Is Power Yoga the Anti-Yoga?

Is Power Yoga the Anti-Yoga

A friend sent me a coupon for a week of free yoga classes so I decided to check out a studio in Manhattan. I’d heard good things about this place – that it’s one of the better studios in the city. On their website they describe their signature style as being based on the chakra system. I let go of any pre-conceived ideas of what this could mean and went with an open mind.

There was a strong MTV element.

The walls were painted with graffiti and one wall displayed a mural of Ganesha holding a boom box and a stack of dollar bills. The floor was covered in glitter and pink hearts that were arranged to help students align their mats so they wouldn’t kick one another in a packed room.

The studio owner came in sporting an Obama tee shirt and a half sleeve. I’d never seen such a blatant political advertisement by a teacher (yoga is not political BTW). The music was bumping from start to finish and the sequencing included some creative variations. The predominant theme of the class was fun, Fun, FUN! It must be what the student-clientele are willing to pay $18 a class for.

I had a hard time concentrating.

The over-stimulation was a stark contrast to my usual “studio” of parks and nature. It felt like I was in a dance class rather than a yoga class. I didn’t experience anything about the “signature style” to indicate a relationship with the chakras. It may have not been a part of the lesson that day (which I honestly don’t remember).

A few days later I received an email from a Buddhist Dharma teacher who shared his reflections on the benefits of Slow Yoga. He said that Slow Yoga helps his students with their meditation practices and that they believe that power yoga is the anti-yoga, or at least anti-enlightenment in the same way that guided meditation is anti-meditation.

With the MTV yoga experience still fresh in my mind, I had to agree that power yoga presents an obstacle. It’s not to say that power yoga can’t be used as a stepping stone but its primary function is aerobic entertainment. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that guided meditation is anti-meditation though…

What do you think? Is power yoga the anti-yoga? Feel free to leave a comment in the box below.

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Author: Emily Seymour

I offer private yoga sessions in Parker, Colorado.

12 thoughts on “Is Power Yoga the Anti-Yoga?”

  1. Emily

    I agree with you. So much of American yoga is not yoga. It is merely a new form of working out. This is totally okay as I am sure you agree. However, everyone still wants to call it Yoga, and it simply isn’t. Which means it is spiritual materialism, and taking advantage of people through deception.

    I am studying Yantra Yoga which is the style of yoga that Tibetan cave yogi’s practice. There is no ‘power’ yantra yoga, never was. Same with classical tantra yoga including asana. Patanjali would be slapping people upside the head for what they call Yoga in this country.

    Even my favorite yoga studio posted the most asinine new age platitude crap to their Facebook the other day. I had to call them out, the only one to do so of course, because it was not yoga. We must demand right speech from our yoga studios, from politicians, media and marketing, and our very self. This is much larger than the dumbing down of yoga. This is a clear example of how far we have strayed from the basic principles of right speech.

    It’s ugly and harmful.

    1. Robert…

      Yes, accountability is key and I applaud your efforts to keep your studio cognizant of their actions. I’m reminded of the lesson that Nataraja taught about never criticizing other forms of Yoga. The gray area of this admonition is, as you pointed out, that many people are calling their “styles” Yoga. I tend to believe that we owe some of the widespread blind acceptance to the misconstrued idea of “All One” that is promoted by the New Age movement, as well as the peer pressures that are instilled through cultural diversity training.

      Yesterday I met a woman who has experienced a kundalini awakening. When asked if power yoga is an obstacle on the path of enlightenment she said yes, without a doubt.

      I’m still curious as to whether or not guided meditation is anti-meditation. What is your opinion?

  2. Guided meditation is a beginning, and as such it is not anti-meditation. It is meditation because a guided meditation can certainly lead one into a state of meditation. However, it is somewhat a given state, so in that sense, it is not real meditation which has been created from within the person by their own means of creation. Think of it like the practice of drawing. In the beginning, you copy a bunch of pictures from well known artists. You study line, form, shading, etc. Then, as one begins to learn to see these things in their own mind, then gradually one can begin to create drawings from their own imagination. If one continues to draw, then eventually they might be skilled enough to draw whatever they can imagine or see. Same with meditation. There are techniques and ways in which to engage or disengage the mind, and these are the practices of meditation taught as various schools. If one does a lot of this sort of stuff, then eventually one can engage and disengage all sorts of meditations at will in a very creative manner. So its like there is a point in time X with which guided meditation can become a block, and therefore become anti-meditation, because then one is just relying on the basic exercises which were given in the first couple semesters of class. If one never leaps off and begins to use his/her/its own mind, then those meditation muscles will never be developed. The whole point of Yoga really is to get to a state of mastery…yes?….so if one is still referring back to past lessons and sayings and such, then where is one? Certainly not a master yet, or the answers would be self-evident. One really does have to know when to let go of other support entirely in their thinking, and operating, processes. Death in Yoga is an actual thing- and a painful and lonely one- but unfortunately a necessary evil if one wants to really test the waters of what it’s all about. There is comfort in the teachings though that there is really nowhere to go. You’re already, and always will be, Here.

