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power yoga advantages

Power Yoga: Benefits, History & Risks

Power yoga might be a name you’ve heard before, and it’s certainly one that’s been starting to become more recognised, both in the fitness world and online. Maybe you’ve heard about the benefits of power yoga, or that it provides a huge cardiovascular challenge.Yoga itself is a powerful exercise, but what could power yoga add that gives it that extra impact and gravitas?

Well, fortunately, our guide will answer that question, plus a great many others you might have surrounding power yoga. We’ll be discussing the myriad of benefits to power yoga, where it all began, and how you can implement it into your workouts, whether you’re a fitness fanatic or you’re just beginning your fitness journey.

Read on to find out more about power yoga workouts!

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What is Yoga?

power yoga advantages

First off, let’s establish what we mean by yoga. We know that might seem basic, but it’s important to understand all the fundamentals before we move onto a different type of yoga.

Yoga is a practice conducted by so many different people, regardless of age, religion or fitness level. Across all of the different styles of yoga (we’ll be looking at a couple of selected styles a little later in this article), students are encouraged to focus on their own individual journey to improve their physical and mental wellbeing.

Yoga is meant to energise and relax the body and improve quality of life in general, not just in the studio. According to The British Wheel of Yoga it is estimated that there are around 300,000 – 460,000 yogis in the United Kingdom with a sudden surge in popularity over the last few years.

Yoga’s emphasis on relaxation and stretching has earned it a reputation for being an equally relaxing and challenging workout, as well as an activity that is accessible and adaptable.  

This relaxation is coupled with calming breathing techniques called “pranayama”. These are designed to relax the body, and allow the mind to freely wander while performing the poses.

In modern day yoga practice, many students use yoga in order to help build strength, flexibility and to practice self-meditation. This type of practice is especially important in our more modern society, which can often be stressful and hectic. And, with smart technology, there’s even free yoga apps that can help you perfect your pranayama on the move!

What is Power Yoga?

power yoga calories

Power yoga is a very vigorous, intense type of yoga. 

Based on Ashtanga yoga (a dynamic form of yoga that originated in India), power yoga does not stick to a specific sequence or pattern of asanas or postures, but instead calms the mind and increases bodily control. Power yoga is a total body, unique and creative practice.

It focuses on improving strength and flexibility, pushing the body to its limits and increasing muscular ability and balance. Power yoga is an amalgamation of strength and toning exercises, a high-intensity cardio workout, and relaxation breathing techniques that place pressure on specific muscles and areas of the body.

And with so much pressure being put on your joints and muscles, make sure they’re as cushioned and comfy as possible with our list of the Best Yoga Mats.

The pranayama of power yoga remains the same as regular yoga, in that the emphasis placed upon breathing and relaxation is paramount as part of the workout, even with the addition of strength and cardiovascular exercises.

What's The Difference Between Yoga and Power Yoga?

difference between power yoga and yoga

As a general overview, yoga is focused primarily on balance, stability, and relaxation. It combines gentle poses with breathing techniques that relax the body and mind. 

Power yoga is a more advanced, intense form of yoga. It combines specific exercises that build strength and cardiovascular capacity, and in the long run this helps to define and sculpt muscle. It can also be a way to shed any excess body fat, and as such training programs can recommend power yoga for athletes, or those who are training intensely. 

Power yoga solely focuses on the physical body, the strength, stamina and flexibility whereas traditional types of yoga focus on the mind-body connection, with an emphasis on meditation and visualisation techniques. 

Because of the nature of power yoga, it’s recommended that you have a familiarity with the basics of yoga (such as the poses, the breathing techniques (pranayama), and the flow or “vinyasa” between the stances), and that you come with an open mind and a willingness to learn and develop.

And, if stances are still something you’re struggling with, check out our selection of the Best Yoga Straps to level up your lotus pose!

Of course, yoga is always a meditative and introspective exercise, and this is a consistency between yoga and power yoga. It focuses on channeling the body’s energy, and while power yoga focuses on adding strength and toning elements to this process, it still retains the core values and ideals of yoga.

Where Did Power Yoga Originate?

power yoga calories burned

It is often mentioned that the term “power yoga” was coined by Beryl Bender Birch and Bryan Kest in the 1980’s. They both studied with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (an Ashtanga guru) with the intention of passing on all of their learnings to Western students. Beryl later on published a book - Power Yoga: The Total Strength and Flexibility - with the intention of this type of practice being targeted for athletes and runners, as they were “so tight no one could do the postures”

Already know your history, and want to put that expertise to great use? Check out our guide and answer the question: How Long Does It Take To Become A Yoga Teacher?

