Yoga has become one of the most popular ways to exercise. The world is full of Down-Dogging yogis who find that the ancient tradition reaps rewards for both body and mind. But some people need a little more burn from their exercise routines, and that’s where power yoga comes in.
Power yoga 101
Here’s the lowdown on power yoga to help you get started.
What is power yoga?
Power yoga is a hybrid form of yoga that focuses on building strength and endurance. It was developed out of Ashtanga yoga — another form of “yoga as exercise” popularized in the 80s.
Is it different than other types of yoga?
Power yoga places much less emphasis on the more spiritual aspects of traditional Hatha yoga, like meditation and breathing techniques. It’s more about getting a good full-body workout.
Does it burn calories?
Yes! A 155-pound person will burn off around 144 calories doing 30 minutes of Hatha yoga. Power yoga will likely burn even more due to its higher intensity.
Basic power yoga poses
There are loads of different poses and variations, but some key ones include:
- Chaturanga (Low Plank)
- High Plank
- Crescent Lunge
- Cobra Pose
- One-Legged Dog
Benefits of power yoga
Regular power yoga sessions can provide the following health benefits:
- supports weight loss and reduces belly fat
- keeps your heart healthy
- builds strength and endurance
- improves motor control
- reduces stress
- boosts overall health
For novice yogis, it could take a bit of time to get used to the movements and postures, as well as building up the fitness levels needed for high-intensity power yoga classes.
Consider using a yoga app or using YouTube yoga videos as a guide before diving into a class. Once you’re ready, head online and find a class near you!
This hybrid yoga exercise can really make you break a sweat.
Power yoga isn’t an “official” type of yoga. It’s more like an adapted version of Vinyasa yoga that focuses on building your strength and endurance.
It might not be for everyone though, as the poses can be difficult. So if you’re more used to gentle flows or stretches, then prepare to feel the burn. Power yoga gives you a full-on, physical workout.
How many calories does it burn?
Even traditional types of yoga can help you burn calories. For example, 30 minutes of Hatha yoga — the most common type practiced in the U.S. — will help a 155-pound person burn off around 144 calories.
As power yoga is way more intense than traditional yoga practices, you can expect to burn off even more calories. It’s like doing an amped-up bodyweight workout, but with cute poses.
There are some key differences between power yoga and more traditional varieties.
How are power yoga and Vinyasa different?
Vinyasa yoga — also known as Vinyasa flow — is a type of yoga that strings together different postures in a seamless transition.
The focus is on how movements connect together, using breath control to flow from pose to pose.
It comes from the earliest period of yoga, dating back literally thousands of years. But it’s since been adapted to fit the demands of a modern lifestyle.
Power yoga was created as a modified form of Ashtanga yoga — itself a popular form of “yoga as exercise” developed in the 20th century.
Although you’ll find many of the same poses featured, the focus is entirely different. Power yoga is all about embracing the workout and getting pumped, whereas Vinyasa yoga has its roots in traditional, meditative, ancient Indian yoga practice.
Power yoga vs. Hatha yoga
It’s a common misconception that Hatha yoga is its own type of yoga. It’s actually an umbrella term that includes all physical yoga practices, including Vinyasa, Ashtanga, and many others.
Hatha yoga seeks to balance the body and mind, keeping it in harmony. A typical Hatha yoga class usually combines physical postures with breathing techniques and meditations.
Power yoga tends to swerve the meditative aspects of Hatha and get straight to the Chaturanga push-ups.
Some people just prefer doing the exercises without getting too much into yoga’s spiritual side. And that’s OK! Whatever floats your proverbial boat.
Right, that’s enough of the history lesson. It’s time to get on those yoga pants, roll out your yoga mat, and try out some poses.
Here are some common power poses to try:
Chaturanga (Low Plank)
Chaturanga is like a punishing half press-up that you hold low to the ground, working your triceps, chest, and abdominal muscles.
