There’s no denying the popularity of fast-paced styles like Power Vinyasa or Hot/Heated flows that really physically challenge the body. You leave feeling amazing, detoxed, covered in sweat but somehow re-energised.
I’m a huge fan of a fast yoga asana practice that challenges your body and gives you a good workout while you’re at it. In fact it was a disciplined Bikram practice that started my love affair with yoga.
While the faster, more physically challenging styles may have initially drawn my type A personality and ex-triathlete to yoga asana, it’s the more subtle benefits that keep me coming back to the mat. I love the way I feel after a strong class, but I love the way I feel even more after a strong, slower paced class that gives me time and opportunity to connect my mind with my body.
This isn’t to say one way is ‘right’ and one way is ‘wrong,’ but might be worthwhile taking a look at your yoga asana practice and see if you could benefit from slowing down your practice - even just slightly.
Here are 5 signs you might need to slow things down a bit:
1. When you forget to breathe in Upward Facing Dog...or any other pose for that matter!
In a fast-paced power Vinyasa practice, you’ll often find the transition from Chaturunga to Upward Facing Dog doesn’t seem to exist. While the idea of a flow is just that, to flow from one asana to another, it’s important not to rush through the two different poses.
They are just that - different poses. While this is just a common tangible example, the larger concern here that you forget to breathe and move with the breath. Focus on taking the time to match your movement with your breath. If your inhale is five seconds, make sure your Upward Facing Dog is also five seconds.
Slow down to move with the breath and connect your mind with your body.
2. When your practice is doing more harm than good
Sometimes when we move too quickly through yoga asana, proper alignment goes out the window. Even if you’ve moved into your Warrior II a thousand times, it’s still important to listen to a teacher’s alignment cues to prevent injury. Often our joints don’t tell us straight away when they’re upset; it’s only after months of practicing with damaging alignment do they give way. Slow down to prevent injury.
3. When you’re moving out of sync with the teacher, or ahead of them.
Maybe you’re a Bikram devotee and know the sequence and dialogue like the back of your hand. Or maybe you’re familiar with your teacher’s sequencing and can guess what’s coming next.
Whatever the reason, take note when you start to move out of sync with your teacher’s instruction. By moving with the dialogue (rather than before it), you practice present moment living. Slow down to live in the present.
4. When the asana becomes the destination, rather than the journey
Achieving the next level or expression of a pose is a great feeling. When you’ve worked and dedicated time and energy to your practice for a long time, it can be easy to start focusing on reaching that next level, rather than the journey you’re taking to reach that next level.
By slowing down your practice, even for experienced yogis, you will start to notice the very subtle, deep changes happening in the body. You’ll notice each day brings a different challenge or a different sensation. You’ll notice the slightest change in your asana. Slow down to focus on the journey, rather than the destination.
5. When you need to practice slowing down on the mat, to slow down in life
Many a yogi will tell ya, the mat is the perfect place to practice the things you want to bring into your life off the mat. You can practice having compassion for yourself and others whilst on the mat, and take that compassion forward into your day.
You can practice self-love and non-judgement whilst on the mat, and take that forward into your day as well. The stress and busyness of our lives can negatively affect our mental and emotional wellbeing. It’s pervasive and can influence every aspect of our lives - including our time in the yoga studio. So when life gets busy and stressful, practice slowing down on your mat to slow down in life.
Whatever your yoga style of choice, if any of the above strike a chord for you, try holding your poses one or two breaths longer and see what a difference it can make on and off the mat.
Why and when do you know you need to slow down your yoga asana?