I like to teach a slower paced yoga class, but for many yoga students, slow is simply not an option. Slow equates to not enough speed or too much static physical challenge or makes space for the mind to become restless and bored. There is also an association with being “too easy” and not creating an environment where physical speed and endurance allow the student to avoid facing their current stresses/emotions by creating distraction. As Mahatma Ghandi said “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”
To combat the stressful “always on” lifestyles becoming prevalent in our society, I believe there is a greater need to learn how to switch off or slow down before we forget how to do this altogether. My top 6 benefits of a slower yoga practice are:
1. Deeper focus
Time becomes available to physically and mentally engage with the posture and space is created to actually feel what is going on in the body. You have time to experience the little things that happen to your body and become magical moments in yoga.
2. Physical Strength
Moving slowly fosters correct muscle engagement. Holding postures for longer encourages those muscles to work harder resulting in greater strength.
3. Attention to breath
Because we breathe unconsciously, we don’t often take the time to observe the breath and see how we are actually breathing. It’s very common for people to breath in a restricted way, shallow and high in the chest. Taking the time to observe the breath in a slower practice allows more effort to be made to breathe more efficiently.
4. A calming effect on the mind and nervous system
Slow, breath-led movement stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for promoting rest and relaxation in the body. The more regularly this happens, the greater the likelihood that this more relaxed state of being will follow you off your yoga mat and into daily life.
5. Injury Prevention
It’s harder to push the body way beyond its limitations when movement is slow and controlled. If you’re in control of what you’re doing, you’re less likely to have a lapse of concentration as a result of moving too fast or being too tired. You’ll also be more open to noticing when you’ve reached your limit, avoiding unnecessary injury.
6. Mental Strength
When the practice is slower, we move towards becoming present in the moment and more able to fully absorb our practice. We gradually begin to experience sense withdrawal leading us into a mindful practice.
I understand that slower paced yoga is not for everyone – some people are just not able to cope with being still, but yoga is a transformative process. The more you do it, the more you learn about yourself and what you need physically and mentally.