Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Power Yoga—these are some of the most popular styles of yoga. Admittedly, these styles live the purpose of yoga asanas (postures), preparing the body for sitting in meditation for long periods. However, with the prevalence of injuries caused by yoga, I think it’s time we consider slowing down and practicing Slow Flow Yoga instead.
Yoga has evolved so much since its inception in India 5,000 years ago. From being a practice aiming to unite the mind and body for spiritual enlightenment, it now has become a fitness routine to many modern practitioners. Because of this, injuries due to yoga (and in this case, I’m talking about practicing just yoga postures) are becoming rampant.
According to a study published online in July 2019, one in every five adults practicing yoga experienced acute adverse effects. One in ten experienced musculoskeletal injuries. Although yoga is good for the mind and body, especially for the musculoskeletal system, it can still be detrimental when practiced without being mindful.
Postures Should Be Stable and Comfortable
In Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, verse 2.46 shows Sthira Sukham Asanam, which translates to “postures should be stable and comfortable.” Yoga postures are supposed to feel good. Their purpose is to strengthen the body and prepare it for extended periods of sitting down in meditation.
If we want to have a sustainable practice, we must consider practicing more mindfully and slowly.
What Is Slow Flow Yoga?
Before we talk about Slow Flow Yoga, let’s focus first on the style of yoga called Vinyasa, where Slow Flow is inspired.
Vinyasa Yoga is a style of yoga that doesn’t follow a set of movements. It is a dynamic practice where yogis move from one pose to another using the breath. Taking an inhale during spinal extension and an exhale during spinal flexion.
It is often called Flow because you are constantly moving like a dance-like motion. Sun Salutation is an example of Vinyasa Yoga.
Slow Flow Yoga is derived from Vinyasa Yoga, where a Yogi flows from one pose to another using the breath. It is sometimes called Slow Flow Vinyasa. Poses are held longer than one breath. In a way, Slow Flow is a mixture of Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, and Yin Yoga.
What Are the Benefits of Slow Flow Yoga?
Slow Flow Yoga Builds More Strength
Moving slowly in each yoga posture builds strength than moving quickly. When you move slowly and with control, you rely less on momentum and instead rely on your muscles’ strength. When you use your muscles more, they become stressed, and the muscle fibers break.
When this happens, the body will heal the muscles by fusing the muscle fibers back together, which results in muscle mass and strength increase.
Slow Flow Yoga Improves Your Flexibility
In Slow Flow Yoga, you move and breathe slowly and hold each pose for three or more cycles of breath. When the breath is slow and controlled, it triggers the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the autonomic nervous system’s division that triggers the rest and digest response of the body.
When the rest and digest response is activated, the brain will send signals to the body to relax and calm down. The body can then get into poses that require more flexibility since the brain tells it to rest. Furthermore, oxygen will flow more freely when you breathe deeply, so getting into poses that require more flexibility is easier.
Slow Flow Yoga Builds More Muscle Endurance
Muscle endurance is the muscle’s ability to exert force repetitively and endure stress over an extended period of time without getting tired. Since you hold each pose for at least three cycles of breath in Slow Flow Yoga, the muscles will have to endure the stress caused by your body weight’s resistance. Compared to a typical Vinyasa or Power Yoga class, the muscles will endure more stress in Slow Flow Yoga.
Slow Flow Yoga Reduces the Risk of Injury
Moving at a slower pace helps reduce the risk of getting injured in whatever type of exercise you are practicing. It is also the same in Yoga. When you are moving slowly, you are more mindful of the alignment of your body.
You’re able to listen to your body and notice when you feel discomfort and pain. This will help in preventing or worsening the injury that you already have.
Slow Flow Yoga Makes Your Core Work More
Slowly moving from one pose to another, though it looks easy, actually requires more stability in the core. The more you work your muscles, such as the core, the more it becomes stronger. Core stability is crucial when doing any exercise or movement practice.
The core controls the position of the body and transfers the force along the kinetic chain. When the core is stable and robust, it maximizes the strength of the arms and legs. It allows the yoga practitioner to hold postures for an extended period of time.
Ultimately, it enables yogis to optimize their power and energy.
Slow Flow Yoga Makes You Develop More Mind and Body Awareness
Yoga, which means to yoke or unite, is about uniting the mind and the body. However, most of us tend to forget about our bodies and breath when it comes to fast-paced yoga classes. Because a Slow Flow Vinyasa class is slow-paced, you will have more time to tune into your body.
You will become more aware when your breath is not flowing freely in a particular pose. Furthermore, you will quickly notice when you’re overarching your back in backbends or hyperextending your elbows in Downward Facing Dog. Because you have more time to be aware of your body, you will develop more mind and body awareness.
This also results in your practice becoming more stable and precise.
Slow Flow Yoga Is More Sustainable
Slow Flow Yoga allows the practitioner to move slower and gentler. Therefore, it is more sustainable for yogis who have limited strength, endurance, and range of motion. It is also safer for all types of yogis and reduces the risk of injury, so you can practice it even as you grow old.
Is Slow Flow for Beginners?
Yoga is accessible by anyone, even the non-flexible, as long you don’t force your body to get into poses that your body is not ready for. Slow Flow Yoga is no different. It is for beginners who are not well-versed in yoga poses yet. It gives beginners more time to explore each pose.
It is also for intermediate to advanced yoga practitioners who want to slow down and try a more meditative practice while still reaping the benefits of improved flexibility and strength.
Slow Flow Yoga Sequence for Beginners
Are you ready to start practicing Slow Flow Yoga? If you have no time to go to a studio, practicing Sun Salutation and holding each pose for three or more breaths is a good start. Here’s a video of a Slow Flow version of Sun Salutation: