Power yoga is the Westernized version of Indian Ashtanga yoga. Rather than emphasizing chanting and meditating, power yoga focuses on strength and flexibility for a serious all-over body workout. The workout is dynamic, incorporating both cardio and muscle strengthening postures. Unlike traditional Ashtanga yoga, power yoga doesn't follow a specific series of postures. Teachers have creative license, which makes for a more dynamic, interesting flow from class to class and movement to movement. If you have already mastered the basic yoga poses, here are some advanced postures you have to look forward to in an upper-level power yoga class.
Otherwise known as Eagle pose, Garudasana works the big three: strength, balance and flexibility. Enter Eagle pose from Standing pose. Be sure your feet face front and are parallel. Shift your weight onto your left leg. Pick your right foot up off the floor, bending at the knee. Once your right leg is lifted, bend your left knee, sitting into your left leg. Wrap your right thigh around your left. If you can (and you still get the same benefit from the pose even if you skip this step), hook your right foot around your left calf.
Now that your lower body is in place, it's time to address your upper body. Cross your right arm under your left, touching your palms together. Lift your elbows as high as you are able, and enjoy the awesome stretch in your shoulders and arms. Hold Eagle pose for five to 20 breaths or longer if you are able, and then repeat on the other side.
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Defy gravity with Headstand pose, which is a good pose for strengthening the spine. Position yourself on your hands and knees, as if you were a baby about to crawl. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips. Next, bring your forearms to the floor, about shoulder's distance apart. Interlace your fingers into a fist with your outermost pinkies underneath, bracing the mat.
Once you have mastered this foundation, bring the crown of your head to the floor, cradling your head with your interlaced fingers. Lift your hips up into a modified downward facing dog. Walk your feet toward your hands until your hips are over your shoulders. If you cannot get your feet that far forward, then hold the pose as is. You will eventually get stronger and be able to proceed with the pose.
If you are strong enough, kick one leg slowly and easily into the air, followed by the other. The weight should be concentrated in your forearms, not your head or neck. Keep the thigh bones rotated inward and hold Headstand pose for at least 10 breaths.
Once you have mastered Headstand pose, you are ready to move on to Forearm Stand, a powerful strengthening and balancing pose. Use a wall when you are first mastering this move. At all times your head is off the floor and your gaze is facing downward.
First, place your forearms flat on the floor, with your palms facing down. Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle. Walk your legs into downward facing dog. Walk your feet into your hands, just as you would with Headstand pose. Bend your left knee as you gently kick up with your right leg. Once your right leg is in place kick your left leg up to meet it. Be sure to use the wall for balance. Hold the inversion and then rest in child's pose for a few breaths.
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Not for the faint of heart, Scorpion pose focuses on strength, flexibility and your core abdominal muscles. You must have mastered Forearm Stand without the wall as a brace before moving on to Scorpion pose.
While you are in Forearm Stand, bend your knees. The goal is to lift your head, bringing your feet as close to your head as possible. Keep the toes together, but feel free to separate your knees.
Remember, all of the above are advanced postures. Consider attending an advanced yoga class, as the teacher can physically guide you into these postures, watching out for alignment and keeping your body safe.
Amy Lucas is a writer for the Underground Health Reporter and Gaiam websites, and for Bestcovery.com. She has written for business and personal websites and been published in educational publications, including Random House's "1,296 ACT Practice Questions" and in her own series of SAT books and DVDs, "Private Tutor SAT, Your Compete SAT Test Prep Course."