Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Hard and Soft of Teaching Power Yoga

how to become a yoga instructor
By Faye Martins

As a yoga teacher, you probably see the need for balancing hard and soft techniques in all types of classes.  Some students crave the hard stuff and praise you for it.  Some of the most enthusiastic students disappear to the gentle class down the hall or down the street.  In other words: The love the hard work, but they really don't want it all the time.  You basically have one of the following three choices.

1. Remain physically demanding and hardcore.  Hey, it works for Bikram!

2. Compromise with the students who think you're too tough.

3. Create a balanced lesson plan (hard and soft) that really challenges them, but keeps them coming back for more.

You were probably not prepared by your yoga teacher training for all this flip-flopping.  It seems  as if you're in the political arena trying to make everyone happy.  It's hard to walk the middle of the road, without being assaulted by the left and the right.  No matter what you decide, some students will love you, but some may slither out the door and possibly complain to the front desk on the way out.

Back to Yoga

Power yoga is one of the most widely practiced forms of yogic practice in the world. This modernized version of Ashtanga or vinyasa yoga is meant to emphasis physical health while utilizing the powerful breathing synchronization that characterizes flowing schools of yoga. Coupled with quick moving asana series, breathing techniques work to train bodies in relaxation and letting go.

A power yoga series is typically made up of physically challenging poses, often beginning with a sun salutation series to get the body warmed up. The Power style is considered an eclectic version, so yoga instructors often pick and choose whatever poses fit best into a series, and this gives both the instructor and the student a lot of freedom to make adaptations.

Usually, however, a power yoga session contains a combination of hard and soft yoga. The hard poses are physically challenging and call actively on a student's endurance whereas soft poses are much less active and typically focus on stretching and relaxation.


In power yoga sessions, the beginning is chock full of hard poses. Not only is the focus in the beginning on warming up the body, but also the fast moving flow should get students sweating as muscles begin to weary. Poses like sun salutation and warrior are held for a length of time as each posture works related areas of the body.


Very often in power classes, yoga instructors will repeat several pose series in order to maximize the physical advantages a yogi can obtain during practice. This is a regular practice in fitness activities; exercise trends like circuit training and weight lifting both utilize repetitions to build strength and endurance. Typically in physical styles of yoga, during the second set of repetitions, practitioners focus on deepening the stretches and leaner further into the postures.


Balancing the hard and the soft in practice is a challenge that power yoga faces, especially since yogic disciplines are well known for its anxiety and stress-related benefits. Instructors typically work a soft pose series into the last 10 to 20 minutes of a class. This practice serves two purposes. First, following hard yoga with soft poses acts as a cool-down for the body; second, soft yoga practice is an opportunity to further relax the body and mind. Particularly after a strenuous physical workout like hard poses offer, soft yoga techniques emphasize a balanced combination of physical stretching and mental meditative exercises so that students leave their power yoga session feeling physically worked, yet mentally renewed.

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Henry Desouza said...

You write a very good blog on the hard and soft of teaching power yoga.
Very well written and thank you for revealing and informative post.

Marina J said...

Yoga poses are designed to work in balance with each other so that the biceps do not overdevelop while the triceps are ignored. Yoga is a whole body endeavor, and practicing it also improves the mind-body relationship.

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