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Key Gentle Yoga Styles for Stretching and Stillness (The Ultimate Guide)

Looking for an exercise that can also give you serenity? Everything you need to know about Gentle Yoga such as benefits, classes, forms, styles and how to do it at home, are all provided here.

A group of people doing the balasana yoga pose.

Yoga is a set of practices that began in ancient India that focus on a person’s physical, mental, and spiritual discipline. It is a wonderful activity that can be done alone or in a group. Many people are curious about the practice of yoga but worry that they may not be fit, strong, or young enough to do it. However, the reality is that someone is never too old for yoga and it is helpful at any age. Gentle Yoga is a great way to start to learn the basics of yoga along with stretching, relaxing, and stillness.

Gentle Yoga is also known as slow yoga and is designed so that anyone can practice it no matter what limitations they have. It is inclusive, non-competitive, flowing, and calm. It offers quiet strength while guiding the body and mind into a serene and gentle place.

Learning About Gentle Yoga

Gentle Yoga is a trend that is growing around the world. It is a discipline that everyone can partake in. It is good for a beginner up to the most experienced yogi and can accommodate all who want to enjoy it. It has no limitations when it comes to those who do it. Progress is slow and steady, so the learning is thorough and calm as the student is led through the step by step process.

If a person is interested in gentle yoga, it must be noted that this is not defined as a particular yoga style as Hatha or Vinyasa are. It is a way of doing yoga, an approach. The goal is for it to be accessible to all who want to enjoy the practice.

Gentle Yoga is great for most as it is low intensity and the approach is restorative. It uses a combination of stationery and movement-based poses. Each pose that is used is held for a short to medium period of time, so the focus is on gentle stretches, strengthening, and improved balance rather than speed.

The peaceful nature of Gentle Yoga lets each person take as much time as they need to do their poses with no pressure to hurry or finish them. The benefit that comes with gentle yoga is that it is usually done in a smaller group that allows each participant to get individual attention to help define their poses. It is important for those doing Gentle Yoga to work on improving body awareness, their ability to relax so they can start to enjoy the deep benefits of yoga.

The focus of Gentle Yoga is on creating energy that is joyful and calm as well as an atmosphere that is inclusive and is not competitive in any way. Gentle Yoga will be restorative, caring, and supportive of all the body’s healing abilities.

Those Who Benefit from Gentle Yoga

A group of people practicing yoga.

Doing Gentle Yoga offers many opportunities and benefits for so many people. For all those who thought they were too old, too ill, too stiff, too stressed, or too out of shape, Gentle Yoga is an opportunity to begin a lifestyle that is full of health, peace, and enjoyment. Gentle Yoga works well for all but especially:

  • Those who do not have a high level of fitness, strength, or are inflexible.
  • Beginners who want to start doing yoga in a gentle way.
  • Older people who are dealing with stiffness, osteoarthritis other ongoing health problems that may hold them back from more intense forms of yoga and exercise.
  • Women who are pregnant
  • People who are plus-size and want to start doing yoga.
  • Both athletes and non-athletes who have injuries.
  • People who have had surgery and working on recovery.
  • Those who want to work on yoga that is specifically gentle on the body, mind and soul.

Gentle Does Not Mean Easy

Just because a yoga sequence is deemed gentle, that does not necessarily mean it is easy. While the purpose is to do it in a gentle fashion, it is also done to strengthen and stretch muscles, joints, and tendons. Various poses and sequences will get the participant sweating while making sure the poses and transitions are smooth, slow, and relaxing. Poses will offer both intensity and gentleness. The two forms are yin and yang, and they specifically complement each other.

Gentle Yoga is about engaging the mind and body together. Participants work to do this by focusing their attention on their feelings of movement and breath. Focusing on these things brings a sense of mind and body awareness, which then brings mental and emotional wellbeing and health. This awareness may not be physically intense, but it takes practice in learning to do that.

Key Gentle Yoga Benefits

A group of people doing the Ardha Matsyendrasana pose.

Gentle yoga has many of the same benefits as other yoga styles. It helps:

  • Strengthen the whole body
  • Develops improved flexibility
  • Develops better balance
  • Improves energy and stamina
  • Reduces stress
  • Induces calm
  • Creates an effect of relaxation

Other benefits include an improved range of motion of all joints as well as strengthening them. It protects and nurtures joints, muscles, and other connective tissue so injuries are reduced and the person practicing it feels healthier and more stable.

While the muscle-skeletal system benefits greatly from Gentle Yoga, the nervous and digestive systems do as well. Gentle Yoga soothes and balances the systems to help with digestion and an overall feeling of calm, fostering a feeling of well being and better sleep habits as well.

The biggest benefit is that Gentle Yoga can help anyone and everyone. It offers access to those who may not have felt comfortable or been able to take part in other more intense types of yoga and exercise. Learning to become accomplished at Gentle Yoga extends a feeling of self-confidence and happiness that would otherwise not be fostered.

Choosing Gentle Yoga

If a student decides to begin a class of Gentle Yoga, then it is important they are prepared. If they have done any type of yoga previously, Gentle Yoga is perfect for restarting slowly. It is important to know how a body will physically react, so warming up can help. Moving the feet, arms, and legs in circles will loosen joints and a few knee bends can test stability.

Trying to raise the arms overhead also targets movement ability. They should also bend at the waist leaning forward and back to see if any of these areas feel stiff, awkward, or have pain. If there is pain, it does not mean they can not do Gentle Yoga, it just means the student needs to be mindful and careful with those areas that feel uncomfortable.

