The ancient practice of yoga has survived many variations and interpretations over the centuries to adapt itself to current trends. Yoga as a fitness workout has attracted a growing following of people looking for exercise that develops strength, flexibility and toning. Power yoga, a nonstop sequence of challenging poses, fits that bill and may even help you to reach your weight loss goals. Power yoga poses work on the tangible and intangible aspects of getting in shape.
Choosing a power yoga practice for weight management makes sense for a host of reasons. Power yoga is based on Ashtanga, a series of intense poses connected by K. Pattabhi Jois into continuous sequences punctuated by vigorous Sun Salutations. Ashtanga is active, nonstop and sweaty. It's designed to create heat as it cleanses and detoxifies the body. Beryl Bender Birch, Baron Baptiste and others adapted the Ashtanga system to a power yoga model to appeal to Western practitioners. Power yoga produces strength, stamina and flexibility in a demanding, athletic class. Your heart rate will rise along with your temperature as you work every muscle group full out. At the same time, the practice works on opening the heart, reducing stress and activating the prana -- the body's essential energy that restores vitality and a sense of well-being.
A power yoga class runs through modified versions of classic Ashtanga sequences for an hour or longer without a break. The practice room is usually heated to warm muscles right away in preparation for the demanding routine. Class opens with one or two repetitions of Sun Salutation, a pose that may be used to connect the themed sequences. Sequences include forward bends, back bends, standing poses, seated poses and inversions. Within each sequence, the challenge of the poses builds from simple to advanced -- a beginner may perform a modified version of advanced poses like Pendulum, Simple Arm Balance or Full Eastern Plank. Throughout the class you work simultaneously on correct posture and breathing, which increases the aerobic intensity of the exercise.
The vigor of the poses and the nonstop action make power yoga a cardio workout. The American Council on Exercise points out that low-impact aerobic exercise is the best choice for weight control. An aerobic workout boosts your metabolism and it stays elevated for some time, burning extra calories. Power yoga is low-impact but intense exercise that consumes calories as it stimulates your digestive system to break down and absorb food more efficiently. A study conducted at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that regular yoga practitioners dropped pounds if they were overweight and maintained healthy weight if they began the program in shape.
Strength and Stamina
The body burns calories during activity. The more intense the activity, the greater the burn. But muscles also burn calories when you are resting -- your muscles are working off that extra cupcake even when your body isn't moving. Thus, increasing muscle mass means a bigger ongoing calorie deficit. The American Council on Exercise recommends strength training that sculpts and strengthens your entire body: legs, torso, shoulders, arms, back and abs. Power yoga leaves no muscle untouched. From Powerful pose to Pigeon Lunge, you stretch and strengthen your muscles, improve posture that may be misaligned due to weight gain, increase your range of motion and flexibility, and release tension. Your fitness improvement from power yoga gives you the suppleness and stamina you need to lead a more active life.
- American Council on Exercise: Is Yoga Right for You?
- American Council on Exercise: Successful Weight Control
- Yoga Journal: Can Yoga Help Me Lose Weight?
- Yoga Journal: Losing It
- PubMed: Yoga Practice is Associated with Attenuated Weight Gain in Healthy, Middle-aged Men and Women.
- Power Yoga: Strength and Flexibility with Rodney Yee (DVD)
- Yoga Basics; Mara Carrico
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .