The fad called “Power Yoga”

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We all know someone or the other who is obsessed with celebrity life. Right from what makes the “stars” shine to where they go to prolong their “shining”. Sigh. They live the good life while we, the mere mortals, are sometimes offered a glance into their guarded palaces. This sudden peek enchants us all and we try to emulate that brief escape to Dreamland, in our mundane, ordinary lives. The resultant emulations are called as “celebrity fads” or just “fads” in common lingo. From having a bald head like Britney Spears to dieting like crazy for having a stick-thin figure like Victoria Beckham; from dyeing hair in pop colors like Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj to making the gym a second home because Hrithik Roshan, John Abraham and almost everybody of tinsel town seems to live there. Now, these trends don’t necessarily begin with the stars. They might have been around for years, silent, but effective for its loyal followers, when suddenly they get re-discovered by a bunch of enthusiasts. And these lively people start mouthing the same things and at the same time, thus creating a “new” trend, which is rather quick to pass away, thus aptly called a “fad”.

Over the years, the history of Tinsel Town has seen numerous fads, not only restricted to films and commercials.  Of all the celebrity fads, perhaps the most influential has been Kareena Kapoor’s “Power Yoga”. With the release of “Tashan” back in 2008, the terms “Zero Figure” and “Power Yoga” was present in every household. Sting, Madonna, Uma Thurman, Christy Turlington, Drew Barrymore, Bethenny Frankel… The list goes on…

Power Yoga was simultaneously invented by two American yoga teachers sometime during the mid-90’s. And well, it was popularized in a way so as to find appeal among the Western audience. At one point of time, celebs talked nothing short of “I hit the gym at least three times a day” when asked on their fitness regime. And suddenly it was various forms of Yoga, with Power Yoga being the secret to success of many Indian stars and starlets. Suddenly with so much of footage by the celebs, yoga stopped being boring to the people of the land where it was invented. Even though Ramdev Baba started the phase of “Mass Yoga”, nothing is as effective as a simple celebrity endorsement, no matter how late it may be. Even Ellen Degeneres declared that she has been practicing Power Yoga for the past ten years. Like I said before, it’s all about re-discovering the treasures already present. Coming back to Power Yoga, it was “popularized” by Kareena Kapoor Khan when asked about her fitness regime while filming “Tashan”. Nobody bothered to ask about the film, obviously, considering how disastrous it had been, so the only way to keep talking was to ask about her fitness, which I admit, was an intelligent thing to do as it brought back yoga in the minds of the people. The fact that a Bollywood A-lister was following an Indian method to keep fit was something to be gaped at, for celebs are known for their “foreign” inclinations, thus giving the impression that anything Indian isn’t good enough.

So, what is Power Yoga?

It is a very general term used to describe a fitness-based and vigorous approach to Vinyasa-style yoga.  Power yoga was originally modeled on the Ashtanga method and some even call it as “gym yoga”. Unlike Ashtanga yoga, power yoga doesn’t follow a set series of postures. It mainly emphasizes on flexibility and strength and is considered by many as an “up-tempo” aerobic exercise where yoga poses are done faster and in continuation. In the Power Yoga practiced by its proponents in America, poses are followed up with strength training while synchronizing one’s breathing patterns with each movement, while giving attention to posture, breath and focal point for the gaze.  Actually, Power Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga are generic terms referring to any form of yoga based on the vigorous style of Ashtanga Yoga exercise.  Another difference with traditional yoga is its lesser number of chants. Traditional yoga has parts where “Om” has to be chanted either in controlled breaths or at one go. Meditation and its various forms are practiced as well. Some say, that in power yoga, these two core elements of traditional yoga are present in reduced amounts, thus causing outrage among yoga Purists who claim that it’s “artificial yoga” designed to cause more harm than good. These Purists go on further to add that Power Yoga introduces elements of competition and restlessness, which is not the intention of yoga. They say, “Supermarket editions” of yoga ruin the basic essence and spirituality of traditional yoga. Now, when a celebrity or a bunch of them claim to be benefitted by something, nobody has the power to give voice to the Purists. Power yoga is often only recommended for people who are already fit and enjoy exercise and are looking for some variety. In other words, it should be practiced by people experienced in Yoga. Many yoga experts have said that doing a hundred Surya Namaskars a day with no sense of alignment is a sure shot way to injury. Since, “Power Yoga” is a very generic term; trainers often incorporate their own styles and other elements into it and excluding basic activities such as the “Pranayam” and “Yoga Nidra”, thus resulting in constant high-activity and high-stress yoga. Just how ironic is “high-stress yoga”?

While people still argue about the authenticity of Power Yoga and its many other versions, the celebs who first made noise with it have quietly shifted to other forms of exercise. When there is something new, there’s bound to be uproar and outrage. Very few would be willing to accept it with open hands and there will be still others willing to experiment with it while others may only choose to talk about it. It’s about the re-introduction or rediscovery of the good that was already there and is waiting to be brought back into the limelight. While nobody knows whether the recovered goodness will actually be useful, it’s the faith that counts. The faith with which we give ourselves a second chance, a new lease of life. After all, it’s the inner faith that makes the impossible, possible.

Believer. Reader. Brooder.