What is power yoga?
For those unfamiliar with yoga, it is often considered to be a fairly low-intensity form of exercise, enjoyed mostly as an amplified form of stretching, to improve flexibility, balance, and core strength while promoting relaxation and physical and mental restoration.
In other words, yoga isn’t the first form of exercise that comes to mind when most people think about workouts that increase strength and get your heart rate pumping.
Power yoga is among the most vigorous styles of yoga. It is designed to increase cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength. An intense power yoga workout can leave your muscles quaking, your heart racing, your lungs panting, and your body sweating.
In this guide, we will explain the basics of power yoga, the benefits of power yoga, and how to get started with this challenging style of yoga.
We will cover:
- What Is Power Yoga?
- How Does Power Yoga Differ from Other Styles of Yoga?
- The Benefits of Power Yoga
- Common Power Yoga Poses
- How to Get Started With Power Yoga
Let’s get started!
What Is Power Yoga?
Power yoga is a style of yoga geared towards increasing muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance.
Power yoga can be considered more of a dynamic style of yoga than a meditative or restorative style of yoga.
The term “power yoga” was coined in the mid-1990s by American yoga teachers Bryan Kest and Beryl Bender Birch, who had studied Ashtanga yoga with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. They wanted to create a more accessible and less rigid form of Ashtanga yoga, which became what was soon known as power yoga.
Like Vinyasa yoga, power yoga focuses heavily on the specific flow from one pose to another. Power yoga poses aren’t approached in isolation; rather, power yoga involves more of a choreographed sequence of moving from one yoga pose to another without stopping.
Although poses may be held for several breaths, the emphasis in power yoga is to keep up a yoga flow and move seamlessly from one pose to another. And, more often than not, power yoga poses aren’t held long at all. As with Vinyasa yoga, flowing between poses in power yoga is linked to the breath.
6 Ways Power Yoga Differs from Other Styles of Yoga
If you’ve never tried power yoga before but have practiced other styles of yoga, it can be helpful to understand the differences between power yoga and other common types of yoga.
The primary distinguishing characteristics of power yoga compared to other styles of yoga include the following:
#1: Power Yoga Moves At a Faster Pace
Compared to most common styles of yoga, such as Hatha yoga, which focus on deliberately holding poses for a longer period of time and slowly breathing into the pose, power yoga is practiced at a notably faster pace.
Because of the speed at which you move, power yoga is one of the better styles of yoga in terms of providing an aerobic, or cardio, workout.
#2: Power Yoga Aims to Build Strength
One of the primary goals of power yoga is increasing muscular strength, so poses tend to involve utilizing most major muscles of the body.
Even though the emphasis is on moving quickly from one pose to the next, power yoga can also involve holding challenging poses (such as Plank Pose or Warrior II Pose) for up to one minute or more to build strength.
#3: Power Yoga Is Less About Meditation and Mindfulness
The primary goal of power yoga is getting a good total-body workout, so there’s a distinct lack of emphasis on meditation and relaxing breathing compared to many other forms of yoga.
Although you always want to be mindful when moving your body, power yoga does not focus as much on mindfulness and the mind-body connection.
#4: Power Yoga Focuses On the Flow
Unlike Hatha yoga, which focuses on each pose in isolation, the emphasis in Power yoga is on the flow, or constant movement of the body from one pose to another, as is the case with Vinyasa yoga.
#5: Power Yoga Uses a Flexible Sequence
Unlike Ashtanga yoga, wherein there’s a set, exact sequence of specific poses performed in the same precise order every single time, the sequence of poses followed in a power yoga workout can be more variable.
This is not to say that each subsequent pose is determined on a whim during a power yoga workout.
The instructor or yogi practicing power yoga usually predetermines a particular sequence of certain poses to flow through, but this sequence is flexible and up to the creative discretion of the person directing the power yoga workout.
For this reason, any two power yoga classes or workouts can differ significantly, whereas any two Ashtanga yoga classes will follow the same exact sequence of poses.
#6: Power Yoga Is Often Done to Upbeat Music
To motivate and increase the energy in a power yoga class, your instructor may play loud, lively, upbeat music, and use a more vibrant, energetic cueing voice than you would encounter in a slower or more meditative form of yoga such as Hatha yoga, Yin yoga, or Iyengar yoga.
The Benefits of Power Yoga
Like all styles of yoga, there are numerous physical and mental health benefits of power yoga, including the following:
- Increasing heart rate and providing a cardio workout
- Decreasing stress and reducing levels of cortisol, a stress hormone
- Reducing the risk of various lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and hypertension
- Potentially aiding in smoking cessation
- Boosting mood and reducing the risk of depression
Common Power Yoga Poses
There aren’t specific poses that must be performed in a power yoga workout, nor are there any yoga poses that are off limits. Rather, there are many different asanas that might be sequenced together in a power yoga workout, but some of the most common power yoga poses include the following:
- Warrior III Pose
- Revolved Lunge Pose
- Side Plank Pose
- Crow Pose
- Boat Pose
- Tiger in Plank Pose
- Half Moon Pose
How to Get Started With Power Yoga
If you have practiced other forms of yoga before and feel like you have the level of fitness to take on a more vigorous power yoga class, one of the easiest ways to get started with power yoga is to look for a power yoga class at your local yoga studio or gym.
Because power yoga isn’t technically an official form of yoga, you may not find “power yoga“ listed on the schedule of offered classes at your yoga studio or gym. Instead, it may be listed as Vinyasa yoga, perhaps differentiated from other Vinyasa classes by denoting it as an advanced or vigorous class.
There are also hot power yoga classes offered by some hot yoga studios. Be prepared to sweat in a hot power yoga class, as the temperature of the room will be cranked up while you practice power yoga:
A power yoga class is often up to 60-90 minutes long, and as discussed, power yoga can elevate your heart rate and respiration rate.
Therefore, if you’re just getting started on your fitness journey, feel out of shape or deconditioned, or have an underlying medical condition, it’s advisable to consult your healthcare provider for medical clearance prior to starting power yoga.
It can be helpful to try a lower-intensity style of yoga before taking a power yoga class. Hatha yoga is a great starting place for beginners because it will introduce you to common yoga poses and proper body alignment at a slower pace.
You can then progress to a Vinyasa yoga class, where you’ll familiarize yourself with flowing from one pose to the next. Power yoga uses many of the same poses as Vinyasa yoga, and also shares the continual flow structure, and coordinates your movements with your breath.
A Vinyasa yoga class may be somewhat less intense than power yoga though, so it can be a good first step for beginner yogis.
If you prefer to practice yoga in the privacy of your own home rather than attending a class, you can look for free power yoga video workouts online or subscribe to a reputable yoga streaming platform or yoga app, such as Alo Moves.