[Hey I’m not a doctor or personal trainer, just a yoga teacher who likes expressing her opinion so it’s always wise to check with your doctor and healthcare team before starting, adjusting a yoga practice or taking on exercises. Making changes to your practice should be done under the supervision of qualified professionals (your yoga teacher included) to make sure they suit where you’re at. I’d double underline this if you’ve got an injury or pre-existing medical condition. Got it?]
Ever been in a Power class that put the brakes on your pace? Here are some good reasons why practicing yoga SLOW really helps to ACCELERATE your practice:
You have to focus on your alignment – and your body will remember when you move fast.
Although whipping through a Vinyasa (Down dog, Plank, Chaterunga, Up Dog / Down Dog) might get your heart pumping – if you’re not totally dialed into our form the heart pump might come at a cost to your alignment. If your alignment goes, chances are your ability to practice without injury will too.
Slowing your practice down affords you more time to be disciplined and articulate in your form because you’re not just trying to keep up, race back to downward dog (I see you!), or anticipate the next movement. You’re allowed to be in the pose – fully… and transition – fully with your attention in tow.
Every time you practice, you teach your body how to move. If you slow it right down you will build valuable memories in those muscles of good form that you can call on in your race to the downward dog later in the week. You gotta walk before you can run (and yoga is no different).
You build strength by taking momentum out of the equation and challenging yourself to slow down.
The exercise principle “Time Under Tension” theorizes that when you slow down resistance activity (like for instance lowering through chaterunga, holding for a pause or two) you stimulate hormones that will help you to build strength and muscle tissue. This stimulation occurs by increasing the difficulty of the exercise by removing any momentum. Now, there are definitely more variables at play that’ll determine the amount of strength or muscle you build (diet, blood sugar, hormones, genetics etc…) but slowing down will INCREASE the perceived difficulty of your practice.
I should say – there isn’t bulletproof scientific evidence that slow = muscles. Anecdotally though I can tell you – a slow practice is definitely an advanced one – and part of that is just that it’s pretty hard to slow down when you’re in “get shit done ASAP” mode all day.
Slowing down can be a workout for your ego alone. In my own experience, after years of practice I realized I wasn’t strong enough to do a simple vinyasa without modifying when I was challenged slow things down. When I went back to a fast paced vinyasa class it felt like a walk in the park.
Wonder what that might do if you slowed down during your life… Might be something to this “slowing down” crap, eh?
You increase your ability to focus by adding a meditative quality to your practice (and it’s still challenging).
I’m not a believer in multitasking at all but this is one area where I actually think it’s possible…
If you are able to slow down your practice you deliver a meditative quality to a physically demanding practice. You are able to do hard stuff more easily just due to the fact that you are relaxed. You have more time to INHALE FULLY and EXHALE FULLY instead of being in the race. You have more time to feel and focus on the feeling of breath over time – which in conventional faster vinyasa classes can be overlooked when we practice simply trying only to keep up. Slow down the movement, slow down your breath. Slow down your breath, slow down your mind – meditation.
Easy peasy right? No. By no means am I saying that when you’re new to slow Power your inner dialogue will immediately shut off and you’ll start levitating to the front of your mat – lost in the music of your own lungs. It takes time – but in each practice you can afford yourself that time it’ll pay off.
By practicing slow power yoga, you’ll find fast classes feel easier, you’ll build good form, and you’ll notice during other challenging life situations you might have built the “muscle memory” of being really really present. If you’re able to slow down, be disciplined during challenge on your mat, chances are you’ll be able to do the same when you’re presented challenges in your life.
Moving slow will give you the strength to move really fast when life calls for quick action – but instead of with momentum you can move quickly with ease.