The art of slowing down.
With so many different styles of yoga, and perhaps a general understanding of yoga being 'movement', people can sometimes be unaware of the deep stillness in some styles of yoga - not just in the mind but in the body too. Having a deeper inward focus and time to reflect and enjoy the real feeling of your body taking different shapes, and releasing them, slowly can be so very enlightening. It can be deeply transformative, and can show you so many things about yourself. It's the practices of Yin and Restorative yoga that I bring together in my weekly Slow Down yoga classes, and monthly Slow Sunday yoga workshops, that I truly believe can benefit us deeply in the crazy, busy, modern world. Read on to find out more.
Less is more.
It’s easy to say that modern life is full to the brim with activity, movement and the doing of things, certainly such that we experience stress – a great deal of it. It could also be said that modern yoga can provide a direct ‘intervention’ into this frenzy of doing – a way to pause, reflect and connect to something more than the ‘doing’ of life. Perhaps we could even go futher and say that yoga can offer insight and the means to enquire into the nature of self and being.
To embark upon this type of endeavour requires slowing down and becoming present and still enough to perceive what is actually there. The history of yoga practice has much to do with this aspect of refining perception and awareness – to the extent that one is able to penetrate into the nature of reality itself.
It’s easy to get caught up in the movement of activity and become blind to the presence and beauty of pure being. Our minds seems to demand outward stimulation. But to be able to dive deep into one’s inner world and sensation, can open up a whole new line of enquiry that brings the moment alive with awareness of what it means to be truly human ‘being’.
Combine this with the power of the breath, the subtle scaffolding for ALL styles of yoga present and past, and an emerging power of awareness opens up our relationship with time, place and other. And we can enter into a new paradigm of interconnection.
Less is more……opens a doorway into the fullness of experience that characterises the “yoking” that yoga promises – that powerful coming together of perception where subject, object and the act of perception itself merge into a state of pure being. Other styles of yoga practice may result in this experience, but the particular styles of yin and restorative yoga embody a slow, spacious approach that allows for honest, felt sensation that provokes revelation.
As life gets busier and busier, more and more of us are looking to practice quieter styles of yoga to help rebalance our hectic lifestyles. That's the reason I teach Restorative and Yin Yoga within my Slow Down yoga classes and workshops - to help this rebalancing of peoples lives - something that people tell me they are so grateful for (there is some feedback about these 'slow' yoga classes and workshops here) . They are both floor-based styles that help soothe the nervous system. Postures are held for some time whether that’s three to five minutes in Yin or even longer in Restorative.
During a Yin yoga practice as you meet the intensity of a stretch, things may even seem a little stimulating in the moment but by the end of practice (as in Restorative,) they both help to foster a deep, pervading sense of calm and spaciousness.
There are some key differences between the two styles, as I'll explain below:
— Increases mobility and flexibility, there are obvious stretch sensations in the body
— Affects deep into the connective tissue (fascia)
— An appropriate intensity of stretch can be supported by props to prevent overstretching
— Staying for time intensifies the deep stretch
— Based on the Traditional Chinese Medicine model of meridian lines (energy channels in the body) which relates to paired organs (one being yang masculine and the other yin feminine)
— Come to an appropriate 'edge' or the bodys limit in each pose
— Yin priorities time over intensity (finding appropriate edge to stay for duration)
— Commitment to stillness.
— A subtle practice to unwind deeply held tensions in the body
— Emphasises relaxation, restoration and rejuvenation
— Great for everyone including people with injuries and illness – restores the body towards equilibrium so natural healing can occur
— No physical effort required, in fact comfort is paramount. Props are used to maximise relaxation of the body - before you reach your 'edge'
— Staying for time encourages the rest and relaxation response from nervous system
— Based on the hatha yoga tradition of harmonising prana (energy) in the body – balancing the upward rising masculine energy of prana and the grounding feminine energy of apana
— Adequate temperature
— Quiet space
— Low light to prevent stimulation
Following these principles fosters best conditions for deep relaxation.
I myself find these practices amazingly rejuvenating and as I enjoy practising both styles and I often combine the two starting with Yin postures to open up tighter areas so the body can relax even more deeply in Restorative poses - where the idea for my Slow Down classes and workshops were born. I find the Yin shapes have helped me develop more range of movement in my body, and Restorative yoga is my go-to practice for grounding and balance when I’m caught up in the whirlwind of life or simply wanting some delicious tender loving care.
Both styles are a wonderful opportunity to observe the mind and become attentive to experience. Some days I notice a sense of calm or spaciousness, other days there’s a vicious thunderstorm brewing. Most days I hear my planning mind bouncing around or anywhere in between or a combination of the two! When my mind is busy I use a mindfulness technique to anchor me in the moment, something simple like casually observing the rise and the fall of the breath in a relaxed manner. Like any tool it’s there if I need it, but if I’m feeling peaceful then I’ll drop the tool and rest in spaciousness.
If you like the sound of these styles of yoga do come along and try for yourself. Suitable for all levels from complete beginners to those with an established yoga practice. Here's the details:
Each Thursday evening at York Yoga Studio, 6pm to 7.15pm (drop ins welcome)
Do join me, I'm sure you'll find so much benefit. And its the perfect antidote to modern life!