Subsequently, power yoga became known for combining stretching and strengthening for athletes, and was often referred to as “yoga therapy”. Some conventional yoga teachers view power yoga as more of a trend or gimmick as they believe that there is too much stress on the physical body, and as such it neglects the spiritual element of yoga practice.

However, as exercise enthusiasts, we believe that power yoga benefits so many different aspects of fitness, as well as mental health and our overall quality of life. We’ll be detailing what we consider are the best benefits of power yoga in our next section!

What Are The Benefits of Power Yoga?

#1 - Increases Stamina

power yoga for love handles

Some of the postures are very physically challenging, testing your stamina, resilience and patience. By holding poses that require concentration and strength, and transitioning smoothly between those, the body builds stamina and resilience. 

Essentially this means that the more you do, the more you’ll be able to do. While it can be intimidating at first, the health benefits of power yoga soon present themselves, and this increase in stamina is among the best advantages of power yoga.

This not only relates to the physical body, but also the mental, building mental stamina and acuity to sharpen the senses and make you more aware of the effects the workout is having on your body. Enhance that proficiency by implementing some of our suggestions for yoga supplements to take your yoga to the next level!

In yoga, practices are believed to help the student on and off the mat, and this stamina boost means you’ll notice benefits outside of yoga too. Whether that’s being able to climb the stairs without getting out of breath, or a spring in your step as you walk for the bus, it’s the small quality of life improvements and increase in your overall stamina that make up one of the best power yoga advantages. 

#2 - Builds Strength

pranayama power yoga

The strengthening elements of power yoga are characterised by the held poses, and the increased demand on the muscles and the body as a whole. By incorporating strength and conditioning elements into power yoga, there is a definitive increase in muscle and in overall strength.

In fact, a study conducted by the Journal of Human Movement concluded that, over the course of six-months’ worth of sessions of power yoga, the overall muscle strength, and the definition of specific muscles (including the shoulders and hips) was significantly increased. 

By including power yoga as a workout completed on a regular basis, these effects could be replicated, and applied to a training programme. As exercise enthusiasts, we’d definitely recommend trying to include a session of power yoga as part of your regular fitness rotation. Plus, we’ve even got recommendations of where you can watch some of the best YouTube yoga channels to give you some flexibility inspiration!

#3 - Increases Mobility and Dynamic Flexibility

benefits of hot power yoga

Maintaining our mobility helps to prepare our bodies for stress, whether that is physical stress (such as the stress needed to build muscle) or mental. Some might say that exercise is a form of stress, but the stress that exercise brings makes us more resilient, and stronger in what we do. 

Flexibility helps to improve our range of motion, as well as reduce our risk of developing injuries. It is crucial to maintain a balance with mobility and strength training, as this can place a lot of stress on specific muscles or areas of the body. But, if you topple over after a particularly difficult stance, make sure you land softly with our pick of the Best Yoga Cushions and Pillows.

Dynamic power yoga is therefore an ideal practice. As we’ve already mentioned, the workouts can be intense, and the poses held can place strain on the muscles and joints. But with the mobility (or vinyasa) of the transitions between these poses, power yoga benefits not only the muscles, but also helps to provide a platform for increasing this strength even further by increasing flexibility.

#4 - Reduces Stress and Improves Mental Health

power yoga studio

It’s long been proven that elevating your heart rate and physical activity helps to release endorphins or the ‘feel good’ hormone. Of course, power yoga is no different in that regard. In fact, research even suggests that power yoga could be even better than your average workout!

A recent study undertaken by the Journal of Health Psychology found that, even after just power yoga sequence, the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) significantly decreased. 

Dynamic power yoga is also effective in releasing tension in the body - the flexible poses, in combination with the focus yoga places upon breathing techniques, allows the body to naturally untense, which not only reduces improving your sleep quality and mood state, therefore improving your quality of life. Our mental and physical health are both paramount to leading a healthy, positive and sustainable lifestyle. 

And maintain that positive outlook by taking a bit of time for yourself. We’d recommend a hot cup of green tea, coupled with one of OriGym's picks of the Best Yoga Books

#5 - Increases Coordination

hot power yoga calories burned

As we age, our coordination and our proprioception naturally diminishes. We begin to lose some of the senses that were sharper a few years prior. However, this need not be the case. One of the benefits of a power yoga total body workout is that it’s been proven to improve coordination, and keep our sense of self as sharp as a tack!

A study from Complementary Therapies in Medicine investigating the effect of high-speed yoga (such as power yoga or hot power yoga) over a 12-week period found that this can significantly improve the physical performance in older persons with Parkinson’s disease. This research also highlighted all of the other benefits of power yoga we’ve mentioned, such as an increase in muscle strength and an overall increase in physical function.

