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Updated by Rosalie Galvez on Mar 22, 2021
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Power Yoga Explained (Updated)

Since its inception, yoga has been defined by a complete set of commandments to keep human beings fit and healthy, both physically and mentally. It is composed of a dynamic set of instructions that encompasses both physical and metaphysical elements and help the practitioners in getting close to the ultimate spirit of the universe.


Different Nomenclature For Power Yoga

For those who are looking for a universal nomenclature or common designation, it is hard to relate so many things with one. This makes it very cumbersome to define the many forms and shapes of this prolific yoga form. Here are some of the names that different circles use across the nation:

• Power Yoga

• Power Vinyasa Yoga

• Power Flow

• Hot Power Yoga

• Baptiste Power Yoga

And so many based on where you are living and who you ask.

In the sections below, we will discuss it in detail so that you can have a better idea of what it is all about.


Iyengar VS Power Yoga

Iyengar is a form of yoga in which practitioners use assistive tools like wooden blocks to get the proper alignment of the body for authentic posture. If someone says that he or she practices Iyengar and that they are both the same thing, there is some truth in that. BKS Iyengar was the main force behind this practice. His sole aim was to popularize yoga by making constructive variations in the primitive one.

With his efforts, it has become one of the most popular group exercises in the United States that says something to those who say yoga and all of its forms are futile simulations. Iyengar itself has gone through several phases of variations and now there are as many Iyengar as there are practice circles in the world.

The same happened to Power Yoga. It is not what it was meant to be at the beginning. According to some of the original creators, it was like a “gateway yoga” where practitioners would start for physical gains and then decided to stay for deeper benefits.


Definition Of Power Yoga

It is due to the many variations that it is so hard to exactly define what power yoga is, but you can still get the air of what it is all about.

All you need to do is think about:

• A group of highly energetic people in tights

• That is listening to the loudest music ever

• A room with a hot environment – something around 90 ? | 32 ?+

• Showing a lot of movement

This should get you the picture of what Power Yoga is all about!

It is defined by active and frantic movements under loud music. This may seem to many people like the exact opposite of yoga. In yoga, the music is soothing and the movements are subtle with the aim to make you as fluid as possible, emphasizing the spiritual state so that you can be one with the spirit of the universe.

Power Yoga is more energetic in the outlook. For instance, you may remember a friend from your high school days that used to part a lot, staying out all night, maybe under the influence of chemicals. In Power Yoga, the influence achieved by substances, a feeling of elation or euphoria is achieved by strong muscle movements. For the most part of your Power Yoga session, you will remain on your feet. This is the main point about this power thing – it stresses so much on cardio and gets your heart pumping right away!

As mentioned earlier, this was developed as the “starter” to the proper yoga. It was full of activity, hectic movements, and the basic premise of being a part of a group. This helped shape yoga for the modern world and made its entry possible into the athletics sphere.


Origin Of Power Yoga

The original yoga was first unearthed from a book in India. It has several poses, illustrations, and the underlying philosophy about the importance of harmony between mind and body. This still makes the bedrock of yoga in the twenty-first century. Since its starting days, yoga has gone from a form of exotic art to become a serious way of life to boost healthy living and productivity.

As for Power Yoga, there were many practitioners and influencers. But there are two individuals that had shaped Power Yoga into its most recognizable form and coined the term – Power Yoga.

It was in the late 1980s when two practitioners came up with the idea of taking things up a notch. They were Beryl Bender Birch and Bryan Kest who are credited with coming with the idea to make the yoga physically more dynamic or fluid.

Beryl was a master in her own capacity. She used to teach Ashtanga Yoga in New York and she was really interested in the different aspects of the manifestation of yoga. In her sessions, she found out that the runners and athletes were the worst when it came to the physical part of yoga!

We take it as a given that athletic people are just more of everything; they are more agile, flexible, sturdy, and all the great things that can be associated with having a sound body. But she found out that even star athletes had limited movements that served them well on the track and playing field but they could not do any better on the mat!

That was when she developed and modified the Ashtanga Yoga practice to assist people in becoming more “agile” in the areas that were obviously lacking.

She was excited about the results and feedback from the practitioners because she thought about how marvelous this practice was for the people who were professional sportsmen. She believed in doing more than just stretching before going to the real deal. In the rugged terms, she wanted to get the sweat going!

At first, Power Yoga did not cross her mind and she called it “Yoga for athletes”. After several runs and afterthoughts, she came up with “Power Yoga”. It was the winner and it stayed.

In an interview to a website, Beryl told the interviewer that she simply came up with the name in the 1980s because she wanted to tell the people that it was something different. She wanted to show the people how contrasting it is from the yoga they were doing back in the 1970s. She further added that she could not trademark the name “Power Yoga” because of legal issues. Also, it was a coincidence that another notable practitioner living on the West Coast while she was on the East Coast. He was Bryan Kest. She thought that it was a good thing that it did not stop at that and became everything and anything in the years to come.

So, at this point, as far as the origin or genesis of Power Yoga is concerned:

• It was a modified form of Ashtanga Yoga

• The founders emphasized more on work out than just stretching

• It was more inclined towards molding the physicality of athletes

• In a limited time, it went through a lot of phases.

Beryl’s contribution went much farther than that. She was adamant about making this a serious workout rather than just a stretching regimen. This was the primary motive that made her modify Ashtanga. Ashtanga is a tough routine because of the fixed sequence practice. It means you would have to do the same postures over and over again, which may span to months before a variation comes your way.

