Think of yoga and you'll see static bodies bent into postures that are held for minutes at a time. You'll see calm quiet yoga studios where the only sound is that of breathing and the gentle commands of the instructor.
But enter a power yoga studio and you'll find something different. Here the practitioners are moving in dancelike motions which can even seem like martial arts routines. It's like a blend of yoga and aerobics and it's the perfect exercise for athletic types who want all the benefits of yoga.
In contrast to the calm gentle movements of traditional yoga, power yoga sessions are made up of sequences of dynamic flowing motions with dramatic names such as spear thrower and swordsman.
Power Yoga is the perfect exercise regimen to build strength and endurance along with flexibility. But despite the rigor and dynamic nature of the poses this is still yoga, and one with very ancient traditions.
Power yoga grew up in the 1990s when yoga studio owners were looking at ways to make traditional yoga more appealing to modern Americans. These health seekers had weight loss and fitness as their goals and needed workouts which burned calories and worked on the cardiovascular system as well as providing the suppleness and relaxation that traditional hatha yoga gave.
So routines were adapted from an ancient practice called ashtanga (eight limbed) yoga, a school described in the seminal text called the Yoga Sutras written by Patanjali some five centuries ago.
Ashtanga yoga combined a standard Hatha yoga routine with a powerful vinyasa session. Vinyasa means a sequence of asanas performed in sequence with the breath playing an key role. Each movement hinges a inhalation or exhalation.
Ashtanga yoga was adapted to create the dynamic movement and breath-based routine which was named power yoga. It is not a standardized method and each studio can have its own variation.
If power yoga appeals to you, bear in mind that you need to be fit before joining a class. In a way it's yoga for athletes. If you are in good shape, power yoga will add another dimension to your exercise routine and help give you control over the body along with all the other wonderful benefits of yoga.