By Faye Martins
Does Power yoga for strength make sense? Power yoga is a hybrid form of physical yoga that tends to emphasize physical fitness over yogic philosophy and wisdom. Power yoga teachers come from Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Hatha backgrounds, which lead to a lot of variety within lesson plans and the exact emphasis in classes. However, although power yoga contains challenging series of poses that even the most in-shape or athletic beginners will struggle with, part of achieving and maintaining physical fitness means that most power yoga instructors incorporate poses to balance the mind with the body. Often power yoga for strength, despite its focus on the practice as exercise, does concern itself with personal transcendence, a form of self-actualization.
Yoga for Strength and Healing
They key to building strength is to gain muscle mass. Power yoga does not produce big bulky muscles, but it does increase muscle mass. Aging causes a gradual loss of muscle mass each year. Therefore, if we want to take action toward aging well, we should incorporate resistance training such as: Weight resistance training, Physical forms of Yoga, or Pilates.
Power Yoga for strength aims to build and heal the body of any physical, mental, emotional or psychosomatic ailments by identifying the root of a dysfunction and practicing a set of techniques (asana, pranayama, meditation or relaxation techniques) intended to address the problem. It seems obvious to yoga teachers that people who suffer from problems ranging from persistent lower back pain to depression have been flocking to our classes in an attempt to alleviate their symptoms.
For example, a person suffering from intense lower back pain as a result of a ruptured disc might see a physical therapist and come away with some exercises that help stretch the back and correct any misalignments. Similarly, someone who sees a yoga therapist for the same problem will likely come away with a series of yoga techniques to practice in order to accomplish the same purpose of stretching the back and correcting the body’s bad habits. The difference is that physical therapy is truly focused on the physical, whereas power yoga for strength works holistically to address the health of entire person on all levels of existence. In turn, student become more aware of methods to build strength and reduce or prevent pain.
This self-awareness is also a reason that people with psychosomatic ailments like depression or anxiety try yoga. Not only are there physical and hormonal benefits derived from the exercise part of yoga, but achieving personal balance and more complete awareness can lead to the improvement of problems rooted in the psyche as well as the body.
Power Yoga: Exercise or Therapy
Due to the fact that power yoga for strength is a physical challenge, the answer to whether it can be used as therapy depends on the problem as well as the approach of the instructor or therapist. Many therapists prefer to work through poses at a slower pace to allow for more concentrated effort on each pose, but some advocate power yoga for certain cases. Clearly, because of the individualized nature of power yoga can also be used as a form of exercise, therapy, or adjunct therapy, for mental and emotional balance. However, because it can be challenging, it is not always the preferred school of yoga for cases where students have physical ailments. Yet, power yoga for strength is accepted as a low-impact exercise option.
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Seven Tips for Physical Assists in Power Yoga Classes
By Gopi Rao
Touch is one of the most powerful tools that we can give to support our students. Yet, there is a problem. Suddenly, one day, all male instructors became “creepy guys.” Yoga studios began “hands off” policies due to harassment policies and higher liability insurance rates. Now, we have COVID and we might not ever touch students again. For the sake of knowing and remembering how it once was: Here are seven tips for giving students great adjustments during a power yoga class.
We can’t assume that our students want physical assists, even while engaging in asana practice. Touch can be a trigger for people who have experienced trauma, and we all have times when we wish to be left alone. Offer students the opportunity to let you know that they do not wish to be touched.
Know Your Students
We have all heard about or experienced an adjustment gone wrong. If you have a new student, take the time to get to know them before you offer an assist. A pregnant student and a student recovering from an old spinal injury have different needs, and their conditions may not be readily apparent. For beginners, concentrate on keeping them safe. For more advanced students, find out what they want to focus on so that you can target adjustments.
Do not perform a trial run of a new adjustment on your students. Work with a yoga teacher or a willing practice subject outside of class. Ask for detailed feedback. Too much pressure can be uncomfortable, and too little can feel inappropriate.
When in doubt, stay within your comfort zone. If you are trying to do something that makes you nervous, you will transfer that feeling to your students. If this means that you stick to low-risk savasana adjustments while you are learning, then that is fine. Don’t feel pressured to touch students just because you think that is what is expected of you. During power yoga for strength sessions, nothing is a rush. The class objective of building muscle mass doesn’t have much to do with you running yourself ragged making physical adjustments. In fact, some classes require you to stick to verbal adjustments.
Take classes with teachers who have an assist-style that you like. To give good assists, you also have to get them.
If you are sick or tired, be a hands-off teacher for a day or more. If you teach full-time, you may be leading 15 or more classes per week. This can be exhausting, and some assists can be physically demanding. You have to care for yourself in order to care for your students, and occasionally this means that you have to give fewer adjustments.
Sometimes, a student may bring up particular feelings in you. Maybe they make you uncomfortable, or perhaps you feel attracted to them. Remember that you are a professional, and avoid touching anyone that throws off your mental equilibrium.
Give Yourself Time
When moving through a brisk vinyasa flow, be mindful of the types of assists you offer. If you know you will have adequate time to assist, then go for it. Otherwise, it is better to withhold the adjustment at that moment rather than rush it. If a student is consistently making a mistake in a fast flow, you could workshop the problem area with them after class at a slower pace.
Understand the Asana
Balancing postures will require different support than restorative postures. Understand the goal of your assist. Is it to explore the range of a student’s flexibility or is it to provide stability? Know where energy is supposed to be flowing, and use your hands-on work to complement your student’s efforts.
Even the most experienced teachers need to pay attention to students. Changes in breathing or facial expressions can indicate when an adjustment has been effective and when students have reached their edge. If you are mindful of your students’ nonverbal communication, you can avoid forcing them toward an injury.
As you grow your practice and explore different styles and methods for assists, you will develop a system that works for you and your students. Among the many styles to teach, power yoga for strength is more like an exercise class with a common objective shared by most students.
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