The poses you will start with are a series of Sun salutations, which warm up the body; the sweatier you get during a class, the better. The heat you generate helps loosen the muscles and joints, both preventing injury and making it easier to perform the various poses. As you start to get hotter, you'll launch into a sequence of standing postures. These may range from fundamentals such as the Triangle to much more difficult poses requiring considerable balance. If you can't perfectly perform particular Power Stretch postures, the teacher can modify them to match your level of practice and experience.
You should try and keep your pace rhythmic and consistent, with your gaze and concentration unwavering. Once you complete the standing postures, your body will be sufficiently warm and loose to perform the sequenced moves that are specific to each series. While these sets of postures do constitute a thorough workout within themselves, they nevertheless have a particular focus. The 30+ postures in the first series focus mainly on forward bends, while the second series predominantly consists of deep backward bends, postures involving putting the feet behind the head and seven variations of the Headstand posture.
To maintain high levels of body heat during the session, you transit from one pose to the next by doing partial Sun Salutations. These may include lifting yourself up on your hands and swinging your legs back to go from a sitting position to a 'push-up' pose(more applicable to intermediate or advance), lunging from one pose to the next or even using the Plank pose for transition between postures.
Benefits of Power Stretch
Stretch is undoubtedly excellent for increasing flexibility, but one of the great power stretch benefits is that this style also gives you a workout in the more traditional sense.
In this way, it is somewhat different to the more static styles of stretches. Whilst they develop flexibility and improve overall body composition, they don't help with cardiovascular training and endurance, and unless you consciously choose to use more 'power yoga' postures, they don't necessarily develop great muscular strength.
On the other hand, the benefits of power stretch include the ability to become strong and muscular in a relatively short space of time.Certain poses in stretch, called the 'power poses' for this reason, help train muscles. And power stretch has a lot of them incorporated in its' routines. For example, the sun salutation sequences, which start each of the series, strengthen the deltoids, triceps and pectoral muscles.
A further benefit of power stretch training is that you won't build bulky muscles. However, you do develop an increase in the size and density of muscle fibers. This has a positive effect on both strength and endurance - good hallmarks of a rounded physical fitness program.
The very nature of the way the power stretch series were designed mean that they satisfy the caveats every stretch practice should if your aim is also to be physically fit in the traditional sense. The constant movement, and the pace mean you build up a sweat and get a cardiovascular workout. This is an intensity you control, however, and easing up on the pace means less of a workout for your heart.
Power Stretch benefits extend beyond traditional fitness, however. The combination of the heat generated with the stretching allows the muscles to soften. You can thus go deeper into a stretch than you would be able to otherwise. The heat is also said to have a cleansing effect of the body. It certainly helps with circulation, and many of the poses also help with metabolism. The focus and breathing help develop concentration and coordination as well.
It is easy to see why ashtanga is so popular, especially amongst those who want a more vigorous and traditional workout with the unique benefits that stretch can bring. To get real fitness benefits, however, you need to be doing 3 to 5 sessions per week each lasting 1 hour. The power stretch series take about that long to do. Just remember to hold each position for 5 or 6 breaths, no more, so you don't lose the dynamism and heat generated.
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