoga, the more you practice the more flexible you become, especially in your hips, back, shoulders and hamstrings. Any pain from tightness will start to disappear and you will be surprised by how your body will change every time you practice.
Another benefit of Power yoga is that it builds strength and tones the muscles of the body. This is due to Power yoga’s intense nature, which includes holding poses for several breaths, lifting your body constantly, and supporting the weight of the body by balancing either on legs or arms. Power yoga asanas also help improve stamina and endurance. A strong body, which can be achieved with regular practice, protects us from many health conditions such as arthritis and back pain.
Other benefits include balance and improved alignment. Many Power yoga poses require balancing on your arms or legs, such as extended hand to big toe, crane, inversions and many others. Balancing postures require a strong core and ability to concentrate, and as a result of continuous practice, both core strength and concentration level are improved. Yoga overall improves body posture and alignment which is essential for maintaining a strong spine and neck.
In addition to the above, Power yoga helps you lose and maintain a healthy weight as well as increase your blood flow. Some postures are great for blood circulation such as the plough pose, and inversion postures like head and shoulder stands. Power yoga also helps increase your heart rate due to its intense workout pace, which will accordingly decrease the risk of heart attacks.
Power yoga has mental health benefits as well, which are mostly attributed to deep and proper breathing. Unfortunately, many of us take breathing for granted. We hardly breathe slowly or deeply and do not think much about our breath and how it relates to our health. Power yoga, uses a pranayama technique called Ujjayi breathing whereby both inhalations and exhalations are done only through the nose, making a hissing sound through the action of constricting the back of the throat. This technique is applied throughout the Power yoga practice, taking long, slow and deep breaths. Ujjayi breathing has many vital benefits in that it helps expand lung capacity especially when applied in the deep chest-opening postures. It also oxygenates our body cells, increases our body heat, and settles our mind.
Mental calmness is another great benefit of Power yoga. In this practice, you will realize how physically intense the asanas are, and accordingly in order to stay balanced and breathe through the postures, you must concentrate very hard. With regular practice, this concentration will bring increased mental focus and calmness to your mind. Yoga helps us stay in the present moment through increased focus on our postures and breath, whereby the mere act of observing our breathing is enough to help clear our minds and eliminate any noise that may distract us.
Consequently, and as a result of regular practice, we become less stressed. As stress is one of the main causes of many illnesses, Power yoga helps decrease its impact on our health in that both the physical activity and the deep slow breathing help release our daily stress and take our minds off any issues we may be going through.
Finally, Power yoga helps relax our mind and body. The relaxation posture, called the corpse position or Savasana, is the last position at the end of the practice. It entails lying down on the floor, slowing down the breath, and focusing on the present moment. It is advised to stay in this position for at least ten minutes, using your mind’s eye to scan all parts of your body for any tightness, pain or discomfort and letting them go through deep and slow exhalations. The corpse or relaxation position is a technique that you can also use while lying in bed as this will help you sleep better and faster.