The Magic in the Method
In my professional and personal opinion, moving slower in yoga just works better for a lot of us whether we are aware of it or not. When I lead Dynamic Gentle Yoga, slowing down is a readily noticeable element and to an unknowing observer, the practice might even look sleepy or boring. The fact that a slow pace can reduce the risk of strain and injury may be somewhat obvious. Yet, coordinating breath with movement is the real secret sauce in this style and supports the development of interoception.
In her article Why I don’t take my yoga hot and sweaty, Kristine Weber of Subtle Yoga in Asheville, NC writes, “Studies show that slow, meditative yoga does something different to your nervous system than exercise – it helps to build proprioception and interoception.” More commonly know as mindfulness in the body, Bo Forbes describes interoception as “the ability to inhabit the body and be present with bodily sensation as it fluctuates from one moment to the next.” In yoga, our practice is attending to sensation with intention and acceptance, letting go of our habitual avoidance of that which is uncomfortable or that we don’t like.
If you take a full yogic breath (Dirgha pranayama) and coordinate with movement, the movement naturally must slow down to match the length of the breath. Both deepening the breath and slowing movement engages the mind and strengthens our concentration and focus. The practice takes on a meditative quality, reducing the random activity of the mind and thus, calming inner turmoil.
Kristine continues, “And here’s the thing we are just starting to understand—the ‘rest and digest’ part of the nervous system needs to train. And you can’t train it with Netflix and wine. It needs active participation.” As you’ve likely heard many times, yoga is a practice. Slow yoga is a practice that is particularly conducive to mindfulness of the body as a moment by moment practice. The breath is a most excellent companion on this journey.
So, we slow down, coordinate movement with breath, lengthen the breath, both inhalation and exhalation, and pay attention, turning the attention inward to build body-sense, interoception, And the magic of yoga takes it from there.