What is power yoga?

Power Yoga / Power Yoga

 

 
As yoga has grown in popularity in the last decade, there are more yoga classes offered in a variety of venues from yoga studios, to fitness clubs, to gyms, parks and beaches. Increased popularity means that, hopefully, there are many options for people who need and will benefit from practicing yoga.

A somewhat common label for yoga classes, at least in the US is “power yoga”. In general, classes labeled as power yoga offer a flowing style of yoga postures organized in a variety of sequences that move at a faster pace than other classes and that are also physically demanding and intense. It can be argued that these classes are generally targeted towards people who are already in good shape, and who enjoy exercising. Because these classes can put the system under intense stress, practitioners may feel a runner’s high, a release of endorphins that creates a sense of euphoria or exhilaration.

It seems reasonable to think that getting a ‘blissful workout’ is the essence of what yogis are searching for. However, when that pursuit does not involve a mindful practice, some practitioners often end up with injuries in addition to feelings of inadequacy for not being able to do the ‘complete’ versions of the postures that tend to be practiced in power yoga. Unfortunately, over the years I have seen students for whom the power yoga practice has become a way to exacerbate an imbalance that drains their energy and vitality. Since yoga is a continuous process of meeting ourselves where we are, these classes can offer benefits for people who need to develop greater strength, speed up their pace and metabolism. The key is that each person grows in their capacity to discern what is too much and what is enough, so that they can choose intelligent ways to create greater balance where it is needed.

I would like to suggest that a more adequate definition of power yoga is: a yoga practice that empowers students to become more mindful, self-reliant, vibrant and alive. In other words, power yoga consists of practices that help practitioners integrate their physical, mental and emotional aspects to participate more fully and joyfully in their lives. This style of power yoga enhances clarity, reduces suffering and generates more love.

How can we practice power yoga?

By engaging our bodies, minds, hearts and breathing at their full capacity, not going beyond what we can do and not doing less than we can. The practice is even more potent when the contribution of each one of these systems, physical, mental, emotional and respiratory is integrated and balanced. This is easier said than done. Thus the practice presents a challenge that is appropriate and changes over time according to our condition and situation. This is a powerful path that will truly empower us to move mindfully beyond our limitations. Perhaps a helpful way to clarify if we are practicing authentic power yoga is by asking: Does my yoga practice replenish or deplete my energy? How can we answer this simple question? By taking a few moments to feel the effects of the practice, immediately after finishing and also during the rest of the day. By observing you will also grow in your ability to notice sublter and subtler changes and to direct the practice to create greater balance and aliveness.

I hope these ideas help you fine tune your yoga practice.

Namaste.

 

 

Where to Start?

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Click on the link below to find a list with the most popular and useful articles on this blog to learn or expand your yoga practice.

Useful articles to learn yoga

 

 

The easiest way to start practicing yoga at home.

Movement / Movimiento

It seems that maintaining consistency is a challenge for most, if not all, of us. I would like to suggest a simple and VERY EASY and quite enjoyable way to start practicing yoga at home with more regularity.

Unfortunately many people think that yoga is only a set of postures to make our bodies capable of complex contortions. Authentic yoga is a complete system of practices to help us feel harmoniously integrated and to help us live a more conscious, deliberate, wholehearted life that is aligned with our true purpose.

Every day when as I ask students in my classes to tell me what they need from the practice, without fault the most frequent answers are: relaxation, quieting the mind, serenity. This is not at all surprising. Just look around and it seems that most of us are in a constant process of training our bodies and minds to do more things, to get more things accomplished and to process more and more stimuli. There is a lot of doing and processing, but it doesn’t seem like we are balancing all of our doing with not doing, with surrendering and allowing. No wonder we end up feeling exhausted by the end of the day (and sometimes even after we wake up in the morning)!

In yoga we want to meet ourselves where we are. In other words, we choose the technique or practice that will bring us into a feeling of completeness and clarity. To balance too much doing, it is good to practice not doing. Remember that a yoga posture (asana) is defined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (ca. 3100 B.C.E.) as steadiness (sthira= firm, stable, strong) and ease (sukha=pleasant, delight, joy). From this perspective, I want to invite you to try this simple, effective and enjoyable practice.

Cultivating the Skills of Observation and Surrender

Give yourself 1 to 10 minutes to do this — whatever amount of time you can afford.

In the morning, while still in bed, once you notice that you are awake but before opening your eyes and getting up, give yourself permission to not do or process. Allow your to-do list to drift away just for the next few minutes. Focus your attention fully on noticing the sensations in your body starting at the tips of your toes and gradually moving up throughout your whole body. It helps when you are interested in really feeling what is happening in your body. You don’t even need to try to describe or explain, just feel. Give yourself time to scan the whole body and notice what happens, notice just how you feel. When you finish scanning you body, think of something that brings peace, inspiration, love or compassion to your heart and mind, immersing fuly in this experience. (Notice that we are integrating body, mind and heart through awareness )

That’s it. Pretty simple.

Try this exercise once a day, if possible, for 1 or 2 weeks and notice what effect it has in the way you feel during your day and on your general outlook.