Being better aware of ourselves and what our body is doing is not only beneficial for those who may be older, but also for people in general, especially during exercise. Understanding what our bodies need, and how we can better accommodate this need, is crucial when considering our workouts. The introspection of power yoga is a benefit in that regard, as it allows us to think clearly about what we’re doing, and how we can make it work for our individual fitness goals.

And being aware of those around us is all part of good gym etiquette, too. Creating a positive and inclusive atmosphere for everyone is all part of being a responsible and considerate gym goer, as well as being part of maintaining the boosted coordination and proprioception we get from power yoga.

health benefits of power yoga

Power yoga is rapidly becoming more popular, especially as yoga continues to steadily become more popular as both a physical activity and as a spiritual journey. Its mix of intense workout elements (such as cardio and strength elements) and breathing exercises means that it is quickly becoming mainstream, with a greater uptake. 

We’ll go into more detail on where to find a class near you a little later on, but it’s safe to say that you shouldn’t have any difficulty finding somewhere to practice your power yoga flexibility!

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What Are The Types of Power Yoga?

benefits of power vinyasa yoga

Given the popularity of yoga, and power yoga too, it is natural that there would be alternatives or variations on the formula of power yoga. We’ve listed a few examples below, so you can find the right form of power yoga for you!

What is Hot Power Yoga?

Some power yoga classes will use heat in the studio to intensify the workout. Hot yoga has become very popular over the years as it is believed that the heat creates a more intense workout, elevating your heart rate. The intense heat of hot power yoga means more power yoga calories burned as you sweat out toxins and work harder than ever before!

The high temperature of the power yoga studio aids the relaxation of the muscles, tendons and connective tissue, therefore aiding the ‘warm up’ process. One of the additional health benefits of hot power yoga is the increased perspiration. This helps to rid the body of toxins and adrenaline which makes students feel worked, yet relaxed after class. So, remember to take a towel with you! 

With that increased heat, you can expect a boost to your calorie burn too! An average, 1 hour session of hot power yoga can burn up to 450 calories, in addition to the boost of adrenaline, the stress relief, and the array of other hot power yoga benefits! 

In these temperatures, it’s important to know you’re keeping your gear in tip-top shape - make sure to read OriGym's guide to the Best Yoga Mat Cleaners so all the sweat and hard work will wipe away, ready for more in your next workout!

However, it is vital to note that just because the temperature setting is higher does not make this practice ‘safer’, nor does it mean you can skip the warm up and jump into more advanced poses. No matter your level of power yoga flexibility, the practice should still include a thorough warm up protocol to awaken the structures and joints of the body as well as focus your mind and intention. This type of practice should be done with caution, and, if you’re even a little bit unsure, you should discuss it with a medical professional beforehand.

What is Sun Power Yoga?

benefits of sun power yoga

Sun power yoga is a form of power yoga aimed at those looking for an introduction, or those looking for power yoga for beginners. It incorporates elements of basic yoga (such as regulated breathing and flowing poses) with more advanced features associated with power yoga (such as cardio workouts).

Sun power yoga was established in 2001 with the aim of bringing power yoga to a wider, less experienced audience, and seeks to provide a challenging but engaging workout that still holds the core values of yoga.

It forms a nice middle ground between traditional yoga and the more advanced power yoga, which we think is an excellent idea! And if you’re still unsure of how to get started when it comes to yoga, we've compiled a guide to the Pros and Cons of Yoga, so you can make an informed decision about what’s best for you.

What is Power Vinyasa Yoga?

Power vinyasa yoga is a further variation of the power yoga formula. Similar to hot power yoga, power vinyasa yoga uses a heated studio to increase the intensity of the exercises performed, and how they impact the body. 

Power vinyasa yoga focuses on the flow of energy (or vinyasa) between poses and stances, incorporating strength and conditioning exercises, as well as cardiovascular workouts and flexibility exercises. It’s very similar in its physical demands to a power yoga workout, but the key distinction is the focus upon the movements between exercises and poses. 

The emphasis placed upon vinyasa aims to create fluid transitions and smooth movements between exercises, and allow for a seamless workout experience that is equal parts challenging and comfortable. These transitions form a core of yoga across all its variants, and it’s just as important to feel comfortable with these vinyasa as it is to be with the poses and stances.  

