Yoga is a great way to de-stress, get in shape, and improve your mental health. But many people end up with injuries or are intimidated by the more intense practices.
If you are looking for a gentler approach to yoga that still has all the benefits of the practice, then slow yoga is right up your alley. Slow Yoga is all about maintaining poses for longer periods of time, slower transitions between poses, rhythmic deep breathing and a greater degree of focus on relaxation. Students have time to learn and adjust their practice at their own pace, making it accessible to a far greater range of students irrespective of age and ability.
In this post, we explore what slow yoga in greater detail, together with seven key reasons why slow yoga may be just the thing for you.
Slow Living: A New Way Of Life
Will you be surprised that slow Yoga is connected to fast food?
The slow food movement originated in Italy, in response to the growing fast-food market – going directly against the Italians’ love of slow, delicious lunches and dinners in the company of family and friends.
Quickly expanding internationally into what is known as the “slow living movement”, this is all about disconnecting from life’s everyday stresses and pressures, (literally) slowing down, and be more present.
The Slow Yoga Revolution
This desire to lead a slower and simpler life soon took in other aspects of life – Yoga being no exception.
In fact, the last ten years or so have seen a slow Yoga revolution – a move towards a more conscious and mindful practice, free from any kind of performance pressure.
Slow Yoga in part evolved also in response to increasingly faster and tougher Yoga classes. Whether it’s Hot and Power Yoga, Bikram Yoga and fast Vinyasa (flow), many people are looking for Yoga classes that are sweaty and demand hard physical exertion.
However, they also miss out on the integral mental, emotional and spiritual benefits of Yoga.
Benefits of Slow Yoga
The goal of slow Yoga – a bit like gentle Yoga – is to make it more accessible for most practitioners.
Do you think that Yoga is out of your bounds due to limited fitness, injuries, or chronic health issues? Think again!
Slow Yoga presents an entry point for all those people who have limitations of some kind. Or, for those who have looked a pretzel Yoga poses and thought “not for me”!
In slow Yoga, there’s not much that can go wrong. In fact, the key objective is to slow everything down to that you can take the time to get everything right.
2. A Deeper Learning Experience
Yoga is as much about a philosophical approach to life as it is about physical fitness. It is therefore of huge value to everyone, irrespective of ability.
Learning and practicing Yoga slowly will deepen your experience across its physical, mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions.
For example, each Yoga pose usually delivers a multitude of benefits in one go. Therefore, it may strengthen and stretch muscles and tendons, increase our concentration and relax our minds – all at the same time. If you take the time, then you can truly experience these multiple benefits.
Slow Yoga practice has the capacity to teach us more about individual poses, connect us to our body and mind, and help us deepen our learning experience.
3. Improved Strength and Flexibility
Many of us don’t dare to get into Yoga because we are too worried that we won’t measure up in terms of strength and flexibility.
More than likely, that’s true for many of us. However, that is the very reason all of us should practice Yoga, as it helps us build strength and flexibility.
Once you practice Yoga more regularly, you will find yourself suddenly move more nimbly through your housework or climb steps more easily. You will also have better balance – both in body and mind.
4. Injury Prevention
Let’s be honest: Yoga has the potential to cause injuries.
It’s also a fact that Yoga injuries are increasing as yoga classes are becoming faster and more demanding in terms of strength and flexibility. Statistics indicate that this is particularly the case for older practitioners.
But who wants to end up with Yoga injury?
Slow Yoga gives us much more time to get into and sustain poses with care, and explore our body’s ability to adjust and modify any pose if necessary.
As a result, the risk of injury is significantly reduced, and our Yoga practice becomes more sustainable in the longer term.
5. Emotional and Mental Well-Being
Doing Yoga slowly, funnily enough, can be more challenging than doing it fast. In this fast living world, slowing down can test our patience and increase our tendency to become bored.
And yet, doing Yoga regularly will help us overcome this problem and help us be quiet and in the present, without becoming stressed over taking life more slowly than normal.
Slow flow Yoga can be deeply calming to the mind and emotions. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is critical to reducing stress.
6. Yoga Practice That Is Sustainable
The benefits of Yoga can extend well into old age, if the practice is slow and gentle.
Many of us have seen images of Yoga teachers who continue their teaching well into their 90ies. They do so with a big smile on their faces and simple grace. Something that most of us would aspire to.
Slow flow Yoga makes the practice sustainable into old age through its careful and progressive approach.
7. A Pathway To Feeling Great
Yoga becomes truly valuable good if we practice it according to our abilities often and over a long time. That way we can build the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits slowly over time – a bit like savings in a bank account.
