Great takedown of power yoga, ‘a poor commercial derivative of Ashtanga’
I just happened upon this Times of India piece, “Power yoga earning bad karma,” and its takedown of gym-based power yoga is sort of delightful. Especially if:
- You’re steadfast that yoga should be more than just an exercise
- You’re a bit of a hard-line Ashtangi
- You’re cranky because you feel a bit bullied into contacting a Rolfer
I pass it on because it does define power yoga very specifically as Ashtanga-based; the salient part of that is in the headline, but here’s the full way it is described:
Backed by the likes of Bollywood actresses Kareena Kapoor, Kangana Ranaut and Geeta Basra, power yoga is to today’s urban Indian woman what aerobics was in the ’80s. Practically every gym and fitness centre in the city offers weekly 60 to 90-minute power yoga classes to its members.
What is power yoga?
A poor commercial derivative of Ashtanga yoga, power yoga is essentially an up-tempo aerobic workout, where yoga poses are done faster and in continuation. Apart from temporary weight loss, it has virtually no health benefits. Since power yoga is a widely used term that was never trademarked, individual teachers usually lend their personal interpretation to classes.
I think you can see where this is going. But, to try to alleviate my conscience — no, I didn’t just pass on something entirely devoid of yoga sustenance — I’ll note that the piece, without explicitly doing so, pretty well calls power yoga the perpetrator of yoga injuries.
Remember that debate?
“Power yoga is like any cardiovascular activity, which means that if you stop practicing it you will regain the weight you’ve lost,” says Samanta Duggal, yoga therapist and director at Temperance. In her 20 years of experience, she has seen many cases of people taking up power yoga for quick results and instead sustaining injuries — usually to the neck, shoulder, toes, knees, hips and lower back. “Doing repetitive asanas and 100 surya namaskars with no emphasis on alignment is a sureshot way to injury. So, instead of progressing to better health, they actually regress!
As I think everyone agreed when the yoga injuries book came out, sure, yoga can cause injuries if you go about it in a stupid way. Sort of the same way that doing anything dumbly can hurt you.
I’ll admit that my favorite part of the piece is this:
“Power Yoga was simply a name I came up with in the late ’80s to let people know that ashtanga yoga practice — unlike most of the yoga taught in ’70s America — was a serious workout, designed to build significant strength and concentration as well as flexibility,” says Beryl Bender Birch. He is one of the two American yoga teachers who nearly simultaneously coined the term. Los Angeles-based Bryan Kest is the other. Not coincidentally, both these teachers had studied with Ashtanga master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Another name often associated with power yoga is Baron Baptiste who devised his own method in San Francisco, California.
Did you get why? I made sure to double check, but, yes, Birch is in fact a “she.” (She definitely has claim to the power yoga term, though. Her website? www.power-yoga.com.) More seriously, her quote adds context to my wondering about when yoga got “soft.” Blame the Flower Children, perhaps?
The piece does have a point worth remembering (conscience officially cleared); it’s one I suspect most folks who’d stop by here know, but it’s worth repeating:
Compare that to traditional schools of yoga that lay a good foundation for a long-lasting and all-round fitness and wellbeing. Says Duggal, “Whether it’s Sivananda, Bihar, Iyengar, Vini yoga from the Krishnamacharya lineage, they all have a holistic approach.”
That’s really what we’re getting at, right? Something more than just a good work-out — the “work-in,” as Tim Miller calls one of his workshops.
Posted by Steve