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What is Power Yoga?

By Matthew F.
Updated May 17, 2024
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Power yoga is a form of yoga characterized by aggressive exercise and fitness techniques with minimal chanting. Known in the United States and the West as power yoga, the practice is known throughout much of the rest of the world as vinyasa yoga. Vinyasa encompasses mostly breath-synchronized forms of yoga. These forms of yoga combine sharp poses with quick, athletic movements. Focusing on reduced stress and increased concentration, this yoga increases lean muscle tissue and can be substituted alternately with cardio a few times a week.

First emerging in the United States in the 1990s, power yoga became a way for teachers to introduce Eastern yoga styles to American students. The strength and flexibility of this type of yoga appealed to many Westerners, without the strict poses of vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga. Ashtanga, a vigorous and aggressive yoga developed in the early 1900s, provides the basis of power yoga principles, without translating strict chants and meditations to the Americanized version.

Power yoga was the first type of yoga to popularize the art as a means of working out in the United States. It was one of the main factors of the growing popularity of yoga in many countries and was widely responsible for the introduction of yoga, yoga mats, and yoga instructors in many gyms around the world.

The practice was first developed nearly at the same time on the east and west coasts of the United States, by Beryl Bender Birch in New York and Bryan Kest in Los Angeles. Both of these instructors had previously learned under the tutelage of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, a leading figure in Ashtanga yoga in the late 1900s. Another important name in power yoga, Baron Baptiste, developed a uniquely personal form of power yoga, which he certifies himself personally to instructors around the world.

Power yoga is characterized by intense and flowing movements, and caters well to individuals who already possess a high level of personal fitness. This yoga links the separate muscular and respiratory systems of the body through the movement of breath in the body. With a focus on powerful movements and quick, athletic actions, power yoga enforces flexibility training and strength training. The breathing patterns in this form of yoga expand and contract the muscles of the body, and in turn help to increase core strength and reduce body fat.

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Discussion Comments
By stoneMason — On Dec 02, 2014

I'm not sure if power yoga is the same everywhere. But the class I attended actually involved regular yoga moves mixed with basic cardio exercises like push-ups and pull-ups. So we were doing an asana and then doing some push-ups and then doing another asana and so forth.

By SteamLouis — On Dec 01, 2014

@SarahGen-- I can't believe it took so long for power yoga to become popular in India. It has been around in the States since the 90s. I attended my first power yoga class in the late 90s actually.

Power yoga is very demanding in comparison to regular yoga. It can be challenging for people with certain weaknesses and injuries. After a back injury three years ago, I couldn't do power yoga regularly anymore. My regular yoga routine involves beginning level poses and lots of breathing. I've found this to be the best routine for me for now but I do hope to return to my old strength and do power yoga again. It surely is a better workout and burns a lot of fat and calories.

By SarahGen — On Nov 30, 2014

I first heard about power yoga a few years ago in India. Even though India is homeland to yoga, power yoga is a fairly new thing and started catching on after 2010. In fact, it was celebrities who made this yoga form more popular. A few celebrities cited their power yoga routines as reason of their weight loss and fitness. Pretty soon, power yoga classes started popping up everywhere.

As someone who finds the cardio routine at the gym dreadful, I like power yoga and much prefer it. It's more fun and just as beneficial.

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