  3. Edward…

    I have gone back and re-read what you wrote and I am editing my response. As you know this is an old conversation and I question your motive for bringing it up here – especially when it was not the topic of the post. I’ve already explained my point of view about the ego which was in no way about promoting blind surrender. I suggest that you reread my comment.

    Offering gratitude is a practice of the heart, and while it may not serve you it does serve others. The home page of this site states how this a forum for many paths and points of view. Your opinions are your own and calling yourself the “real deal” does not in any way trump other points of view.

    Not all of my education was paid for – in some cases it was through apprenticeship arrangements, work-trade and scholarships. Does monetary exchange somehow negate the student’s responsibility to give credit where it is due? I don’t think so, and to go without doing so is a symptom of narcissistic behavior. Do we ever stop learning or being students? I certainly hope not. True mastery is hard to find, and this is a subject that I plan to discuss in my next post.

    The teacher can be found in everything and I will acknowledge its presence as I so choose. You don’t have to agree with me but I have said all that I can say to you on this matter.

  4. Emily

    I think it’s a bit harsh to say guided meditation is anti-meditation. I think I get your sentiment however. I am not a personal fan of guided meditation. Though in my early practice when a teacher gave guided meditation it did help me to engage a liminal state of consciousness….

    I have not experienced states of consciousness as deep through guided meditation, as I have found with personal meditative experiences….

    Though what about Yoga Nidra? Isn’t that a guided meditation? Just a thought…

    1. Robert…

      Thanks for responding to my question. I’m not sure what they meant exactly, but the general consensus of everyone I’ve spoken with about this is that guided meditation is a starting point in the journey but not one to get hung up on. Yoga Nidra is definitely a guided meditation – great example.

      I taught a muladhara-inspired class yesterday and at times I had to restrain myself from offering verbal guidance during the meditations. The experience served as a reminder of the necessity honoring the students with silence.

      1. Yes, to get hung up on anything in life / spiritual practice is a quick road to stagnation and stunted spiritual growth.

        I think I will remain neutral on guided meditation for beginner students, perhaps all students unless they demonstrate a stickiness in their practice and reliance on guided activity vs spontaneous and self driven practices.

        Great thought provoking topic, thank you!

  5. Emily,
    Just got back to this…my life has been a hurricane for awhile now and am doing what I can. I brought up the issue of the ego because you mentioned it in your final sentence of your previous post. So although the conversation digressed from the original article, I was following your thoughts. Originally there was no other motive involved but I spoke to what I do think about egos and such in the yoga world. I completely agree with you about the idea of giving credit where it is due, though what I find that when I do that, is that people seem to completely write me off then. I say I trained here or there with this person or that program and then all of a sudden I’m nowhere to be found and the person I’m talking to does not realize at all that the people I trained with spent, in the grand scheme of all my trainings and work, very little time in my life. Is this a selfish thought? Perhaps, yes. But I’m ok with that because I’ve worked extremely damn hard for my abilities and if noone will honor me for them then I may as well honor myself. Is this narcissistic? I prefer to call it appreciation for my serious efforts, and it makes me like myself for it. Contrast that with the energy I get from almost all people (judgmental, opinionated, generally not supportive or encouraging), and it actually creates the ground for any positive energy I contain within myself, since its not like people just send me wonderful things out of the blue just to be nice, encouraging, loving, and supportive. Just doesn’t really happen, though I know some people get that quite a bit. So hopefully what I generate within myself can radiate outwards since I can’t send much in return, if that makes any sense. And yes, it would be great to simply send the love back if that were possible, and I do when it happens. I also just got to read your other article since the other link worked, and that was great. It’s very very difficult to make certain discernments about people, and I think the truth is that we are all very dynamic and responsive to situations if we’re alive, and the space of Yoga, is very much alive.

    1. Edward…

      Thank you for sharing your experience and I can definitely relate to what you’re talking about. To be clear – in your initial comment you wrote:

      “…so if one is still referring back to past lessons and sayings and such, then where is one? Certainly not a master yet, or the answers would be self-evident.”

      That is what I meant by your bringing up an old conversation that did not relate to the original article. I agree that the conversation has segued quite a bit and so I would prefer to start a new thread.

  6. And the Real Deal thing is actually just a playing thing. There is a space within myself that is seriously heavy, and real….and there is a space within myself that is extremely playful. This one was generated out of playfulness.

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