Power Yoga is a Vinyasa-style Yoga practice that is more energetic, vigorous and fitness-based. The term became popular in the 1990s in the US when Western teachers, mostly students of the Ashtanga Vinyasa method as created by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, wanted to move away from the fixed series of Asanas and create something more flexible, dynamic and accessible for Western students.
Two of these teachers are usually associated with the “simultaneous invention” of Power Yoga: Bryan Kest, from Los Angeles, and Beryl Bender Birch, from New York. They both used the term Power Yoga to differentiate their new, more intense style of teaching Yoga from the meditation-based and gentle-stretching practices of more traditional Yoga modalities. Currently there are many modalities of Power Yoga, designed by different teachers, but with the same main principles.
In a Power Yoga practice, the emphasis is on strength and flexibility, including lots of Vinyasas (flowing sequences of Yoga postures) that are done in no particular order and which makes every class always different and dynamic. It heavily focuses on the physical exercise aspect, something quite common nowadays in many gyms around the world.
This “gymnastics” aspect causes some critics from more traditional Yoga teachers who feel that it strips the Yoga practice from its holistic and spiritual foundations by placing too much stress on the physical side.
As Power Yoga is a very vigorous work-out, it’s recommended to be at least moderately fit to be able to participate in a class without injuring yourself; it should also be avoided if you are pregnant or suffer from chronic diseases such as heart problems and arthritis, for example. Be sure to check all contraindications of the practice and talk to your physician beforehand to guarantee there won’t be any problems.
The health benefits of Power Yoga are a combination of general Yoga benefits such as improved flexibility, posture and mental focus; stress and anxiety relief; and strengthening of muscles; plus general benefits of cardio exercises, such as burning lots of calories (which helps with weight loss); strengthening your heart; boosting energy; releasing toxins through sweat — to name a few of the most common benefits of a regular practice.