Breaking the Stress Cycle with Power Yoga

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Rooted in the early twentieth-century practice of ashtanga yoga, power yoga makes use of vinyasa —movements between different yoga poses performed in combination with regulated breathing. Unlike hatha yoga, where yoga poses are held and treated singularly, power yoga practitioners move quickly between poses that often focus on building strength and flexibility. 

With power yoga, the emphasis is on the flow from one pose to the next rather than approaching each pose separately. One moves from one posture to another rapidly, linking the breathing to the different motions of the body.

Here are five power yoga poses to target all body areas, focusing on stress relief.

Cat/Cow Pose – Marjaryasana/Bitilasana 

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  1. Begin on your hands and knees (shoulder and hip-width apart respectively) in table pose with a neutral spine. 
  2. As you inhale and drop into cow pose, lift your sit bones upward, press your chest forward, and allow your belly to sink toward the floor. Lift your head, relax your shoulders away from your ears, and gaze straight ahead.
  3. As you exhale, come into cat pose, rounding your spine outward, tucking in your tailbone, and drawing your pubic bone forward.


Cobra Pose – Bhujangasana

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  1. Begin in a plank position on the mat, placing your palms flat directly under your shoulders, keeping your shoulders, back, and hips aligned. Slowly bring your whole body downward to lie down on the mat. Bend your elbows and hug them into your sides
  2. Pause for a moment looking straight down at your mat with your neck in a neutral position. Anchor your pubic bone to the floor.
  3. Inhale to lift your chest off the floor. Roll your shoulders back and keep your lower ribs on the mat. Make sure your elbows continue hugging your sides. 
  4. Stay for 5 to 10 breaths.
  5. Release yourself from the position and fall back to the mat while exhaling.

Bound Angle Pose – Baddha Koṇasana

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  1. From a seated position, bring the soles of your feet together close to your pelvis, allowing your knees to fall to the sides.
  2. Ground your sitting bones and lengthen your spine
  3. Hold onto the outsides of your feet and press the soles of your feet against each other.
  4. Stay for 5 to 10 breaths.
  5. To come out of the pose, sit up straight again, lift your knees, and straighten your legs.

Downward Facing Dog – Adho Mukha Svanasana

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  1. Come to your hands and knees with your wrists underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips.
  2. Curl your toes under and push back through your hands to lift your hips and straighten your legs.
  3. Spread your fingers and ground the forearms into the fingertips.
  4. Let your head hang and move your shoulder blades away from your ears towards your hips.
  5. Lift the hips up high as the legs straighten. Keep your toes pointing forward. Begin by maintaining a slight bend in the knees, and over time, as the body becomes more flexible, slowly straighten the legs, grounding your heels into the mat. Do not lock the legs; keep a micro bend to prevent injury.
  6. Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths. Exhale and bend your knees to release and come back to your hands and knees.

Ragdoll Pose — Variation of Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

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  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward.
  2. Inhale and bring your hands to your hips. Exhale, micro-bend at your knees, and hinge forward from the hips with a flat back. Take a generous bend in your knees if you’d like, allowing your chest and thighs to touch. Shift some weight forward into the balls of your feet to send your sit bones up. Allow your neck and face to relax. Cross your arms and hold onto opposite elbows.
  3. Check that your knees are pointed straight ahead and that your thighs are parallel. Sway gently from side to side. 

Presha Arnot is a Toronto-based yoga teacher specialising in ashtanga and vinyasa principles. Find her on Instagram and Facebook.

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