A little bit, often and over a long time, leads to a lot of credit in that account. And that is the freeway to feeling much, much better over time.
Which Yoga Styles Are Considered Slow?
If you are looking for slow Yoga classes, either online or with a Yoga studio, check the speed and difficulty level of the class in advance.
You can do this by speaking to the studio staff or relevant Yoga teacher, or by having a quick “whizz” through a Yoga video you are interested in.
Some Yoga styles/classes that usually embed a slow flow approach include:
- Any beginner or gentle Yoga classes
- Hatha Yoga
- Slow Vinyasa Yoga
- Yin Yoga
- Restorative Yoga
Before you start practicing slow flow Yoga
If you have never done Yoga before, you might be interested to read some of our other introductory articles on Yoga, including:
- 15 Yoga Tips for Beginners
- The Beginner’s Guide to Choosing Your Yoga Style
- 14 Common Beginner Yoga Pose Mistakes
- What To Bring To Yoga Class – An Essential Guide
- 10 Qualities Of A Yoga Teacher You Should be Looking Out For
- How To Motivate Yourself To Do Yoga Regularly In Six Steps
When you start practicing Yoga in class or online: be your own guru. Only do what your body tells you what you can do, based on the principle of honesty and doing no harm.
If there is a pose or movement that does not feel right, either revert to a previous/alternative pose or simply wait it out just breathing deeply.
3 Free Online Slow Flow Yoga Sequences
Below we recommend some of our favourite slow flow Yoga sessions with teachers that bring a perspective to Yoga that we rarely see.
Dr Melissa West: 30-Day Beginner Challenge
Melissa West is a hugely intelligent and talented Yoga teacher who teaches a fusion of Hatha, Yin and Restorative Yoga, both on YouTube and her private channel.
If you are a beginner or unsure about Yoga in terms of your abilities, her 30-day beginner challenge of daily 10-minute videos are a great way to get you started. These videos provide an ideal mix of relaxation, breathing, and Yoga poses while avoiding most poses that are likely to present a challenge.
Not only that, Melissa will also regale you with a daily poetry selection. And yes, she manages to fit all that into 10 minutes of slow Yoga. 10 minutes are not enough? Do two or more of them, they are so relaxing.
Shelley Nicole Of Sovereign Hands
Shelley Nicole is another wonderfully relaxed Yoga teacher whose beginner classes will be suitable for most. She brings another world to Yoga – one of touch and healing.
Shelley keeps us reminded of our breath all the time and suggests suitable Yoga pose modifications to cater to most limitations.
You will feel like a different person at the end of one of her sessions.
Adriene Mishler of Yoga with Adriene
As for many of you out there, we are a great fan of Adriene Mishler and her gentle and no-nonsense approach to Yoga.
The first two Yoga sessions above involved getting yourself on the floor and back up again. That’s not possible for everyone – so here is a slow Yoga session while you are standing up. If that is an issue for you, you could easily do this session whilst sitting down – with a little creativity.
You don’t even have to get dressed up for this slow flow Yoga sequence – you can do it on the spot in your living room or in the office.
Is slow flow Yoga for beginners? Any slow form of Yoga will be a better starting place for beginners – for all the reasons outlined above. However, it always pays out to check a class properly in terms of its suitability if you have any physical or other health issues.
What about the calories burned by slow flow Yoga? Slow flow Yoga will not burn calories as quickly as a Power Yoga class. However, because it calms the nervous system, it reduces stress-related cravings and promotes more mindful thinking about how we consume food. In the end, it might, therefore, be more useful for weight loss purposes.
What does “SLOW” stand for in the slow living movement? Based on the original Italian slow food movement, SLOW is sometimes as meaning:
S = Sustainable – not having an impact
L = Local – food that is produced locally and not transported in from a distance
O = Organic – not mass-produced
W = Whole – not processed
How do I live a slow life? Once you start looking for it, you will find it everywhere, whether this is at a slow food market, in a slow Yoga class, or in a meditation retreat. There are many opportunities for introducing principles of slower living to your life.
It often starts with people finding ways to disconnect from daily pressures and electronic gadgetry, and create time and create space for stillness and mindfulness.
If you were of a mind to start to living more slowly, then examples of this include:
- more slow flow Yoga 🙂
- re-designing stressful commuting and working habits
- spending time on hobbies rather than watching TV
- exploring creative activities
- delving into nature
- relaxing time with family and friends (with slow food), etc.
Once you start thinking about it, the opportunities are endless. And – the way slow living will work out will be unique for every human being.