The Magic of Slowing Down

FITONE

So this Article talks about something called ‘conscious movement’ …. Like it’s a new thing…..

Yea, well its not a new thing, but it is a great article highlighting the magic of slowing down.

Anyone doing yoga, pilates, TaiChi, and many other types of movement that require an attention to detail, has known about this for a long time. Back in the day, it was referred to as ‘Functional movement’ and ‘Everyday Exercise’ and of course a slower more precise movement based exercise like ones I have already mentioned were thought of as something you do once in a while to stretch or as exercise for older adults who had physical limitations preventing them from doing ‘real exercise’.

Let me be clear that when I say precise or talk about details, I am not referring to any thing akin to perfection or to the idea of a perfect alignment. I am talking about the precision or attention to detail that comes from simply slowing down enough to feel the pose or the movement.

I haven’t given what I teach a fancy name or label, I just call it yoga or movement. But even when I was still teaching STEP and other forms of aerobic exercise I taught a slower version, a more mindful way to move. And although the Mindfulness movement is fairly new (in the main stream anyway) that’s what we are talking about, Moving Mindfully.

One of my wonderful teachers calls it Subtle Yoga and I like that. It speaks of a softer, gentler way to move. A subtler approach to movement. But in our fast-paced culture where everything must be faster, harder, bigger and more complicated for you to get any real results this style of movement is overlooked or worse its degraded as something not worth doing. I remember when STEP first became a ‘thing’, it was everywhere in the late 80’s and early 90’s and it was taught (and I was trained this way) as a slower way to do aerobics that had you stepping up and off of a platform to around 125 BPM, but by the mid to late 90’s the normal BPM had jumped up to 135+… setting people up for all kinds of injuries. I had a few loud conversations with gym managers and other instructors about my classes. I kept the BPM’s well under 130 and I still do today, when I get a chance to teach. I have also taught Pilates and in classical Pilates, and in a style of Pilates known as The Method, precise movements require you to move slowly, Mindfully, but again the fast-paced folks weren’t sweating enough, so it morphed into something else looking more like boot camp classes. And guess what, people got hurt.

“Extreme soreness has become a celebrated experience in our culture, but pain is often an indication that you’ve gone too far, too fast.”
― Katy Bowman, Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement

And the same thing has happened in yoga. Yoga 50 years ago wasn’t taught in hot rooms with jumps and hops and crazy positions. Oh there were some crazy poses, well my hips think their crazy, but they were held for longer and they were taught over years, to students who practiced daily, that’s every day guys, yep people can do yoga every day… Just sayin’….. What has happened over the last 20 years or so is that our culture has once again taken the deliberateness and precision out of yoga and now everything is vinyasa. Fast paced movements designed to keep the heart rate up and burn calories. 

So what’s my point? Well there are good reasons why we need to move with more attention to detail. Moving more slowly actually allows you to recruit more muscle fibers. Moving deliberately takes a lot of momentum out the movement giving you a chance to feel how you move, to live for a moment in the foundation of the movement. In a slower paced practice, you can take time to notice the breath, to move with the breath. In a subtler practice you allow the body to move in a more natural way, increasing strength and pliability more slowly, therefore more effectively.

And the practice of moving more deliberately increases the flow of Prana through the body. Due to stress, lack of movement, poor diet and even aging, the body can become stiff. It becomes heavy and dense. And when that happens the movement of Prana, vital life force, is inhibited.

One of the reasons we do a yoga asana practice is to free up the physical body. To release tension and allow more freedom of movement, and when the body is free from tension then Prana flows more freely.

Moving slowly and holding poses for longer periods of time encourage a deeper level of relaxation. Holding a pose or a stretch for 15 to 30 seconds may feel like a stretch or that you are relaxing muscles but in reality, while the muscles may relax a little often times the connective tissue can actually begin to resist the stretch. If the posture is held for 2 minutes or longer, the belly of the muscle will begin to release and lengthen, and the connective tissue can then release old stuck energies and the result is more permanent elasticity and flexibility.

And along with that increased flexibility the Prana can begin to move and to release the mental, physical and energetic blocks in the body.

And I have nothing against a hot sweaty practice, or a practice that is intense and hard, but if that’s all you do you are missing out on creating greater balance in your body as well as your mind and spirit.

So know and understand that a slower style of yoga along with restorative yoga, practices that seem simple are not at all “beginner’s yoga, they can be quite challenging.  These practices offer significant returns on the investment of your time and more importantly your attention.

These practices may seem simplistic, but they are incredibly profound.

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Try slowing down and let me know what you think

Om Shanti

Cheryl