Go Softly: The Benefits of Gentle Yoga
Gentle yoga, I think, is the true yoga. We jumped, we did a million planks and down dogs, and we stayed in a pose for five minutes. Now we have arrived at a place where we are learning to be gentle with our body.
In my early teaching days, most people who came to gentle yoga were pregnant women and seniors with injuries. Nowadays I see more and more young people stepping in, wanting to be gentle with their body.
Our body is a living vehicle that we have abused and misused, and it shows wear and tear and all the experiences we have gone through. Gentle yoga helps you realize that you should not take your body for granted. It’s a gift, a costume that allows us to express ourselves and experience this world. It’s the main character in your life’s movie, creating a connection with the stories that make you YOU!
We all know of yoga’s numerous benefits. In gentle yoga, you take time to feel your body move. Breath and movement are pathways to keep the organs healthy and joints lubricated. Mostly, gentle yoga helps you have a sound mind to dictate and nurture the cells in the body. We are made of energy, and gentle yoga makes you listen to your own words and slow your pace a little. What thoughts do you tell your body?
Here’s a sample of a gentle hatha yoga practice.
Gentle yoga is a bridge between moving in flow and staying stationary. It is a midway, where there is equilibrium and bliss in every pose.
You stay in a pose long enough to enjoy that you are not pushing yourself. The body gets rid of toxins naturally. You sweat in a few poses and not at all in others, but the feeling of bliss is constant. Gentle yoga equally strengthens and stretches, increasing flexibility and repairing muscles that are in need of love. There is no hurry to finish a sequence. It’s all about relaxing and allowing yourself and your body to have as much relaxation as you want.
Gentle yoga keeps the atmosphere free of competition and comparison. There is no frustration of not doing a pose, no agitation of holding a pose. We all work within that unity to strengthen groups of muscles together. So the energy of the class is generally happy and calm.
I am very happy to see people take their time during the savasana. Everyone has to return to their own stories sooner or later, but surrendering to the body and waiting for the body to prepare to move is what gentle yoga helps with.
Most importantly, people are becoming aware of their body and how it works individually. And seeing them return for more every week is rewarding.
Yoga for Men: Breaking Down the Stereotypes
In honor of Movember.
Every once in a while I am approached by a woman after class asking me how she can get her boyfriend/husband to do yoga? How good it would be for his back/stress/insomnia. I don’t have the answer, my husband started because I had just begun teaching yoga and the classes were very small, so he was there as a filler, to make the other people feel more comfortable. From there, I guess it grew on him, and he works at the studio, so the classes are conveniently located.
When the women do drag their husbands in, they often arrive with an air of arrogance. They extend their arm for a quick handshake and in their eyes seem to say “Lets get this lame class over with”. Although I’m not a very competitive person, I’m always up for this challenge. My favorite part is midway through class when I look over to see him sweating profusely with a deer-in-headlights look on his face while his wife/girlfriend flows seamlessly through the sequence. I know it’s a little evil on my side, but it’s satisfying to burst another bubble of misconception that yoga is for sissies.
After class the men are always humble and grateful, and most of them come back. I’m always proud of them for getting through it and stepping far out of their comfort zones. I know it’s difficult to walk into a yoga studio, especially if you think you’re not flexible, and especially if you are a man coming into a female dominated space, but times are changing and we have one of the highest percentage rates of men at our studio. My husband often boasts to his musician friends about the benefits of flexibility and focus, and to the single guys about it being a great place to meet woman. What’s sexier than a guy who does yoga?
I’m not saying this is the case for every guy, we have lots of men who come to the studio, and several who have dragged their wives to class, but the reaction I get from most men is that yoga is lame, and not enough of a physical challenge for them. There are many different styles of yoga, but you have to at least try before bashing it.
As a personal challenge this month, I will go out of my comfort zone into the male dominated world of cross-fit and take a class with friend and coworker, Tom. The last time I was in a gym was high school gym class! I invite you to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself this month. Don’t wait for your body to break down before you take care of it.