If you're injured, have limited mobility, want an easy and soothing practice, or are just a bit older and need to be careful with your movements, gentle yoga might be a great option for you. Gentle yoga is also a wonderful way to ease into yoga if you've never practiced before and are a little nervous.
Gentle yoga is a less intense, slower yoga practice. It generally includes an emphasis on stretching, meditation, pranayama, and relaxation. In a gentle yoga practice, you'll typically move at a slower, more comfortable pace that reduces stress and strain on joints and muscles.
The slower nature of gentle yoga makes it a perfect practice for just about anyone of any age or physical ability. It's a particularly beneficial practice for those with limited mobility, health issues, injuries, pain, or those who are worried about being fit or flexible enough for something like power yoga or Ashtanga.
Gentle yoga offers several benefits and advantages:
Gentle yoga is a broad term that actually includes several different types of yoga. What each of these different types of gentle yoga has in common is that they're slow and low-impact and poses are likely to be held for a longer period of time. Here are a few different types of gentle yoga worth checking out.
In restorative yoga, poses are held for several minutes, often 10 minutes or more. Your body is supported by props like bolsters, blankets, and blocks so you can relax fully into the poses. The goal of restorative yoga is to open your muscles, mind, and nervous system.
Yin yoga is often confused with restorative yoga. In Yin, you'll still be holding poses for several minutes (usually 3–5 minutes), but where restorative is passive and focused on opening your muscles, Yin tends to focus on active stretching and deep release of your muscles. It can be a mentally challenging practice.
Kripalu yoga is sometimes referred to as "meditation in motion." This type of gentle yoga focuses on mindfulness, pranayama, and meditation.
Somatic yoga is a way to retrain your nervous system through gentle movement. The idea is that trauma, aging, illness, habits, and stress can get our bodies trapped in samskaras (patterns) that keep our muscles from relaxing and engaging as they should. Somatic yoga is designed to help release those patterns.
Chair yoga is a type of gentle yoga in which practitioners use a chair for support in most or all yoga postures. It's a great option for those with mobility issues as well as seniors.
Everybody! Gentle yoga is the perfect option for:
Honestly, gentle yoga is great for anyone who wants a mindful, slow, meditative yoga practice.
There are several yoga poses that are suitable for gentle yoga. Here are five of my favorites:
From your hands and knees, inhale and press your belly button towards the floor, coming into a slight backbend. On the exhale, arch your back up toward the ceiling. You can do this as slowly and for however long you want. Feel free to put a blanket under your knees if they bother you and use your knuckles or even go down to your elbows if you have wrist problems.
Bridge pose helps open up your hip flexors at the front of your hips. It's typically an active pose in which your glutes and legs are engaged, but with supported bridge, you only engage your muscles long enough to bring your hips into the air and place a yoga block under your sacrum.
Start on your back with your knees bent toward the ceiling and your feet flat on the floor. Engage your glutes and press your hips toward the ceiling. Place a yoga block under your sacrum and relax down onto it. To deepen this pose, you can extend your legs and raise your arms over your head. Rest in the pose and breathe.
Legs up the wall pose is a great pose for calming the nervous system. Lie down on your back with your hips close to the wall and extend your legs up, resting them on the wall. Close your eyes and relax. If you'd like, you can let your legs fall out to the side (like you're doing the splits) to target your hips and groin.
Supine twists not only feel good, but they help improve digestion. Start on your back with your knees bent up toward the ceiling and your feet flat on the floor. Extend your arms out to the side at shoulder height, making a 'T' shape. Bring your knees in towards your chest and drop them over to one side, turning your head to look toward the opposite side. Relax and breathe for a few minutes before switching sides. If you'd like, you can place a pillow between your knees.
Child's pose is a restful pose that helps you open your hips as well as stretch both sides of your body. Start on your hands and knees then send your hips back to rest on your heels (or as close as they come). Stretch your arms forward and breathe. Rest your forehead or chin on the floor in front of you. If you're struggling to relax into the pose, bring your knees out wide (keeping your big toes together) and relax into the pose that way. For a deeper side stretch, you can walk your hands over to either side, keeping your lower body squared.
Gentle yoga offers a safe, mindful, and meditative practice that is appropriate for everyone. If you're looking for a practice that will help you reconnect your mind and body, join me on myYogaTeacher for my next Gentle Yoga class.
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