Whether you are new to yoga or have been practicing for many years, there is a chance that ‘Gentle Yoga’ is a new concept to you. Luckily, Gentle Yoga does very much what it says on the tin. Its yoga, probably as you know it, but gentle.
What is Gentle Yoga?
Essentially, Gentle Yoga is a slow-paced class, comprised of asanas (postures) from the Hatha discipline. Many of these asanas can take place from the floor. The asanas are generally held a bit longer than what is expected in a Hatha or Vinyasa class, but you are not expected to push your body to achieve a particular depth of stretch. The word here really is ‘Gentle’. You may be encouraged to use props, blocks, bolsters etc. Gentle Yoga is designed to slow the pace right down and allow you to truly be mindful and present in your practice. The movements can be very slow, the postures may flow, or they may not. The sequence itself will always be up to the teacher.
Is Gentle Yoga suitable for me?
Yes. Gentle Yoga is suitable for everyone. It’s a great place to start if you are new to yoga. Equally, it is an excellent practice for anybody wishing to move their body more mindfully. If you are looking to spend time getting to know your body and mind, really feeling into the asanas without having to move on too quickly, then gentle yoga is for you. Perhaps the fast-paced classes you are used to participating in do not allow as much space for this. Maybe you are working with an injury and need to be extra mindful of your body at this time. Or perhaps, you’re a busy person and need a bit of time to move slowly and gently. Gentle Yoga can benefit anyone.
Benefits of Gentle Yoga
Slowing your yoga practice down and moving the body mindfully can help to calm your nervous system. It will take you out of that ‘fight or flight’ mode we tend to live in daily, clearing your mind of clutter and shifting some of those less useful thoughts out the door. A gentle practice gives you time to really notice what pops up to poke you. From this space you can take a moment to listen, notice and move on.
As with any yoga class, the asanas practiced should work with your chakras. These are the seven points of energy located along your spine. These points of energy serve seven different purposes. When your chakras are not performing at their best and the energy flowing to and from this is blocked in any way, we can experience a spectrum of different symptoms. Too many to list here! Yoga is designed to unblock any stuck energy around your chakras. A gentle yoga class should release this energy and balance your mind, body and spirit.
Is it difficult?
To some, Gentle Yoga might seem like an easy option. This is true in some ways; the physical aspect of Gentle Yoga is less demanding than that of a power class. However, it important to note that the art of slowing down can be a real challenge to some. Most of us spend our time rushing from one thing to another: a project, a class, a job. Even when we are aware of this, we still find ourselves to be immensely busy; running errands, looking after loved ones, socialising. Deliberately stopping and spending time with your body is a whole new challenge in itself. Do you take time during your day to slow down without being in front of a blue screen? How would this make you feel?
What is the difference between Gentle, Yin and Restorative Yoga?
Ahh. From the outside looking in, maybe these classes do look a bit... similar? You would be forgiven for getting them mixed up. Let’s define a few things –
Also a slow practice, consisting of few asanas, mostly from the floor. Each asana can last up to eight minutes. Yin Yoga is designed to work deep into the connective tissue of the joints in your body. Little muscular effort is expected as this process takes place. For this reason, the asanas in a Yin class can feel quite intense. The concept of your ‘edge’ is used here, asking students to explore the edge of discomfort within a deep stretch. This is a challenging notion which can be very beneficial for the mind as you are pushed to use your breath, all while focusing on the sensation of the posture. Yin Yoga may carry a few similarities, it is definitely not the same as Gentle Yoga. Gentle Yoga does not encourage stress or strain to the joints. You will not be expected to experience any discomfort in Gentle Yoga.
Encourages relaxation. Supporting the body with bolsters, blocks, blankets etc. The body is fully supported and able to relax in each asana. Restorative Yoga is an excellent practice for those that carry a lot of stress and tension in the body. Unlike Yin, you are not expected to be mentally challenged here. The idea is to release all the tension from your body whilst being fully supported by the floor or props.
Probably closer to Restorative Yoga than Yin, Gentle Yoga is a separate practice in itself. You may find more variety in terms of asanas. As a rule of thumb, as long as the postures can be practiced gently, without too much strain, it can be considered Gentle Yoga.
What to expect from a Gentle Yoga Class
The duration of a Gentle Yoga class is usually an hour on average, depending on the preferences of the teacher. As with any yoga class, it is recommended that you arrive hydrated. Even in a slow-paced class like Gentle Yoga, there will still be a lot of stretching and compressing of the organs and muscles. For this reason, it is recommended not to eat a huge meal just before class. It’s good to have a bit of energy, but you don’t want to be digesting something heavy while you are stretching and twisting your body.
You should wear something comfortable that is capable of stretching with you. There are no rules as to what you should wear to a yoga class. Comfort is key. As long as the clothes you have chosen are comfortable and allow you to move with ease, these are suitable yoga clothes!
Tip: As you won’t be moving so quickly in a Gentle Yoga class, maybe consider wearing something that will keep you nice and warm.
There may be music, there may be a designated meditation, the postures themselves may flow... or they may not! The class itself, however, will be slow and gentle. So go with the flow – unless there isn’t one...
Still got questions?
If you are unsure if your local Gentle Yoga class is right for you, its always a good idea to get in touch with the studio or teacher running the class. The studio or teacher should be happy to hear from you. A conversation could help to resolve any unanswered queries, allowing you to feel more comfortable in the space.