How to do it:
- Start in a press-up position with your hands on the floor shoulder width apart.
- Lower half way down so your elbows align with your shoulders.
- Make sure to keep your butt down, core engaged, and body in a straight line.
- Hold for 10–15 seconds, or for extra burn try Chaturanga push-ups in sets of 3.
Everyone’s favorite “love to hate” exercise. The high plank strengthens your core and activates your entire body.
How to do it:
- Start again at the top of a press-up position.
- Extend your legs behind and push out through your heels.
- Activate your core by squeezing your butt and tucking in your tummy. This will help your hips stay lifted.
- Look down toward the floor to keep your neck in line with your back.
- Hold this position (don’t forget to breathe and squeeze!) for 10 to 15 seconds.
A variation on Warrior 1 that works the thigh and calf muscles while maintaining a strong core. It’s also a good pose for working on your balance.
- Stretch your right leg out straight behind you and bend your front knee at 90 degrees.
- Keeping your hips forward, lift on to the ball of your back foot and bend your back knee so it gets close to the ground.
- Sweep your arms overhead so that your palms are touching. Gently tilt your head and gaze toward your thumbs.
- Make sure your front shin stays vertical. Widen your stance as needed to make sure that your knee does not move forward past your ankle.
- Engage the muscles of your abdomen and activate your core.
- Hold for up to 1 minute.
- Repeat on alternate side.
How to do it:
- Start on all fours in tabletop position.
- Press your hips up and back, keeping your legs and arms straight.
- Place your head and neck in line.
- Raise your left leg upward as much as you can. (Don’t worry if you can’t get it completely straight — you’re only human!)
- Hold for 10–15 seconds before coming back to Downward Dog.
- Repeat on the alternate side.
This is a strong floor pose that can really be felt in the lower back, neck, and butt.
- Lie facedown on the floor, with your hands flat by your shoulders.
- Press the tops of your feet and the palms of your hands firmly into the mat.
- Lift your chest off the floor, keeping your lower body tight and pressed firmly down.
- Push your hands up and back, stretching out your neck and gazing upward.
- Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Release back to the floor.
Time to throw all these poses into a sequence and see power yoga in action.
Here’s a quick 10 to 15 minute (ish) sample sequence to get started. But remember, it’s your workout! You can tailor this to your needs.
If you really want to amp up your workout, then you could add in free weights to really make these poses burn. But be careful if you’re just starting out and don’t overdo it!
- Child’s Pose. Hold for 5 breaths (count 1 breath here as breathing in and out)
- Downward-Facing Dog. 5 to 6 breaths
- One-Legged Dog. 15 to 20 seconds each leg
- High Plank. 10 to 15 seconds
- Chaturanga. 10 to 15 seconds (or push-ups 3 reps)
- Upward-Facing Dog. 1 breath
- Cobra Pose. 10 to 15 seconds
- Downward-Facing Dog. 5 to 6 breaths
- Ragdoll. 10 to 15 seconds
- Tadasana (Mountain Pose). 10 to 15 seconds
- Crescent Lunge. 20 to 30 seconds on each leg
- Downward-Facing Dog. 5 to 6 breaths
- Child’s Pose. Hold for 10 breaths
- Savasana (i.e., it’s OK, you can lie down now). 30 seconds to 2 minutes
By the power of Grey Sku… erm, yoga!
Power yoga might not literally turn you He-Man or She-Ra, but it does offer a whole host of benefits for your health.
Supports weight loss and belly fat reduction
Any form of cardio workout will help you burn calories — and building up a calorie deficit is an essential part of losing weight and trimming belly fat. Power yoga is no different and will definitely get you sweating.
A healthy diet is also important. Power yoga is a great workout, but it won’t do much if you’re pounding down cheeseburgers at Wendy’s after every workout.
But according to a qualitative study from 2016, yoga also offers a diverse range of effects that could make it a useful tool for weight loss beyond just burning calories.
