Monday, February 28, 2011

Hayley Coutts Midterm Paper

Hayley Coutts

CSOCS 3452 Yoga: Theory, Culture, and Practice

Professor Laura Douglass

February 21, 2011

My experience at Synergy Yoga: The Pros and Cons

Although I have attended Synergy yoga four times in the past, I have always made sure to attend the basic class they offer, mainly because I was afraid of the power yoga class. Synergy practices in a studio that is heated at ninety degrees. The first time I visited this fact alone was very overwhelming. I am a long distance runner, so I am used to sweating, but over a gradual amount of time. The heat in the Synergy studio activates the body’s sweat glands almost instantaneously upon walking in. The basic class allows for a chance for the body to regulate itself in the heat, while as I learned Thursday night, the power class does not. Synergy’s basic yoga allows my mind to benefit from the practice, while their power yoga class does not.

Synergy opened in 2004 in Providence, Rhode Island, then a year later they moved to Barrington, Rhode Island where it currently resides (Sullivan). Alyssa Sullivan, the owner has been practicing yoga for twenty years. She began her training with Baron Baptiste (Sullivan). She studied and taught with him for three years. She took her findings to her own studio, Synergy, and continued to teach Baron Baptiste’s Power Vinyasa yoga (Sullivan). “Baron has combined the disciplines of Astanga, Bikram, and Lyengar yoga; and has created a flowing, challenging, and moving meditation accessible to just about everybody” (Sullivan).

The studio is kept at ninety degrees “to help open the body and deepen the experience of release” (Sullivan). The practice is meant to stimulate the mind and body. “The relationship between effort and ease, doing and non-doing, and strength and flexibility all relate to bringing, not only the body, but your whole being in to a state of equanimity” (Sullivan). Classes are available by drop in for a price of fifteen dollars, and a discounted price for students for thirteen dollars. The studio also offers a class card, which is good for ten classes priced at one hundred and ten dollars.

When I arrived at the power yoga class, I noticed that the class was a lot smaller than the basic classes I have been to. This maybe due to the fact that it was a week night, but I have a feeling that people have the same fear I had about power yoga .The people in the class also seemed to be showing off a lot more skin than those in the basic class. I am aware that it is hot in the class, but this class seemed to not be for the modest, self-conscious type. The class shared similarities with the basic class, one being that there were more women than men. The total class consisted of about ten people, two of them being men probably around the forty to fifty age range.

I believe Synergy appeals to the public, because yoga skeptics visiting the website would believe it to build body strength, and tone. The images on the website are of the owner, who is very fit, and would make any skeptic believe that whatever she is practicing works. However, although Synergy most likely receives many customers in hopes to achieve a better physique, I believe that the practice at Synergy activates the mind over body.

In the studio, they have painted on the wall a quote by Sri Ramakrishna. The quote reads: “The winds of grace are always blowing; all we need to do is raise our sails”. This quote applies to the yoga practice in terms of breathing. The body itself is always breathing, most humans never pay attention to their breath unless they have asthma or some other breathing condition, but in order to calm their mind all they need to do is concentrate on their breath. This is how I interpreted this quote, that all one needs to relax is oneself. Yoga is something that can be practiced any place; it doesn’t have to be in a class, or studio.

The influence of Synergy seems different from what I have learned in class so far. Although I have felt benefits from both my body, and mind, I feel as though it is very Americanized. By this I mean that the way Synergy presents itself is through image. During the power class the teacher even said during one of the poses this will tone your quads, and glutes. The impression I got from the readings in our course is that this is not what yoga is suppose to be about. It is meant to be about freeing oneself, and by worrying about achieving better thighs you are doing just the opposite of that.

In comparison to the Hatha practice we do in class, Synergy’s yoga differs greatly but shares few similarities. In class we focus a lot more on breathing. We concentrate of different breathing techniques. At Synergy, the only time we focused on breath was to count out the pose. We do this too in class, but its not in a rushing way, its in a meditating way.

