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You might see the term gentle yoga appearing in your local studio’s schedule. Or perhaps you’re looking to start your yoga journey and are curious about gentle yoga as a style of yoga that appears to be perfect for beginners?
The term ‘gentle yoga’ is fairly new on the wellness scene, but is ultimately a way of practicing yoga in a less intense and more relaxed way. It takes elements from various styles of yoga to create a class that is accessible to students of all levels.
In this article, we’ll look at what gentle yoga is, if it’s suitable for beginners, the benefits of the practice, and how it differs from other styles.
What is Gentle Yoga?
Gentle yoga can be described as an easier, less-intense practice, with elements of meditation and restorative poses built into the class. It’s for this reason that gentle yoga classes are incredibly popular with the elderly as well as those who are physically challenged or pregnant. But with the benefits of slow-paced yoga classes beginning to be recognized, younger and fitter people are adding gentle yoga to their weekly schedule in an attempt to care for their body lovingly.
Gentle yoga classes offer a bridge between movements that flow with the breath and holding stationary positions to work gently on strengthening. It’s similar to a Hatha class, but with modified poses and more time to move between each pose. As well as modifications, a gentle yoga instructor will likely encourage the use of props (such as blocks and bands) to help you better access poses without putting too much strain on your body. Like other styles of yoga, gentle yoga guides you through a practice that supports your mental, physical and spiritual self.
Though the description of a gentle yoga class may seem broad, one thing is for sure: gentle yoga classes offer a softer, more nurturing and well-supported practice than many other styles of yoga.
Is Gentle Yoga Good for Beginners?
Gentle yoga is perfect for beginners. Classes are taught at a pace that allows you to follow the movements smoothly without having to know the names of individual poses. We all know that attending any kind of class for the first time can be a little daunting. But with gentle yoga being so welcoming, straightforward and inclusive, there’s nothing to be nervous about!
Those who are physically challenged or looking to relieve stress will also benefit from gentle yoga classes. Even the more experienced yogi’s among us can find something fulfilling in attending a gentle yoga class. It provides the opportunity to try an alternative style of yoga and connect with the body in a different way to what you would expect from a faster-paced class.
Anyone that’s looking for a soft and relaxing class will find exactly that when taking part in gentle yoga.
What are the Benefits of Gentle Yoga?
The benefits of gentle yoga are much the same as other forms of yoga. Movement and breath are used to connect the mind and body, while strengthening and toning the muscles. Yoga also improves cardiovascular health, athletic performance, metabolism, and energy – while reducing the likelihood of injury!
Gentle yoga, though, has some of its very own benefits outside of those that it shares with other forms of yoga.
Gentle yoga is all about taking your time. There’s no competition between students (or with yourself!). By partaking in a yoga practice that allows you to listen to what your mind is telling your body to do, you are better able to focus on how your body is moving and how it feels to be moving in that way. You are not pushing yourself, but enjoying yourself and learning how to move between, and into, movements in a way that feels great to you as an individual.
This kind of movement and mindset helps us to take our bodies away from the ‘fight or flight’ response that is caused by stress, and back to a state of ‘rest and digest’. This state of bodily function allows the heart rate to slow, and the parasympathetic nervous system to conserve energy.
What is the Difference between Gentle and Restorative Yoga?
Both gentle and restorative yoga are relaxing styles of practice, but if we were to define a simple difference, we could say that gentle yoga would be considered one step more ‘challenging.’
Restorative yoga is made up of poses that are held for longer than ‘conventional’ yoga classes, and that allow passive stretching. This means that all positions are floor-based, with the weight of the body being fully supported by props (such as bolster cushions, blankets, and blocks) at all times. The use of props in this way allows students to surrender completely into a pose – no strength at all is required for restorative yoga.
Gentle yoga classes have similar aspects to those seen in restorative yoga classes – a gentle yoga class will incorporate restorative poses and other relaxation techniques (such as meditation). However, in this style of yoga, teachers guide students between movements in a slow-flow – not holding the positions as one would in a restorative yoga class, nor moving with each inhalation and exhalation as we do in vinyasa classes. Standing postures are also used in each class to help students gently strengthen the body.
So, now that you know everything that there is to know about restorative yoga and the incredible things that it can do for your mind and body, what are you waiting for? Head to your nearest studio and take part in a calming yoga class that will leave you feeling nothing but confident and relaxed in your practice.