Have you ever thought of starting Yoga but hesitate because of lack of fitness, strength, injury, stiffness or age? Or have you looked at Yoga pictures on the web and decided it looks just too difficult? Gentle Yoga might be a good alternative for you.
Gentle or slow Yoga is designed to be accessible to anyone, irrespective of any limitation. It is a way of practicing Yoga that is inclusive and non-competitive. It encourages us to be gentle with ourselves and our bodies.
Overall, gentle Yoga suits almost everyone, whatever the limitations. In this article, we explore what it is all about, its benefits and who gains the most from its practice.
What Is Gentle Yoga?
A Growing Trend
Gentle Yoga is a growing trend worldwide in an aim to accommodate those students for whom many Yoga classes are too difficult, even at the beginner level. It aims to accommodate people from all backgrounds, limitations, age, size and ability. Students receive tailored instruction to fit in wherever they are on their Yoga journey. Progress takes place in a slow-paced and steady way.
Gentle Yoga is not a Yoga style (such as Hatha or Vinyasa). Instead, it is an approach to Yoga, with the overall goal of making it accessible to anyone.
A Low-Intensity and Restorative Approach
Overall, gentle Yoga is low-intensity and restorative, combining both stationary and movement-based Yoga poses. Individual poses are held for a short to medium length. The main goal is gentle stretching, strengthening and improving balance.
Each student can take as much time as required to do certain poses. There is no pressure to succeed.
Because of this fundamental difference in approach, classes are usually small in size so that the Yoga teacher has sufficient time to guide each student individually. The teacher’s goal is to help each student develop body awareness, proper aligment and the ability to relax.
A Happy and Calm Atmosphere
Gentle Yoga seeks to create a happy and calm energy, and an environment that is inclusive and non-competitive. As a result, Yoga becomes restorative, nurturing and supporting the body’s healing functions.
Where necessary, props are available to support specific poses and sequences.
Gentle Yoga Is For Everyone
Practising gentle Yoga opens up opportunities and benefits for many people who never thought Yoga was an option. It works particularly well for:
- anyone who experiences a low level of fitness, strength or flexibility
- beginners who are looking for a gentle way to start Yoga
- older students who experience health issues such as stiffness, osteoarthritis or other chronic health issues
- pregnant women
- plus-size people who are interested in getting started with Yoga
- athletes with injuries
- patients recovering from surgery
- anyone who seeks Yoga practice that is gentle for the body, mind and spirit.
Is Gentle Yoga Easy?
Is gentle Yoga easy? Not necessarily. Although practised at a gentle level, it aims to both strengthen and stretch your joints, muscles and tendons. Expect some poses or sequences to induce a sweat. Others will be slow and relaxing. In this way, the two opposites (yin and yang) complement each other.
Gentle Yoga aims to engage the mind. Students do this by paying attention to the sensation of movement and breath. In turn, this creates a mind and body awareness that is very beneficial to mental and emotional health. It takes practice to become good at that.
What Are The Key Benefits Of Doing Gentle Yoga?
Gentle Yoga is very much like other Yoga styles in that it:
- strengthens the body
- improves flexibility and balance
- increases energy and stamina
- relieves stress and
- has a calming and relaxing effect.
Over and above this, Gentle Yoga aims to improve the range of motion of joints and encourage calmness and relaxation. It seeks to strengthen, protect and nurture joints, muscles and connective tissues, without the risk of injury.
Gentle, slow or restorative Yoga practice is also very helpful in soothing and balancing the nervous and digestive systems. Not only that – it fosters general relaxation and better sleep.
Last but not least, Gentle Yoga welcomes and provides access to many people who normally would not have found another entry point into Yoga.
Once practice is established, the process of mastering new Yoga skills has a very beneficial effect on self-confidence and happiness levels.
How Can I Get Into Gentle Yoga?
If are keen to get into Yoga and have been inactive for a few years or fit into any of the groups described above, you will be a candidate for Gentle Yoga.
Before you do anything, do an inventory of your body. Move and circle your feet, legs and arms. Do some knee bends and raise your arms above your head. Bend forward and backwards slightly. Circle your head gently. Do you have any areas that feel stiff, uncomfortable or painful? Is it difficult for you to get down on the floor and up again?
Make a list of any areas that present a difficulty for you.
If you have physical issues, have a chat with your doctor about whether Yoga (and what style of Yoga) will suit you. Also find out what is the right time to get into yoga-style exercise, especially after an injury or surgery.
There are several ways of getting into practising Yoga the gentle way. For example, you can do classes in a local studio or community centre. Or, you could also start Yoga at home by following the advice provided in a book such as Yoga for Everyone , or by following classes or courses online.
What Can I Expect In A Gentle Yoga Class?
Some Yoga studios and local community centres specifically offer gentle Yoga classes or gentle yoga-style classes – for example, a gentle Hatha or Vinyasa Yoga class. Other classes such as Yoga for Absolute Beginners, Yoga Basics and Yoga for seniors also fit the bill. You should not hesitate to participate if you are not yet a senior. Quite often these classes are extremely beneficial and a great starting point.
If you have problems with getting down on the floor and up again, you could consider a Chair Yoga class. These classes encompass a surprising range of Yoga poses and are an excellent stepping stone to more challenging yoga classes.
Look out for classes that are of a small size and where you get plenty of attention from the Yoga teacher. Bring your list of physical limitations to class and have chat with staff or the Yoga teacher to work out which class will be suitable for you.
Also, take the opportunity to find out whether you need any props – equipment that will support you in Yoga poses that are difficult for you.
Check out our article on “What to bring to Yoga class” to prepare yourself for your class. You might also be interested in our article that discusses the 10 best qualities you should look out for in a Yoga teacher to help you ask the right questions.
Can I Do Gentle Yoga At Home?
The easy answer to this is a resounding yes. Going to a Yoga class can be surprisingly challenging for many Yoga students – even if they are experienced.
For students with physical restrictions, it can be even more is even more difficult. This is the case especially students fear they won’t be able to to keep up or somehow look silly.
It can, therefore, feel safer to practice at home. Home practice may also be preferable if someone is not mobile, or if Yoga classes are not available within a reasonably short distance.
But remember, practising Yoga at home requires greater awareness as there is no Yoga teacher to provide us with personalized advice.