A funny thing has happened in the yoga community. More and more yoga teachers and students are starting to practice yoga slowly. In slow yoga, the transitions between poses are more mindful and the poses are held longer. The shift to slow yoga is changing the practice to make it less about pushing the body through the sequences and more about being in the practice.
The idea behind slow yoga is not just that you're moving your body more slowly, it's a question of purpose. Ask yourself, why are you practicing yoga today? Some yogis practice to relieve pain. Some want to be stronger. Some want to be more flexible. Some are practicing yoga to learn how to be well. Many yogis want all of these things.
Slowing down increases the challenge
It may sound surprising to you, but moving slowly is harder to do than moving quickly between and through the pose sequences. It can be humbling and even a little scary for experienced yogis to slow down and realize they suddenly feel weak and shaky in poses they may have been practicing for years.
Hold the pose long enough and parts of your body that were not previously participating come back to life.
When you hold a pose for longer periods of time, the body shifts the workload into the core muscles, which are closer to the bones. The shaking you experience is the phasic muscles, which are the more superficial surface muscles, transferring the effort to the deeper muscles. What you find when this happens is another, sometimes unrecognizable, layer of strength.
Slow yoga expands the experience
When you slow down the yoga practice, you have the time to refine and fully experience each pose. Even the transitions between poses become more meaningful as your body releases from the previous pose and gets in position for the next, it experiences the benefits of each pose more fully.
Slow yoga takes the pressure to accomplish something off the list and puts experiencing something back on the list.
In a slow yoga class, you get to notice how the pose changes over time. You get to feel what it's like to be in that pose through multiple breaths. Even without moving the pose becomes something new as your body accepts this shape in this moment. In the stillness, there's a crazy amount of movement and in a slow yoga class you get to experience the fluid motion of your body.
Slow yoga breaks up density
One of the most important reasons to practice yoga is to break up the density of the physical body to allow the prana to flow more freely. As a result of stress, or lack of movement, aging, negative emotions, the physical body can become dense and stiff.
In slow yoga, the prana can start to break up mental, emotional, and energetic blocks in the body.
The longer holds in a slow yoga practice allow the deeper muscles to engage, rather than just the attachments like tendons and ligaments. In those muscles are the real strength and potential elasticity as they lengthen and release.
Slower yoga, slower life
The intense feeling of going fast may serve you sometimes, but it's not sustainable. In a slower practice, you may feel impatient or stagnant but it's in those moments you learn to let go and watch those feelings wash by. Slowing down our everyday lives can be a challenge, and for many teachers and students the effort of slowing down the yoga practice leads to a gentle slowing of the intensity of our lives off the mat.