While yoga has been around for ages, more and more people are starting to realize all the amazing benefits it can offer. But with so many styles to choose from (hot yoga, power yoga, vinyasa yoga, yin yoga, gentle yoga, etc.), it can be overwhelming to know where to start.
Know this: Any type of yoga you try will bring amazing benefits. Overall, a regular yoga practice will increase flexibility and strength, calm the mind, and can even improve cardiovascular health. One of the yoga styles that I love most is the Slow Flow style. If you haven’t heard of this style before, or even if you have but aren’t quite sure what it’s all about, then this post is for you.
Let’s start by discussing what Slow Flow yoga is and how it differs from other styles of yoga, and then we’ll get into some of the reasons I think you should give it a try.
What Is Slow Flow Yoga?
As the name suggests, slow flow yoga is a yoga flow that you do at a slower pace. These classes allow you to take more time in each pose, providing you with the opportunity to deepen the pose and truly focus on each movement and how you breathe in each pose. For example, in other types of flow classes (like vinyasa or power), you may take one breath per pose; whereas in slow flow yoga, you may find you get to spend 3-5 breaths in each pose. Because of this, slow flow yoga tends to be a calmer and more restful practice that incorporates a variation of both Vinyasa and Hatha yoga styles.
Vinyasa Yoga And Hatha Yoga
Because slow flow yoga incorporates elements from both vinyasa and hatha yoga, it’s important to know the difference and how they are combined in the slow flow practice.
Vinyasa Yoga is where the “flow” in slow flow yoga comes from. Vinyasa yoga is yoga where the movements and poses flow from one another. I was always taught that vinyasa flows are “one breath per movement”, and that each pose should flow from one type of breath to the next (i.e., if you inhale to come into a plank pose from Downward Dog, then you would exhale for whatever pose comes next). Vinyasa practice puts a strong focus on sun salutations, so most vinyasa classes will focus heavily on this sequence. In fact, “Take a vinyasa” or “Go through your vinyasa” has become shorthand for completing a sequence of poses that come from the Sun Salutation (plank, chaturanga dandasana, upward-facing dog, and downward-facing dog).
Hatha Yoga differs from Vinyasa. Hatha Yoga is where the “slow” in slow flow yoga comes from. In modern terms, Hatha yoga has become associated solely with a physical practice, typically involving a sequence of yoga postures and pranayama (breathing techniques). In this sense, Hatha yoga is generally practiced more slowly and with more static posture holds than found in styles such as Vinyasa. However, know that the tradition of Hatha yoga encompasses much more than the physical practice which has become popular today.
When you combine Vinyasa and Hatha, you get slow flow yoga! It’s the combination of poses and movements that flow together, holding those poses long enough for you to work on your breath and truly focus on how each pose feels.
Who Should Do Slow Flow Yoga?
Let me first start by saying that studios which offer slow flow yoga classes may have different definitions for this style of class…especially because it is a blend of Vinyasa and Hatha yoga styles.
In my opinion, slow flow yoga should be for everyone, even for beginners. The pace is perfect for beginners because they won’t feel overwhelmed or lost, but it is also perfect for more advanced yogis who are looking to push themselves and dive deeper into their poses. The breathing work and calm nature of this type of class is also perfect for people of all ages and walks of life.
Keep in mind, though, that some of the actual poses and/or sequences offered in a slow flow class could be more intermediate/advanced in nature. So if you are a true beginner trying out this style of class, make sure to let your instructor know ahead of time, so that options can be offered to suit where you are in your practice.
Reasons You Should Be Doing Slow Flow Yoga
1. It’s All-Inclusive
Because slow flow yoga is inclusive for yogis of all levels and all ages, you should be able to come to a slow flow yoga practice and get something out of it. Anyone who does the practice will reap the benefits at the level they are at because of the time being given to truly challenge yourself to your own personal limitations.
2. It Calms the Mind and Reduces Stress
While I truly feel that all forms of yoga will help calm the mind and reduce stress, the time you spend in Slow Flow Yoga on your breathing and holding the postures in your flow can really bring a calmness that you may not have had before getting on the mat. For me personally, when I’ve had a stressful day that has my mind in a million places, it’s crucial for me to SLOW DOWN in order to get myself back on track and keep me focused in the present moment…slow flow yoga does that for me in spades!
3. It’s a Low Impact Practice
A slow flow practice is very low impact and won’t put any undue pressure on your knees or other joints. This type of practice gives you plenty of time to listen to your body and read the cues it is giving you, which means you will feel when you are going beyond your limit so you can readjust. In this type of class, you shouldn’t find that you are doing any superstrenuous or high impact moves that could create injury.
4. It Teaches Patience and Mental Toughness
For many of us, we associate the workouts we do with speed, high intensity, and lots of sweating…yoga is no exception. We are all crunched for time, so many of us treat our yoga practice as our workout, too. So, as you experiment with slow flow yoga, you may find yourself feeling impatient. You may want things to move more quickly to get through the practice…but remember that moving slowly is the whole point of the practice. And personally, I find that holding the postures for a longer period of time makes me sweat PLENTY…and I also feel like spending the extra time in poses helps me build my strength more efficiently, along with building mental toughness and patience.
Think about it. When you’re hanging out in Chair Pose for 3-5 breaths (as opposed to the 1 breath in other practices), you’ll literally feel the strength you’re using just to keep your form and alignment, and sitting through the discomfort is what builds that mental toughness.
Once you get past the natural inclination to want to move more quickly, you’re going to learn patience and that the benefits of this practice are in the slow-moving moments.
5. It Improves Flexibility and Builds Muscles
Almost all forms of yoga increase strength and flexibility, but slow flow yoga offers something unique. Holding the poses for longer periods of time, and using your breath as a guide, allows you to focus on specific muscle groups and stretches to truly take your flexibility to the next level. Also, holding the poses longer will fire those targeted muscles for longer, thus building strength. The added benefit of this is that improving your muscle strength and flexibility will help prevent injuries…bonus!
I hope I’ve convinced you to give the slow flow yoga style a try. Though other styles of yoga provide many of the benefits I’ve mentioned above, I truly feel there is something special about the slow flow yoga style. And who knows? Maybe spending time moving at a slower place in class will help you in your time off the mat…allowing you to take the time to notice all the special things around you each and every day.
If you’re interested in trying out the slow flow yoga style with me, then come join me in my Flow to Stretch class at Om Yoga in Fort Mill, SC on Sundays, from 4:30 – 5:30PM EST. This is a hybrid class that starts with 30 minutes of slow flow yoga, followed by 30 minutes of deep stretch…it’s a great way to dip your toes in the water of the slow flow style, if I do say so myself! I’d love to see you there! It’s perfect for all levels.
Also, I teach a Slow Flow and Meditation class at Movement Mindfulness and Me in Tega Cay, SC on Mondays from 5:30 – 6:30PM EST. This class consists of 45-minutes of Slow Flow yoga, followed by a 15-minute guided meditation. This class is PERFECT for beginners!
Namaste and Have a Sparkling Day!