You have probably heard of the Slow Food movement. Our fast food nation is faced with a health, heart, and planetary crisis that slow food can help heal. If we eat what grows locally, and cook that fresh and local produce at home, we not only eat healthier food, but we learn to slow down and take nourishment form a real meal, eaten with attention.
Convenience gives the illusion of more time and more ease but we are learning that the opposite is true. The more convenience we have, the more we cram into our lives with less value and connection overall to our lives and our communities.
The Yoga world is also becoming a Fast Food environment with random classes everywhere, drop ins on ClassPass, and the overall speed and intention of practice designed for mass consumption and instant gratification. Harder, faster, louder styles of yoga are becoming the norm and students expect to be entertained and applauded just for showing up.
Well, I’m here to tell you that there is another way.
Slow Yoga is like slow food. It requires you to pause and look around long enough to find a studio and a teacher you are willing to settle into practice with. Slow Yoga is both the speed of asana you practice as well as the container you choose to practice in.
Like the Slow Food movement, the rewards of slow yoga are profound and deeply rebellious in the best way.
Slow Yoga is yoga practiced consistently in community.
Slow Yoga is yoga seen as a wholistic practice that heals us first and foremost.
Slow Yoga is Yoga that isn’t about gimmicks or quick fixes.
Slow Yoga is asana practiced at a speed that allows feeling and reflection whether the asana is vigorous or gentle.
Here are some of the benefits of a slow practice:
1. Safety and Sustainability – When you take time to come into poses slowly you can set up your base well and make better choices. Coming out of poses mindfully increases your safety and lowers your chance of injury overall. You should be able to stay calm and stay in your breath throughout practice. Your nervous system is in flight or flight a lot and yoga should not be more of the same. If you practice yoga the way you live your life, you will reinforce patterns that aren’t serving you.
2. Improved Alignment – Within every style of Hatha yoga asana there are specific alignment rules that we learn and practice. Over time we gather the requisite strength, flexibility, and attention to execute a semblance of those rules which hold together in a recognizable pattern. When we take the time to set up the base of the pose and we linger a while, we get feedback from our own bodies and our teacher. We can continue to move more fully into a healthy and balanced expression of the posture. Muscular engagement, isometric actions and cross-referencing the body takes time and a skilled teacher/focused student to implement.
3. Improved Awareness – All of this attention to detail expands your internal landscape and helps you uncover a roadmap for your system. In Hatha Yoga we start by paying attention to the body in the most obvious ways but this practice leads towards a greater depth of experience overall. Through attention we shift patterns and grow.
4. Opportunity to Explore Personal Alignment/Core Alignment – Those rules of alignment mentioned above are sometimes standard, but often have more to do with a specific goal or general safety than overall correctness. Alignment is always changing and is often arbitrary. Because of this fact, not only do we need to go slow enough to refine the standard alignment but we also need to have the time to uncover a more personal and universal alignment. In Sarayana Yoga we call your personal alignment CORE ALIGNMENT. It is comprised of three experiential elements, ground, center, and sky. This core alignment is applicable to all poses, all movement, and once it is uncovered it is never lost.
5. Better Relationship with your Feelings – When we live in a state of auto pilot on overdrive we don’t have the time to feel what we are experiencing. The longer we live in this way, the less equipped we are to deal with intense emotions when they do arise. Social media, food, alcohol, sex, shopping, and entertainment of all kinds are used like a super destructive drug of avoidance. Our practice though, offers big medicine for this cultural ill. As we slow down and get quiet, all of those feelings come up. We learn to befriend difficult emotions and eventually clear old stagnant ones that have been clogging up the system.
While Yoga is for EVERYBODY, not everybody actually wants to practice yoga. If you are called to the transformational study and practice of Yoga, I encourage you to slow down and do the work. The rewards are endless.