If there are any significant physical problems, then they should be discussed with a doctor. People should do this any time they are starting a new physical activity. This is especially true if the student has experienced an injury or had recent surgery. Once they feel they are ready to begin, then finding a local studio that has Gentle Yoga or community center may be a good place to start. If there are none open in a certain vicinity, then perhaps a book or online class courses can bring Gentle Yoga at home.

Finding the Right Gentle Yoga Class

A group of people practicing gentle yoga at a studio.

Classes are not always easy to find right now in a world of Covid-19. However, if you do find one that is doing them safely with social distancing and wearing masks, then make sure it is the right one for you. There are also many online options to follow along at home as well.

Look for classes that offer a Gentle Yoga style. Gentle Hatha or Vinyasa Yoga. Perhaps it is a course for beginners or offers yoga basics or for seniors. They all work when it comes to doing Gentle Yoga. You do not have to be a senior to enjoy senior yoga. They are still greatly beneficial and a good starting point when looking for Gentle Yoga classes.

If there is a struggle with the ability to get up and down from a floor position, then look for a chair yoga class. While this may sound rather awkward, these classes, either in person or online, have a great range of yoga poses and are perfect for learning the basics before moving on to a more challenging yoga class.

It is also important to find classes that are smaller in size so participants can get extra help and support from the yoga teacher. Know what your physical limitations are and share that with the teacher if you are in person. They will help you find a Gentle Yoga class that meets both your physical and learning needs. Teachers can also offer support in the proper use of items (props) that will help with any yoga poses that might seem difficult. Take advantage of any assistance that will help you enjoy Gentle Yoga to the fullest.

Doing Gentle Yoga at Home

The world is in a time when not everyone has an open yoga studio near them or wants to be in a class with other people. And while 2020 has brought the need to do things differently when it comes to yoga classes, it also reminds us that there are many people who may be immunocompromised and need to do classes from home in the best of times. Being able to do classes from home is a huge benefit and can be extremely rewarding at any experience level.

Doing Gentle Yoga from home is also helpful for those who are worried about keeping up with a group of people or perhaps are unsure about how they will look and do. Home is a safe haven for many, so home practices are helpful if a person cannot be mobile or they want to try things out and build up their confidence. However, if an individual is doing Gentle Yoga at home, then there needs to be a conscious effort to stay within ability limits. With no teacher to advise or correct, there is a higher risk of injury.

Finding the Right Gentle Yoga for You

A woman practicing gentle yoga at the spa.

The purpose of gentle yoga is to enjoy stretching and stillness of mind. It is not meant to be high intensity with a focus on calorie burning. Gentle Yoga is a good part of the yoga spectrum that focuses on slow stretching and peace rather than temperature and athletics. Neither are bad forms of yoga, but each has a place in the yoga world.

Gentle Yoga is different than more intense formats, as its focus is on breathing and stretching rather than strength and flexibility. All are part of it and can be worked on, but gentle means that none of it is extreme. There will be standing postures, bending and low impact poses along with seated stretches as well. A sense of stillness comes from doing all of it in a gentle and self-aware way. Gentle Yoga can be applied to different styles of yoga.

Styles such as Hatha while gentle, are not necessarily Gentle Yoga. Hatha is a general term that is often used to target a class that is not flow-based. So, when looking for Gentle Yoga, look for classes that are about breathing and stretches rather than raised heart rate or complex poses. The ability to feel and be aware of your body and breathing will allow for stillness and tranquillity.

Styles of Gentle Yoga

Entry-level classes of the following yoga styles are a good place to begin the study of Gentle Yoga. Be mindful that classes can vary even if labeled as gentle. It is best to speak to the studio or teacher if you can find out if they would deem them as gentle. If you are doing them online, then read reviews and watch the class so you can be assured that is what you are looking for.

Integral Yoga

A woman practicing yoga at the park.

This type of yoga is a gentle Hatha Yoga style that was brought to the western world by Sri Swami Satchidananda. The goal is to work on integrating the mind, body, and soul. Classes will include exercises that focus on breathing, chanting, kriyas, and meditation.

It is gentle and inspiring. Satchidananda’s teachings around integral yoga go beyond just the physical yoga poses. It also focuses on fulfillment from within the self and working on peaceful coexistence with those around you.

Kripalu Yoga

A woman doing Kripalu Yoga at a studio.

This is another style of Hath yoga practice that is gentle. It takes a compassionate approach by emphasizing meditation, healing physically as well as working on transformation spiritually. Students of Kripalu yoga work at trying to allow their thoughts to flow without judgment and work at accepting and loving themselves for who they are.

These gentle classes will often begin with pranayama exercises along with gentle stretching. Then there will be asana practice rounded out with a final relaxation. This gentle yoga teaches the student to direct focus within allowing access to the body’s wisdom. It is not about the perfection of a pose but using various postures and yoga techniques to find who we truly are and be comfortable with that.

Sivananda Yoga

A woman practicing Sivananda Yoga at the park.

This yoga method is based on Swami Sivananda’s teachings and created by Swami Vishnudevananda. This gentle method is founded upon five principles that aim to create optimal health and growth spiritually. The 5 principles of proper exercise, breathing, relaxation, diet, and positive thinking and meditation are aimed at being healthy and well.

Its focus is on 12 poses, self-aware breathing, relaxation, a diet that is vegetarian, and doing mediation to help with positive thinking. Poses are gentle and include inversions, back and forward bends, twists and stretches. All are geared to work on both stretching and stillness.

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