In total, Ashtanga has six sequences. Each one is very tough and requires a lot of movement and fluidity on your part. It is only after mastering the first you can move to the next level. It requires a lot of endurance and flexibility to cover the sequences. You can get the idea of why Beryl saw the opportunity to transform a practice when she noticed that even professional athletes cannot do any better.

Still, Ashtanga was too hard for someone half-willing to do the leg work each day. There was a lot of reconstruction needed in the Ashtanga so that it can attract the mass market.

In a dramatic turn of events, Bryan Kest came up with the name – Power Yoga while he was coaching masses yoga in the area of Santa Monica CA. Both Beryl and Bryan were located in the same area and both were struggling to make yoga accessible to more people by making it more flexible than it already was. Bryan even thought about renaming the regimen to “Grandma Yoga”. The reason was that he wanted to make older people welcomed at his sessions.

Fortunately, the idea was dropped because it felt like even grandma did not want to be doing it because of how grandma it sounded. We strive to be and look fit and that was what Power Yoga was all about.


The Original Plans Of Power Yoga

Through the history of the world, we have come across so many things that were developed for one reason, but with the passage of time, turned into something entirely unpredictable. This case holds water for both great and worst things that we have recorded through the ages.

The same goes true for Power Yoga!

The intentions of its founders were to mainstream yoga with a twist toward physical strength and endurance. They were already the masters of the art and taught groups about the yoga practice. The reconstruction came at a fruitful time because there was a vacuum that needed to be filled.

When you go through what Beryl and Bryan thought about the philosophy and practice of Power Yoga, you will notice that both had ample knowledge of the ancient art and were determined to transform it through the molecular level.

Beryl, in one instance, said that all yoga, no matter the form or type, is all about training the self to pay attention. It is because attention is the driving force behind the transformation. She was more interested in the philosophy and metaphysical aspects of yoga rather than its more rigorous iterations. The reason she wanted to stress more on the fitness aspect was that people are more easily lured into a room if you promise visual results in this case – physical endurance and strength.

The other founder of the movement of Power Yoga, Bryan believed in inducing the highest levels of freedom, energy, and vitality in the practitioners through Power Yoga. He was of the view that in order to achieve all these virtues, you need to work for yourself and not against yourself. With sensible hard work, Power Yoga aimed to create an environment that is:

• Healing at both physical and mental levels

• Honors each individual of the group

• Respectful of the boundaries with no chance of breaching

• Working on the inner self

The idea was to promote natural expansion and growth through a cordial atmosphere. It was certainly not Power Yoga if it stresses too much on the order of the things rather the meaning they bring into someone’s life!

The moment it too k off, it was sensational and deeply changed the way people thought of yoga and spiritual healing. For many, it was one-part yoga and two-parts marketing!

Baron Baptiste was another individual who was responsible for making yoga more mainstream. He was a yoga master who wrote a book called, Journey into Power. It was a popular read inside the niche and made rounds in the general public. Dramatically, he named his modern rendition of yoga after himself, so the version that he developed, which was very identical with the one promoted by Bryan and Beryl, was aptly called Baptiste Power Yoga.

According to Baptiste, yoga is nothing but a journey into the truth about who we really are. It is also a mirror to show what we are capable of and how the choices we make in life affect its course. He believed that the maladies we face today can only be cured through “the truth”. Only the truth allows us to discover our complete potential and live our life to the fullest!


Power Yoga Geared Up A Notch

Even having a little knowledge about yoga, we know that it is more about an intuitive practice and focus to reveal things that do not come out without truth and passion. A yoga practitioner adopts a pose and perfects it in order to reach a higher spiritual plane where he or she can connect with the spirit of the universe. When the chanting begins, all becomes one with the sound and hum of OM!

If all this is correct about the yoga that was developed millennia ago, what is the deal with Power Yoga? How did it become so physical, energetic, and physically challenging?

The main reason behind it becoming what we see today can be seen in The Law of Unintended Consequences. The founders wanted to make yoga more accessible to the masses, but then they shared too much with athletes!

In the natural turn of events, athletes made it faster, stronger, and maybe better. With that mindset, Ashtanga was up for some serious reconstruction.

Here are some of the premises that were altered and Power Yoga was born out of it:

Ashtanga was made:

• More athletic, sweaty, and hot.

• To give up yoga philosophy altogether.

• To focus more on fitness and physical exertion.

• To abandon chants, meditation, and Sanskrit.

• To let go of the tapas, and focused more on feeling the burn rather than building up the heat.

• To make variations in the workout to retain the interests of the practitioners.

• To resort to plyometrics, momentum, and glow sticks.

In a nutshell, Power Yoga was more about competition in the group rather than cooperation!

Contrary to this, yoga is about being in association and alliance with your physical and mental self. Even the divergence of philosophy put the two poles apart from each other.


Competition & Challenge In Yoga

Athletes live and breathe competition because it is the precursor of your position as compared to that of others. In competitive situations, either you win and lose and the winner takes all. This gets to the personal sphere in the shape of “personal best” and “personal records” to keep tabs on your personal growth and betterment.

In yoga asana, the difficulty in different poses is to challenge yourself and not to compete with the others. The difficulty triggers an interruption in your routine and pushes you to become bigger and better and not the other way around.

So, for athletes, the yoga practice is about getting in the challenging mindset to do more by working hard and win over personal hurdles. This mindset is counter to what yoga teaches which is about making everything better through personal and spiritual betterment.

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