And if you’re seeking audio inspiration for your vinyasa and your pranayama, we’d suggest a pick from one of our Best Yoga Podcasts

What Does a Power Yoga Class Involve?

benefits of power yoga and weight loss

A power yoga total body workout class will usually last between 45 mins and 60 minutes, but some more advanced classes can last up to 90 minutes. This can all depend on the teacher, and how advanced the class is. Of course, the teacher will listen to students, and can tailor the classes to better fit the students they have, meaning that each and every class is unique. 

As with many workouts, power yoga is adaptable, and can be adjusted to suit the fitness levels and flexibility of those who are involved. Power yoga, while a challenging workout, still seeks to link to the ideas of spirituality and introspectivity which are fundamentals of any form of yoga. 

Looking for even more like minded individuals to chat to about all things flexibility? OriGym's comprehensive report on the Best Yoga Retreats means you can change up your scenery with still working on your poses!

There’s no specific power yoga sequence that teachers follow, but they will often link movements or asanas together to create a flow or fluid movement, often referred to as a ‘vinyasa’ in yogi terms. The nature of using vinyasa is to link the breath with the movement and to develop a balance in the body. 

This equilibrium of the body and breathing can help prevent repetitive movement injuries that occur when we repeatedly put pressure and strain on different parts of the body. It’s also a great way of focusing the breath, and activating the correct muscles in difficult postures.

Who Benefits From Power Yoga?

power vinyasa yoga benefits

A power yoga workout can be a very demanding practice for those who are truly new to yoga, and so we might not recommend power yoga for beginners to start off with. We’ve found that, given the intensity of the sessions, power yoga workouts could scare people away from practicing yoga, which means they might miss out on incredibly beneficial breathing techniques, or pranayama. 

Power yoga's unique blend of strength exercises, vinyasa (or flowing movements) and cardiovascular workouts is an intimidating prospect, but we believe that the best way to start power yoga for beginners is to start small, and build yourself up to larger, more difficult power yoga workouts.

Some people seem to still be under the impression that yoga is solely aimed at women, or that yoga is just for flexibility or ‘flexible people’. These misconceptions are the sort that mean that these people could miss out on a great workout. Rather than being for one specific group of people, power yoga is for anyone who is up for a challenge!

Fitness Fanatics

Many people nowadays are looking for a workout that will make them sweat and burn calories - power yoga is a great high intensity workout that can be practiced in solitude or in class. It challenges the body while still maintaining a healthy mental balance, and that’s what we’d always look for in a good workout! 

We feel as though any workout can be for anyone. However, if you’re looking to get started but haven’t quite got the right gear to get going, make sure to check out our guide to the best yoga leggings for both men and women.

Athletes

Athletes, too, can benefit from power yoga, using the practice to work on their intrinsic strength and stamina as well as their flexibility and mobility. The mix of exercises (both strength and cardiovascular) means that power yoga provides a varied and well-balanced workout. 

It also offers specific elements that traditional workouts may not offer. Particularly, athletes may find additional benefits in the use of vinyasa to transition between exercises and poses, as this exercises muscles and joints even between those exercises. 

We’d definitely recommend power yoga for athletes as part of their usual training regime as it’s not only a physically demanding session, but it also gives time to focus on breathing, and regulate stress! 

People With Arthritis

You may have also noticed that, in our section on the benefits of power yoga, we mentioned that it can be used to ease some of the issues caused by arthritis. So, not only is power yoga great for those competing at the top level, but also for those who may have issues with joint or muscle pain. 

Power yoga’s adaptability and accessibility means it can be both an addition to a workout plan, or just as a solo training exercise!  All of that, plus the benefits of pranayama and the spiritual experiences often attributed to yoga, means that power yoga benefits so many people, not just those who are already flexible!

Is Power Yoga Good for Weight Loss?

what are the benefits of power yoga

Of course! If you’re comfortable with some of the basics of yoga, and are wondering if you can use power yoga for your love handles, then the answer is a definite yes! 

The nature of a power yoga workout is that it combines a cardiovascular workout with strength exercises and dynamic movements, all of which combine to make it an intense session. For instance, a 1 hour session of power yoga can burn upwards of 350 calories, which is on par with a cardio workout at the gym, or a 4 mile walk! So, if you’re seeking calorie burn, power yoga is ideal!

If you’re looking to use power yoga for weight loss, then science supports that idea, too. A clinical research review found that weight loss was a key result of all studies completed on power yoga, and that, especially given its nature, it’s a great idea to use power yoga for weight loss!

Obviously, weight loss is a big reason why many of us exercise in the first place, but it’s important to be aware of what you’re doing, and how it affects your body. Learn more in our complete guide to the different Types of Body Fat.