One more suggestion, try this exercise also at the end of the day, once you are in bed as a gentle transition out of “doing mode” and into “complete relaxation” mode.

You might be asking: How is that going to help me when I have some many things to do? I cannot afford to do nothing!

When you engage in this practice you can receive the following benefits:

  • Most likely this practice will enable you to lower your levels of stress which might be helping your immune system. Sttress has been found to contribute to “digestive problems, fertility problems, urinary problems, and a weakened immune system.
  • You are developing skills to improve your ‘other’ way of practicing yoga because you are learning to discern more clearly what ease feels like, thus making it easier for you to balance your steadiness with ease the next time you get into a yoga posture.
  • You are cultivating the foundational skills for more advanced yoga practices: pranayama (life energy expansion), pratyahara (inward gaze), concentration and meditation.
  • You are expanding your modes of operation so that you can access the mode that is needed when it is needed.
  • Deeper relaxation allows your body to recover, repair and heal.
  • You will enjoy this practice and its results. Hence, you are more likely to incorporate it into your daily routine.

I hope that this practice contributes to your well-being.
Namaste,
rubén

 

Sitting

There are many reasons that lead us to spend a good amount of time sitting everyday. Our bodies are so adaptable that if we stay in the same position for long periods of time different parts of our bodies will adjust in a number of ways, for instance, some muscles will shorten while others may lengthen or loose their tone. Adopting a posture regularly will cause consistent and sustained changes in soft tissue over time.

Ideally, the postures we practice will be anatomically sound and will contribute to a greater sense of clarity in body, breath and mind. But even when we sit in an anatomically correct and appropriate posture it is essential to take frequent breaks so that we allow for the muscles that are contracting to release and those that are lengthening to contract. If we are sitting just standing up for one minute will be helpful.

It is not difficult to notice how people’s bodies adapt over time to sitting for extended periods of time. Some of the common patterns include a rounded spine where the natural concavity at the back of the neck and at the lumbar spine tends to disappear. This convexity of the whole back body tends to tighten muscles in the front of the torso, shoulders and hip joints resulting in limited mobility in shoulders and hips. In addition, this posture tends to constraint the full expansion of the lungs thus limiting our breating capacity including the full oxygenation of our system through the inhalations as well as the release of toxins through complete exhalations.

Keeping in mind that it is best to change positions frequently, these are some suggestions for a healthy sitting position:

  • Ground through your feet aligning knees above ankles
  • Ground through the sitting bones
  • Center the torso between leaning forward and back as well as between left and right
  • Bring the navel slightly in
  • Lift the ribcage and crown of the head up
  • Breath with long smooth inhalations and exhalations
  • Remain aligned with a clear and luminous intention in your mind and heart

Enjoy this brief video with tips on improving your sitting posture:

As usual please be aware that your own body, breath and mind offer you continuous feedback on your activities. If the feedback shows you more agitation, strain, or pain you can choose to use this information as guidance to create changes towards feeling healthier, more lucid and more vibrantly alive. Please remember that taking breaks often is a simple, inexpensive and healthful way to prevent future pain, limitation and restrictions.

I hope you find these suggestions for sitting helpful during your day.

Namaste,
rubén

 

Savor your breath: easy breathing exercise

Fall in love with your breath or at least befriend your breath.
Allow your breath be your guide to the present moment. Let your breath be the vehicle for awareness; guiding your movements and focusing your mind while at the same time refreshing and nourishing you.

Often pranayama is translated as breath control, however, ayama in Sanskrit means to stretch, expand, extend. From that perspective it make sense that pranayama is about expanding our breath so that our breath and the vital energy it carries reach every part of our body. Thus, make your pranayama practice an exercise in becoming well acquainted with your breath, with how your breath flows for each inhalation and each exhalation. Allow this exploration to be guided by respectful curiosity instead of ambition.

If we recognize that each breath is unique and that we have no chance to repeat it we maybe more likely to appreciate and savor each and every breath. I would even suggest to make the breath joyful and to incorporate this joyful awareness of your breath into your day, whenever you can. Certainly, incorporate this awareness during your yoga practice and just observe what unfolds…

Below is a simple breathing exercise to increase our breath awareness:

As I suggest in the video, practicing just this posture can be the perfect way to start practicing yoga at home. Do not hesitate to contact me with questions or to post comments to the video.

Savor your breath.
Namaste,

rubén

 

Easy Chair Yoga Stretches for Beginners

No matter how comfortable a position our body was not really made to stay in the same position for many hours on end almost every day of the week. However, it seems like a very large number of people spend most of their time sitting on a chair. Here is an easy, short, simple and effective sequence with Missy Feathers to help release tension in the torso. These stretches move the spine in six directions to counteract the tightness and pain that result from sitting for a long time. This is an excellent practice for everybody, including people working at an office as well as for people with restricted mobility. As usual keep in mind that in yoga our intention is to be present and to meet ourselves where we are so we are attentive to any pain, strain, tingling and numbness as signs of trying too hard.

I hope you enjoy this video and that you use it regularly.

Namaste,
rubén