Power. Vinyasa. Acro. Kundalini. Ashtanga. Hatha. Hot. Jivamukti. Anusara. Bikram. Iyengar. Yoga Sculpt. You can find yoga classes that combine yoga with weights, yoga + cycling, and yoga + pilates. Heck, you can even find classes that combine yoga and a pint of beer!
There are a LOT of kinds of yoga, people!
So much of the yoga we see or experience tends to be fast-paced. Many studios now heat all their yoga classes, not just the "hot" yoga classes. Yoga for fitness has been really popular since about the start of the 2000s. If you've ever seen a picture of someone practicing yoga, perhaps on social media or a magazine, you probably have seen an idealized version of a "yoga body"; fit, super flexible, little body fat, ripped abs, sweat dripping, wearing some kind of expensive gear or clothing, getting their workout on or doing some kind of intense balance or inversion pose.
Yoga is a great tool to get fit, manage weight, build strength, mobility, and flexibility, but not for the reasons you might think. And, you can completely uplevel your yoga practice, whichever style you prefer, by slowing down.
Exercise is important for cardiovascular health and can help in strengthening bones and muscles. Yet there isn't a huge correlation between exercise and weight loss. Much of the research into weight gain suggests the primary contributors are stress and inflammation. Slow yoga practices focus in on reducing stress, which aids in reducing inflammation, which can lead to...healthy weight management. The community aspect of yoga and the support you can find there also contribute to healthy weight. And don't forget about yoga's ability to increase your self-awareness, not only on the mat, but off the mat and in your life. Bringing mindfulness to your food choices, acknowledging your body's need for rest, or becoming better able to manage anxiety all contribute to healthy weight.
You may have heard of the runner's high or how exercise-induced endorphins help to relieve pain or stress, and boost happiness. While fast exercise is good for cardiovascular health, slow practices help you in a different way. Slow yoga enables you to build greater self-awareness and a more resilient nervous system so you can better handle the stress of life’s ups and downs. It can aid in improving self-regulation and developing greater psychological flexibility. Slow yoga trains your nervous system so that you can feel centered and peaceful when you need to, focused and energized when you need to, empowering you to better manage your emotional response rather than be at the mercy of it.
Many people believe that the goal of yoga is to learn harder and harder poses, and that "advanced" yoga practitioners are those who can do very difficult poses like arm balances or what I call pretzel poses. It can be really fun to work towards a goal pose, see your progress, and finally achieve it, but these intense poses are only one piece of the yoga puzzle. Slow yoga practices start to shift your perspective on what advanced truly means, bringing it back to the true purpose of yoga, which is not just the physical poses themselves. An advanced yoga practice can also mean being able to sleep better, digest your food better, have better relationships, experience less pain, feel more at peace with yourself, have better focus, and feel healthier mentally and emotionally. These are often thought of as the side benefits of doing the physical yoga practice, but I'd argue this is the ultimate benefit of any yoga practice.
Often people may feel the need to push themselves harder to increase their flexibility, especially to realize more intense poses. This can often lead to injury, and more than a few well-known yoga teachers have had to take a leave of absence from the mat due to injury. Pushing, and not listening to your body's signs and signals, is how people get hurt in yoga. If you experience hypermobility (joints that easily move beyond the normal range expected) you might injure yourself the most doing a hot or fast practice. Slow yoga practice helps you to learn to move mindfully and find greater satisfaction in movement, without overstretching and hurting yourself. It provides a safer, more sustainable experience that won’t create chronic pain problems, even with extended practice over time.
Now to strength. Often people feel like they can’t get strong if they are not breathing hard, moving fast, or using weights. Slow yoga, particularly in weight bearing poses like down dog, or balance poses like Warrior 3, is an excellent way to build muscle. Slow doesn’t necessarily mean wimpy. Instead, yoga builds strength by increasing muscle tone, definition, and even muscle size through “lifting” your own body weight. Slow yoga builds muscle stamina as you hold poses for longer periods. You activate smaller muscles groups that act as stabilizers in each an every poses, not just the big muscle groups where you might feel the burn. This is why slow yoga is a great form of functional strength training, meaning building strength in the whole body so that it can perform daily activities in the real world, not just lifting a certain amount of weight. Slow yoga also increases neuromuscular control, or the communication between your brain and muscles.
Are you ready to uplevel your yoga practice and slow down? Tell me in the comments one thing that surprised you about slow yoga and one question you have about it!
Until next week,
pssst! If you haven't already, make sure to subscribe to my blog so you don't miss another post! And, if you'd like some guidance with your yoga, on or off your mat, you can book private sessions with me.
I'm Tonia, a Midwesterner transplanted to Colorado. I'm a mom of two lovely littles, a yoga instructor, DIY-er, teacher, stay at home mom, and a doTERRA Wellness Advocate. I blog about a little bit of all of these and everything in between!
Are you looking for natural health options, but don't know where to start? Book a 1-on-1 appointment with me! We'll spend about 30 minutes getting to know your health goals and concerns, learn a bit about doTERRA, and go over the most commonly used oils that meet your needs. You don't have to buy anything, but if you see something you like, of course I can help you!