There are many styles of yoga you can practice today: Hot Yoga, Vinyasa Flow, Yin, and then there’s the more… unusual trends like Goat Yoga… The many types of yoga practiced today, though, come from a historic background. Power Yoga is a good example. A practice very much embedded in the 21st century, but with roots in ancient traditions. Here’s an insight into its history and why it might be a great addition to your practice.
If we travel back a few thousand years to ancient India where yoga was first introduced and practiced, you will see that it was mainly composed of philosophical teachings to educate high priests and royals about leading healthy lives. These oral teachings were to give guidance toward a life of enlightenment. Eventually, these oral interpretations were written down and organised for refined learning and wider distribution. One important writer was Patanjali, the "father of yoga", who wrote the Yoga Sutras. He described these ancient teachings as a path called the "eight limbs", which were a more definitive set of guidelines for productive and healthy living. These oral teachings were considered highly intellectual, and yoga didn't become a physical practice until much later. Philosophical offerings evolved to include movement of the physical body to enhance mental clarity and self-actualization.
Fast forward now to the early 20th century and a new era of yoga emerged. T. Krishnamacharya, the originator of Hatha Yoga, integrated those very early teachings with the eight limbs, the body, and the breath; opening the first Hatha Yoga School in 1920's India. Hatha Yoga is often considered the "umbrella" of other yoga styles. Many of the moving yoga practices we do today fall under the category of Hatha Yoga.
Other teachers then emerged under this style of yoga, including B.K.S. Iyengar, T.K.V Desikachar, and one of the most prominent, Pattabhi Jois. He continued the organisation of a structured yoga practice by introducing Ashtanga Yoga. In Sanskrit, the ancient language of yoga, Ashtanga means "eight limbs." He used this philosophical premise to open the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in the 1940s. Ashtanga Yoga is a dynamic practice geared to building a stronger mind and body for an enlightened lifestyle. Attending an Ashtanga Yoga class is always the same: the same poses in the same sequence. It was a way to practice discipline, determination, and to observe progress in your mind and body. This style of yoga remains to be a very popular practice today.
So now throw on your bell bottoms and jump forward to the 1970s when the exercise craze hit the scene. Gyms, fitness centers, and aerobic classes were taking the Western world by storm. Everyone wanted to get into better shape, and with this Yoga came onto the scene. Enter....Power Yoga! As well as the calming and peaceful nature of other styles of yoga, like meditation and Iyengar Yoga, people wanted something with a little more vigor and suitable for a gym setting. And so Power Yoga was born, giving practitioners the strong asanas of Ashtanga, but with the freedom to create dynamic moving practices without the tight structure of the full series.
So if you attend a Power class today, you will be getting a flavour of a very modern practice, but one that will also take you through some ancient foundations. Expect sweat (and lots of it!), probably some upbeat music, and definitely a feeling of invigoration and strength! But while feeling more like an exercise class, also leaving with a sense of self-awareness, presentness and that all-important mental clarity and relaxation from that all-important savasana at the end. So if you're feeling like you need something a little stronger this week, then grab your mat and book onto this week's class!