What Are The Risks of Power Yoga?

benefits of power yoga for weight loss

Power yoga may not be suited to you if you are looking for a relaxing, slow paced class. This type of practice is provided for those who seek a physical challenge and want to push their bodies to the limit. As we’ve already explored, the movements combine the fundamentals of yoga with intense cardio and strength exercises, and this may not be suitable for those who aren’t familiar with either of those elements.

As with all exercise, if power yoga isn’t practiced correctly, it does have a potential risk of injury. It’s hugely important, then, to be familiar with the best form and stances for these workouts, and so, if you’re new to yoga or fitness in general, it’s a good idea to start with a beginner or introductory class.  

Furthermore, students with any musculoskeletal injuries or complaints, degenerative or post-operative injuries would be advised to seek medical approval before practicing. If your doctor gives their approval, we’d also recommend informing the teacher of any restrictions so that they can modify postures or advise throughout the class. Students with blood pressure issues may need to modify the postures also, which can also be advised by the teacher. 

Students who are pregnant are advised not to participate in power yoga. Alternatively, there is Prenatal and Postpartum yoga that would be more beneficial and suited to pregnant students. Specialised classes like this are conducted by a qualified yoga teacher who has done specific training in pre/post-natal classes. 

Where Can I Do Power Yoga?

history of power yoga

We’re glad you’re thinking about doing power yoga - it combines high intensity exercise with regulated breathing, and trains the body to exercise properly and safely.

Power yoga is a staple on many mainstream gyms’ class timetables. If you’re already a member at a gym, we’d recommend checking their timetable and booking onto a session. As we mentioned in our section on the risks of power yoga, make sure your instructor is aware of any medical issues that you might have before starting the session. 

If you’re not yet a member of a gym, or prefer a less crowded setting, local power yoga studios will often offer power yoga classes, and some may give you the option to pay for a one off class (something that larger gyms generally don’t do!). We’d recommend visiting their website to check out what they’re offering, and how you can get involved.

Power yoga is also hugely popular in the online community, too - YouTube has lots of free classes that don’t require you to book, and that are available whenever is convenient for you! Or, if you’d prefer something on a bigger screen, OriGym's thorough guide to the Best Yoga DVDs that are sure to spice up your home workout routines!

However, as with all our advice, if ever you’re unsure or something doesn’t feel right when you’re completing a power yoga workout, stop immediately and visit your doctor before trying another session. We’re passionate about working out, but it’s vital to be safe when you’re doing so. 

Before You Go!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to power yoga, and that you’ve now got a better understanding of what it is, how it can be implemented, and whether or not it’s right for you. Yoga aims to be accessible to everyone, and power yoga builds on that openness and adds extra elements of challenge for those who want to push themselves to the next level. 

And even if you decide that power yoga isn’t the right workout for you, all workouts (big or small) can be augmented by including some of the breathing techniques (or pranayama) that are synonymous with yoga.

Or perhaps this article was the catalyst in deciding that fitness is your ultimate passion, in which case check out our formally accredited personal training courses and take that passion to new heights!

Alternatively, you can download our FREE prospectus, and read over exactly what we offer and why it could be the right option for you.

References 

1. Birch, B., 1995. Power Yoga: The Total Strength and Flexibility. London: Prion.

2. Buśko, Krzysztof & Rychlik, Radosław. (2006). Changes of the maximal muscle torque in women training Power Yoga (Astanga Vinyasa). Human Movement. 7. 168-177.

3. Field, Tiffany, Yoga clinical research review, Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, Volume 17, Issue 1,
2011, Pages 1-8, ISSN 1744-3881, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2010.09.007. 

4. Ni, M. et al., 2015. Comparative Effect of Power Training and High-Speed Yoga on Motor Function in Older Patients with Parkinsons Disease. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 97(3), pp. 345-354.

5. Sullivan M, Carberry A, Evans ES, Hall EE, Nepocatych S. The effects of power and stretch yoga on affect and salivary cortisol in women. Journal of Health Psychology. 2019;24(12):1658-1667. doi:10.1177/1359105317694487

6. Triyoga, 2019. Beryl Bender Birch on "Power Yoga" + influencing a generation [Interview] (21 May 2019).

Written by Chris Allsobrook

Editor

Chris is a former English teacher, turned content editor. He holds a first-class honours degree in English Language and Creative Writing from the University of Central Lancashire, before going on to complete his teacher training, and obtain a PGCE at Liverpool John Moore’s.

Chris is a keen runner and is currently undertaking both his fitness instructing and personal training qualifications here at OriGym. 

Outside of fitness, you’ll often find him gaming, watching the football, cooking, or spending time with his family.

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