The main difference between the two is the heated room in comparison to the non-heated one. During our class practice, I usually experience little to no perspiration at all. At Synergy, especially their power class I couldn’t control my sweat. At times I found my sweating distracting from the yoga experience. I found myself worrying about slipping on my mat or watching the sweat drip down off my body and hit the floor. I would then have to remove myself from the practice to wipe my face or hands with my towel, or to get a drink from my water bottle.

My favorite part of the Synergy practice is the last fifteen to twenty minutes when we did the practice on the floor, this reminds me the most of our class. During this time I am able to come the mind, and like we practice in class “forget about” the body. It is also the quietest part of class. I think it is interesting that this is the part I feel most free, because my mind has the opportunity to worry, or wander, but it does not. It just stays still.

The next morning after I attended Synergy’s power class I was so sore. I think it is because in the heat my muscles were able to relax, but when they returned to the cold air they tightened up. I have never experience soreness after taking part in the Hatha yoga we do in class. I believe the heat and the fast pace are the cause of the soreness I experienced. I think this could be a bad thing for Synergy, because most people when they feel pain are less likely to do it again. I think that is why less people attend the power class because only those who are physically able to practice it attend.

One of the teachers at Synergy offers free podcasts on her website. I think this is a great idea, because it allows people to make yoga apart of their life. Most people are busy with day-to-day responsibilities, but if they wanted to practice the Baptiste style of yoga anytime at their own leisure the option is available to them. However, this idea is also very American. Yoga should be able to be practiced by oneself. By incorporating technology, and images of toned barely clothed females, it turns a historical practice into a member of pop culture.

I enjoy the basic classes at Synergy, because I am drawn towards the feeling of calming the mind, and regulating the body, this practice seems most similar to my own practice of distance running, because it is done in a gradual pace. It’s not all at once, and rushed. Power yoga is like sprinting; the practice is to move from one pose to the next, very quickly. There is little resting time to even be aware of what is happening to the breath or body. I began to feel sick at one point due to the temperature of the room, and the up and down of the movements.

As a form of freeing the mind, I would prefer Hatha yoga. It seems to be the most “life escaping”. By this I mean you are able to escape the stress of everyday life, and are able to be in the moment. Power yoga allows you to be in the moment too, but in a different way. I was consumed with the concentration of which pose was after which, and what my body had to do next. However, this isn’t exactly freeing, because you are still telling you body to do things, unlike Hatha where the breath becomes your mantra and the body’s movements almost become voluntary. With that being said, there are more pros in Hatha yoga than cons, and more cons in Synergy’s power yoga than pros.

Works Cited

Sullivan, Alyssa. Synergy Power Yoga. Web. 15 Feb. 2011.



  1. From reading this blog, I thought Synergy yoga would be a good practice for me to follow, since I am a very active person and have a lot of trouble relaxing my mind and body. This practice is meant to stimulate both the mind and body, which I thought would help me to gain more of an inner experience with myself, and be able to bring my mind and body to a state of equanimity. I also liked what Hayley wrote about Bikram Yoga, it allowed me to get a better understanding of this practices main goal. I felt this practice would also help to relax my mind and maybe even cure my anxiety, since this practice helps increase one’s strength, flexibility, and balance in the physical body while energizing and awakening the mind.

  2. Hayley I was appreciating your descriptions of the Synergy yoga and the classes you attended. I would have to agree with you that the heated power yoga classes are challenging. I have always stayed away from "power yoga" classes for fear of injuries. Even though the heat in the room is supposed to relax the muscles, I would be intimidated by the physical effort. For me the ideal yoga class is what we experience in our Monday Yoga class. There is a wonderful slow flow that allows the mind to relax and when that happens the body relaxes, at least that is my experience. I can appreciate the physical challenge that power yoga offers and there are many who need that challenge to find their relaxation. Thank you for sharing your experience.