Power Yoga is Not

Power yoga is not just for young bucks, athletes, yoga buffs, or those who are “advanced.”  Today I had a student who came to class thinking she was coming to a vinyasa level 1/2 class.  She had an old schedule and didn’t realize I took over the class and was teaching power.  She introduced herself to me and said, “I’m 70 years old.. I can’t do power yoga.”  Before she went rambling on, I asked “you can do vinyasa 1/2?”   She said, “why yes, but..”  There’s that BUT!  Before she could go on, another student who was not exactly 20 either said, “you’ll be fine.  Nikki’s great.  She’ll take care of you.”  The lady still had a skeptical look on her face and I told her, “Try it.  I always encourage people to do what they can and if you really don’t like it, you always have the option to leave.  I won’t be offended.”  That made her feel better and she decided to stay.

I kept an eye on her the whole class and she was quite the inspiration.  Moved thru the Sun A’s and B’s with grace and really honored her breath.  She actually kept up with the pace I was setting.  She took child’s pose just once during class.  She was sweating and didn’t even put on the “I look like I’m gonna take a crap” face that most people get during power yoga.  She stayed the whole class.   her verdict after class, “I loved it!  It was certainly challenging and that’s probably my limit, but this is a class I will definitely come back too.”

cartoon from New Yorker

I’m not surprised by her verdict at all.  Most people get intimidated by the word “power yoga.”  They think it’s reserved only for advanced students.  Now granted not all power yoga classes are equal and not all are made accessible.  That’s the difference between the Baptiste Power Yoga and any other power yoga class.  No doubt it’s challenging.  It definitely will strengthen you and make you more flexible.  Any yoga will do that.  What I’m more concerned about is how does a yoga pose, any yoga pose from any tradition or style help you to strengthen YOU?  It doesn’t matter if you can touch your toes or touch your nose to your knee.  Ask yourself how does that make you a better person?   A yogi doesn’t experience this life changing transformation as promised in those brochures because you got more flexible or physically stronger during yoga class.  These have nothing to do with the transformations or healing that yoga promises.

The magic behind yoga is how it sneakingly strengthens the aspects of your mind that make you a better person.. often to yourself.  The power behind power yoga is your ability to get present with your body and your way of being.  There’s a reason why it’s so challenging.  Anyone can be calm when the world around us is calm, but is that reality?  No!  A challenging class is an opportunity to practice real life calm in tough situations.  If you never get to practice it, how can you strengthen it?  If you never get a chance to practice compassion to your body, how can you be compassionate?  If you never get a chance to challenge your presence when there’s so many distractions like half the class wobbling in tree pose or your neighbor grunting in a twist or the teacher making you do 5 chaturangas in a row, how can you be present in real life?  Real life happens on the mat!  BTW, a teacher never makes you do 5 chaturangas.  You decide if you’re gonna push yourself to do 5 of them.  Maybe you can.  Maybe you should challenge yourself.  But listen for the times when you should practice a bit of humility and take child’s pose.

Get it?

Yoga poses help us practice and strengthen the qualities of ourselves that we really want to strengthen… compassion, presence, truth, acceptance, humility, non-attachment (stop worrying when you’re gonna land that perfect pose), non-judgement (come on!  when was the last time you didn’t say something mean to yourself when you fell out of a pose), etc.  These are the qualities that make a power yoga class POWERFUL!


10 thoughts on “Power Yoga is Not

  1. I will try Power Yoga next week after completing the Hatha Yoga sessions I have with my instructor. Power Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga, I believe, is the combination of stretching, strength training, and meditative breathing. That is why I call it “Power Sweat Yoga” because each flow moves into the next making it more intense than Hatha or Restorative Yoga, where you only do basic flows and the latter just doing longer period of lying down to relax the muscles.

  2. What is so awesome about this story is that you both ended the class feeling like you rocked it: you were a supportive and safe teacher who allowed this woman to try something challenging and succeed. you knew her limits and knew she could do it (rocked it!) She tried something she wasn’t sure she could handle and she made it thanks to your encouragement (rocked it). That my friend is a story about a great teacher and a great student! Super inspirational and fantastic.. loved it!!

  3. Donna Ponder says:

    I might read this one in class! Love that you put this into your amazing words! Thank you for taking the time to share.

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