Here is a recent question that appeared in my email inbox:
What safety concerns do power/vinyasa yoga students need to be aware of?
Most yoga practices use very similar poses but the amount of time spent in each pose, the degree of difficulty of some of the peak poses and the time between poses vary with each style. Power/Vinyasa yoga typically involves a non-stop sequence of poses that flow together. It is meant to increase your fitness level and help you enter a space where we lose track of time and become deeply present in the journey. When done right, the physical nature of the practice can also lead to a deep relaxation at the end.
It’s a beautiful way of practicing yoga but there are some safety concerns of Power/ Vinyasa practice:
1) A certain level of fitness is required for this style of practice. If you have a hard time keeping up, your technique can become sloppy which increases the risk of injury. The solution is to feel free to rest anytime or choose another routine/teacher that suits your fitness level.
2) All Yoga classes need to balance detail with flow. Flow practices are usually non-stop sequences where poses are held for 30 seconds to a minute. This means there is less time to concentrate on the details of each pose as opposed to a “work-shopping” format where of the poses tend to be done more in isolation with more time in between them. Power/Vinyasa classes are great but it is important to do alignment classes or workshops so you can do the poses more safely. This will help your flow practice a lot.
2) Power/Vinyasa Yoga usually consist of a lot of upward and downward dogs as transitions between poses leaving wrists, shoulders and backs very vulnerable to injury. Learn how to use the arches of the hands and feet, and how to not sag into the lower back during upward dog.
3) Power/ Vinyasa has a tendency to include more challenging “peak poses.” A lot of students feel like they need to go into the deepest and most challenging versions of these poses before they are ready which can lead to frustration or injury. The solution is to stick with the preparatory poses and practice the openings and/or strengthening aspects that are required and not push past your limits.
4) It is important to find a practice that gives you time to feel what is happening in your body during the practice even in the flow experience of Power/Vinyasa yoga. If you ignore bodily sensations or your connection to the breath, it becomes less of a mindful, yogic activity and more like regular exercise. On top of that, it increases the likelihood of injury so please seek out these types of Power/Vinyasa teachers. You can practice mindfully even while increasing your fitness.
5) Lastly, a lot of athletes get attracted to Power/Vinyasa yoga due to the physical nature of the practice. Many athlete prize his or her ability to push their limits. A lot of time a combination of a “go for it” mentality with a body that is tight for sports. This is a bad combination for yoga which requires not a “go for it” attitude but a “back up and listen” one. It requires humility and wisdom to keep the joints of the body aligned. It’s a great lesson this mindset to learn and so damaging when we miss it
One thing I would like to add is sometimes you have to try a few instructors in a certain style to see if it is for you. There is a lot of variety in how the yoga is presented.
Good luck on your journey. I always tell people YOGA is an acronym: You’ve Only Got Attitude… Keep it Positive!