It was power vinyasa and prana flow yoga classes at my gym in DC that got me hooked on yoga. The first several classes were HARD! I had been running for some time so the cardio-like aspect was manageable…but still challenging. After class I felt both relaxed and energized.
I’d been to classes where the focus was more on alignment, and the instructor gave lots of cues – so many in fact that it would be impossible to coordinate movement and breath. In a class with a slower pace, it’s much easier for my mind to wander. I don’t always follow more “colorful” cues or understand how to implement them in my body. A stronger and faster practice helps me focus – because I have to in order to keep up!
I love moving my body in a creative and beautiful way without trying to get it exactly right. Of course some aspects of alignment are essential for safety, but in my own experience, in my own body, the benefits I have felt come from moving and breathing rather than stacking my joints just so. If the only yoga on offer was heavy on alignment, without any flow, it wouldn’t speak to me. I wouldn’t go. I wouldn’t benefit at all!
Sometimes people who practice one style of yoga speak disparagingly of other styles. I may be partial, but I feel like power yoga gets a disproportionate amount of flak! I don’t think other styles of yoga are bad, unsafe, wrong or unyogic … I think there is room for all styles without this sort of black and white division.
Maybe it is particularly surprising for people involved in trauma-sensitive yoga to find that I share that interest and also like power vinyasa yoga. I guess I think focusing on alignment to an extreme can verge on less therapeutic – it can turn the focus to what the pose looks like rather than what it feels like.
In the current classes I teach in a yoga outreach capacity, I do not teach in a power yoga style – it wouldn’t be appropriate given the specific groups of people. But trauma survivors come in all shapes, sizes, and physical abilities. Surely some trauma survivors, or other people served in non-traditional settings, share my experience and views on a faster or more physically demanding practice.