yoga instructor certificationBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Every teacher, or studio, eventually receives requests from experienced students for a challenge.  How can we keep our classes safe and give students a challenge?  As a Yoga instructor, you have many options – among them are Power, Vinyasa, Hot, and Hatha styles that hold asanas for minutes to build strength.  If you are really sharp at adjustment and modifications, you can modify for beginners, while giving your veteran students a challenge in the same class.

However, let’s look at a way to spice up your Yoga classes with contemporary style, which grows in popularity by the day.  Most of us feel that Power Yoga is not for beginners, because it is better to build a solid foundation, with precise techniques, before jumping into a movement-based class.  After all, we have Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar) for beginners, and most of them are huffing and puffing after four rounds.  Many Yoga teachers are concerned with the lack of precision beginners have during a twelve step series.  As we know, condoning poor alignment is asking for trouble.  Therefore, if beginners want a challenge, give them rounds of precise Surya Namaskar.  There are many variations of Surya Namaskar to choose from, and the variations of Chandra Namaskar (Moon Salutations) are also an option.  With these endless options, you can teach students to focus on precision, and stamina, before they jump into a Power Yoga class.

The Beginning of Power Yoga

Although Yogic principles date back for thousands of years, Power Yoga is a relatively new style that became popular in the mid-1990’s. The term was coined by Bryan Kest and Beryl Bender Birch in the last half of the 1980s, and they used it to describe a physical version of a style, practiced in India, that is known as Ashtanga Yoga. Power classes are often associated with Ashtanga because of this background; however, the term can also refer to different types of Yoga practices, such as generic Vinyasa or a flowing, but precise variation.

The Power style is characterized by a more physical, flow-based physical practice, which makes for a better physical “workout” than traditional forms of Yogic methodology. This style does not emphasize meditations or chanting and is often the type of Yogic exercise offered in gyms. Since it is often derived from Ashtanga Vinyasa, Power Yoga also links breathing to movement. The exact pace we set, for a series of movements, can build strength or make it aerobic.  For example: To enable your student in building strength, the poses could be held for longer than five breaths.

Types of Power Yoga 

Ashtanga Vinyasa

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a very challenging practice. It is the contemporary physical offshoot of Patanjali’s Raja Yoga.  In order to proceed through its three groups of sequences, practitioners must follow a precise order of techniques. Mastery of the entire primary sequence is required before the practitioner is able to move to the second sequence. As a form of Vinyasa, Ashtanga seeks to synchronize its movements with Ujjayi pranayama, as a method for linking the mind and body.

Hot or Warm Vinyasa

Warm or hot Vinyasa classes are based upon dynamic movement and heating up the room to, at least, 85 degrees Fahrenheit.  The temperature rise seems to be inspired by the principles of Bikram’s style.  Bikram is a Hatha style that is practiced in a room that has been heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat keeps muscles warm and enables a deeper stretch during asana practice.  Bikram follows a strict pose sequence, that is performed twice, during the typical hour and a half session. Unlike Ashtanga, however, Bikram does not have levels of sequences; instead, the perfection of each pose continues to build strength and flexibility for the Bikram practitioner.  Whether you would like to teach your Vinyasa class hot, warm, or at a moderate temperature, the warmer versions seem to be popular in northern climates during winter months.

Generic Power Yoga

Although Ashtanga has a predetermined series of poses, Power Yoga can also refer to a class in which a variety of poses are practiced. A typical Power series could include variations of solar flows, which integrate Surya Namaskar with any other sequence of movement, and that flow well into each other. The point is – you are free to create balanced flows, which give your students endless, but safe, challenges.

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