Yoga is a practice that calms the storms of the mind to create mental clarity.
Ask a few random people what they think yoga is, and you’ll get a variety of answers. And, they are probably all right.
However, they may only be seeing one small piece of the whole because the practice of yoga is much richer than most people realize. Myself included. I attended my first yoga class at Santa Monica Power Yoga in 2007 because I thought it would be a great stretching routine to complement my running. I kept attending because I appreciated the calorie burn and how good it made my body feel.
As my yoga class attendance increased and my mileage decreased, I began to understand that there was much, MUCH more to this practice than some poses in a hot room.
Fifteen years later, I am still discovering the complexities and depth of this ancient practice. The fact that it makes my body feel good is the icing on the cake.
So what is yoga? Let’s break down some of the common beliefs:
Is Yoga meditating?
The practice of yoga includes meditation, but that is just one part (limb) of a yoga practice. What we practice and teach at 502 Power Yoga is the limb called “Asana,” the physical practice of yoga. We include meditation (dhyana) and breathing exercises (pranayama) in some of our classes. There are eight limbs along the path of yoga, and just as one climbs a tree, you ascend the limbs along your journey, and you must reach one limb before you can climb to the next. As one of my teachers once told me, the asana (poses) are the only part of yoga that can truly be taught, especially in a group class setting. The other limbs must be studied, practiced, and attained individually.
Is Yoga just stretching?
I don’t know why this is a misconception, but it’s the one I hear most often. Yes, there is a lot of stretching in a yoga asana class. Yes, you will become flexible if you practice yoga. But how you are stretching is the misunderstood part. In any yoga class—from gentle to power—you will be dynamically and actively stretching: Creating length in your muscles while simultaneously balancing, strengthening, meditating, and focusing.
Having said all that, Yin is basically “just stretching.” This special type of class holds postures for several minutes at a time, allowing muscles to lengthen and release more passively. We offer Yin classes Sundays at 11:30AM and Wednesdays at 7:30AM.
Is Yoga a good workout?
I might get some crap for this, but yes, undoubtedly. However, if you’re looking for quantity over quality calorie burn, you’d be better off doing a cardio exercise like running or cycling. But one can burn up to 600-700 calories in a 60-minute class, depending on your body type, constitution, how hard you push yourself, etc.
But unlike cardio, in a yoga class, you will also get toned, strengthening not just the vanity muscles like your abs and your biceps, but also the less visible (but more important!) muscle groups like your hip rotators, the intrinsic muscles in your feet, and the tiny muscles supporting your shoulder blades. A well-rounded yoga asana practice focuses on healthy, dynamic movement, creating agility and mobility.
The reality is that most people get hooked on yoga because they like the calorie burn and they like how sore they are the next day. Over time, people realize that the benefits go far beyond the physical. So while it is a great workout, it is not just a great workout.
Is Yoga a spiritual practice?
As I said above, most people come to a yoga class because they want to get in a good sweat, stretch out, and tone their bodies. However, the practice of yoga Asana is deeply rooted in centuries of spiritual wisdom originating in ancient India, and it’s hard not to pick up on some of those things. The ritualistic format of classes could be likened to a religious service: We typically begin classes with an “om,” we bow to each other at the end, and it sure as shit makes you feel connected to a universal vibration.
I have never considered myself a spiritual person. I grew up Catholic here in Louisville but stopped attending mass as a teenager. I was disenchanted with the dogma and rigidness of the services, and frankly, how boring it all was. I found a new appreciation for spirituality when I began attending yoga classes. It allowed me to feel as though there were a higher being out there, it created peace in my body and mind, and it created a connection between me and the people in classes with me.
No one is going to force you to bow to Hindu gods or give up your existing religious beliefs. But I believe that if you are seeking a spiritual practice, you could find that in a yoga practice.
Is “Power Yoga” really yoga?
We think so 😋 Yoga is a profound journey of self-discovery that has been through many evolutions as it’s been adopted by and adapted to new cultural contexts globally. Power Yoga is a relatively modern form of this practice, but our aim remains the same as that of the ancient yoga masters: To calm the mind to be better humans.