This includes yoga being a culture that promotes healthier eating and robust community support, as well as physical and psychological changes. Participants also noted that losing weight through yoga felt different than previous weight-loss efforts that took other forms.
Just remember that there’s no magic-bullet solution for losing weight and improving your fitness. A balanced, nutritious diet, plenty of exercise, and a disciplined lifestyle — that’s a healthy-living triple threat.
Regularly getting your heart rate up is essential to keeping your ticker healthy. The best way to do this is through regular cardio exercise.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all adults should do at least:
- 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or
- 75–150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity
So you’ll be well on your way to meet your fitness goals by introducing a couple of power yoga sessions into your routine.
Power yoga isn’t just a good cardio workout. Wobbling through all those planks and shaking through every Chaturanga push-up is also a great way to build strength.
It’s also a low cost workout, as you don’t need any expensive equipment (unless you’re super keen on overpriced yoga mats made from recycled bamboo leather or whatever).
As power yoga works loads of different muscle groups, it can be a great way to improve your motor control and balance.
A study from 2016 found that regular sessions of power yoga significantly reduced rigidity and increased muscle strength and power in peeps with Parkinson’s disease.
Yoga has a solid rep for being a great stress reliever. Even though power yoga is less meditative than traditional Hatha yoga, it can still help you find a moment of Zen in a hectic day.
There’s also lots of good research — like this review and meta-analysis — that shows how exercise can help relieve symptoms of anxiety.
So whether it’s the yoga practice itself or just the endorphins from the workout doing their thang, it doesn’t really matter. The important thing is that it seems to work.
Like any good form of exercise, power yoga is associated with better overall health. Exercising regularly can help you get a better night’s sleep, support the functioning of your immune system, and even promote longer life.
You don’t have to do it every day, either. You can make power yoga part of a varied weekly routine that incorporates moderate and high intensity exercise.
It’s all about making it work in your busy schedule, babes.
Some of you might find power yoga a bit too intense, especially if you’re just starting out on your fitness journey.
It also might be a bit tricky if you’ve never done any yoga before. Yes, even if you’re a superfit gym buff, there’s still going to be a learning curve. Classes ain’t cheap either. You’ve got to make sure you can afford to pay for your classes if you want to make them part of your weekly routine.
But if you’re in relatively good shape and can afford the costs, it’s a great way to keep fit. Just make sure you’re following the correct forms to avoid any yoga-related injuries.
If you’re just getting started, it’s probably a good idea to get yourself familiarized with some basic poses and movements before jumping right into a power yoga class.
You can scroll up to check out our sample workout, or head to YouTube and explore the ever-expanding world of YouTube yoga stars. (Our fave is Yoga with Adriene. Everyone loves Adriene, right?)
You can also get involved with a Hatha yoga class for a few sessions to pick up the basics. If you’re super fit, you might only need a couple of sessions to get to grips with the poses. But if you’re still building up your fitness levels then it might take a few classes to get used to things.
There are some great yoga apps like Down Dog too, which work well for people of all fitness levels. Check out your app store for more options.
Once you’re ready to dive into power yoga, you’ll need to find a class. A quick Google search can help, but you can also ask your friends and colleagues for a hot tip.
If you don’t spot a specific “power yoga” class on the yoga studio’s website, that could be because it’s labeled as Vinyasa or Vinyasa flow. Call the studio or instructor for a quick chat to see if it’s right for you.
It’s best to speak with your doctor if you’re recovering from an injury or have any underlying health conditions. They can help you work out if power yoga is the right choice for your health goals.
Once you’ve found your class, you’re good to go!
Power yoga is a hybrid yoga exercise developed with high-level fitness in mind. It’s great if you want more of the workout and less of the breathing exercises.
It boasts benefits for the body and mind, but you might need to take a few traditional yoga classes to nail the poses first if you’re just starting out.
Whether you find a nearby yoga studio or just stick with YouTube at home, getting power yoga into your weekly routine is a sure-fire way to stay in shape.