What’s your definition of “Power Yoga”?
I started practicing yoga in the mid ’90s in Los Angeles. I can remember a line several blocks long around the Radio Shack at 6th and Santa Monica Blvd and I bet that line is still there when Bryan Kest is in town. His class was “by donation only” and he could pack at least 100 people in that room. He called it “Power Yoga.”
Although he worked us hard, and by the end of each two-hour plus class we were soaking wet, I can guarantee he did not intend his definition of Power Yoga, to insinuate his class was based in fitness.
A fitness routine, which is usually based on aesthetics, feeds your ego, not your soul. When your ego is out of balance, you become more susceptible to the every day occurrences that are actually out of your control. A fitness routine focuses on how to get into a pose, not the actual results of each pose. But isn’t the point of our yoga practice to strengthen our attentiveness and free ourselves of the distractions in our painfully cluttered minds?
Isn’t the point to get us out of our competitiveness, our judgments? Out of our psyches?
When Bryan coined the term “Power Yoga,” what I really think he intended to say is that yoga is powerful. He taught from his experience, which was to have the yoga create the highest level of vitality and freedom it could possibly have. It was to have the practice make you feel every sensation in your body and then allow you to move with that sensation.
When we work sensitively, we create an environment that’s healing and that honors ourselves—an environment that respects our boundaries. We create an atmosphere that’s conducive to natural expansion and growth. But in order to work sensitively, we need to take a seat and listen. This should make sense since the translation of asana means “seat.” So, in each pose, we are supposed to be sitting and listening to the sensations. In each pose we allow time to bring circulation into our bodies therefore regenerating our physical body and our spirit.
Once we listen and can actually feel what’s going on in our bodies and are able to access places that need our attention and kindness, we are able to literally wake up. We can become enlightened.
At least that’s the ultimate goal—not to kick up into handstand in the middle of the room.
Why do we care if we can get up into a handstand anyway? Why do we care if we can even touch our toes? Whoever said a person who can go upside down or do Uttanasana with straight legs and a flat spine was more enlightened than the person who could not? If we are really that concerned at what we look like in a pose, we must not like ourselves that much to begin with.
But how can we slow down to actually feel the intricacies in each pose when our teacher is shouting out, “Inhale life your right leg high…exhale step it through,” faster than we can actually fully contract our diaphragm, because we’re in a “Power Yoga” class?
I don’t know about you, but when I move that fast I feel like I’m a race-car driver pacing around the track. I can’t listen. I’m running a marathon! I’m out of alignment, imbalanced, suddenly negative and now I’m bringing into class all of the negative sh*t I meant to leave at the door. Wasn’t the “power” in my yoga supposed to be my humbleness and sense of calm? So that when I’m driving down U.S. 36 and my three year old tells me her “throw up is coming out,” I can practice my “three-year-old-is-throwing-up-in-the-back-seat-of-my-car-asana”?
We’ve all stopped listening. The sad state of our planet is a prime example. Our egos and intellects have gotten so big; we’ve become enamored with ourselves and our capabilities. But in order to listen to the innate wisdom within each and every one of us, we need to turn off our controlling minds. Then, by healing ourselves, we’ll be able to help nurture our planet back to health.
The problem is, most people don’t want to listen, and they surely don’t want to do the work. So we start losing people to the calisthenics of yoga so they don’t have to feel a friggin’ thing.
I don’t know about you, but I’d like to practice yoga so that I can help facilitate a stillness inside and ultimately emancipate a deeper wisdom. Sounds powerful to me.
Which version of “Power Yoga” do you want to practice?