“I’m not worried if I can do it.” “I feel safe and comfortable.” “it’s not always easy, but I’m confident I can participate.” “This is where my mind gets quiet.” “I love the variety and accessibility.” “I often feel muscles I don’t notice in my vinyasa class.”
These are just a few comments from students about Gentle Yoga.
The dictionary defines gentle as, “moderate in action, affect or degree, not harsh or severe, calm.” PKSYHA characterizes a gentle yoga class as, appropriate for students new to yoga as well as elderly folks and those with injuries. The focus is on stress release and gentle stretching, although light strength work is also important. It is intended to be very internal. The teacher is predominantly in a nurturing role.”
I would go one step further and say that Gentle Yoga is a great addition to ANY LEVEL of yoga student’s practice.
Unlike restorative, a gentle yoga practice isn’t just filled with supine or prone positions. It also isn’t like a beginners yoga class where lots of techniques are taught. Gentle is a very slow form of vinyasa combined with short holds. There is a balance of postures that create strength and length as well as pranayama and meditation.
I believe one of the biggest differences is the sense of calm and quiet found in a gentle class. There is no rushing but rather a sense of exploring and inquiring. In addition, poses are broken down – you might never do the full posture in class – I call this pose deconstruction.
Gentle is not a “slowed down” version of vinyasa, it has it’s own unique character.
The language used in a gentle yoga class also makes it different from other classes. The teacher stays in the role of nurturer. Key words you might include in your language are kindness, compassion, acceptance, and permission. Teachers try to create a sense of being held in class.
Gentle yoga moves slowly. There are many pauses and moments of receiving what was just done. The integration of the work happens throughout the class, not just during relaxation. Teachers can also use the pauses as moments of inquiry and encouraging their students to check in.
Prop use is highly encouraged in a gentle yoga class even if you don’t think you need it. There is the possibility of engaging in a very different experience if you use a prop. And, it can be essential for some gentle students.
Gentle yoga allows us to gracefully create a space for being in flow and being stationary. There is an opportunity to experience bliss and balance in every pose no matter what your level of experience.
Jacci’s next and final Gentle Yoga Teacher Trainings will be held June 12-14, 2020 in Santa Fe, NM and November 13-15, 2020 at Main Street Yoga in Bloomington, IL. Jacci will be retiring from leading teacher trainings at the end of 2020.
You can find Jacci online here: https://www.yogawithjacci.com/
Below are a Gentle Yoga Q&A as well as an outline for a Pranakriya style gentle class, don’t miss out on either of these great resources from Jacci!
Gentle Yoga Q&A
Q: How is Gentle Yoga different from other forms of yoga?
A: Gentle yoga is accessible to any level of student. It moves more slowly than most forms of yoga and utilizes props as a way to support students deepening their practice. Like other types of yoga, Gentle Yoga works with the mind, body and spirit. Many students find they can go deeper in a gentle yoga class from the mind/emotion perspective because they don’t have to worry about being able to “do” the postures.
Q: Can Gentle Yoga be challenging?
A: Definitely! Just because it’s gentle it doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. From a physical perspective, everyone’s body is different. Gentle Yoga provides a balance of lengthening and strengthening poses which some students might find physically challenging. However, a good teacher can make any of the poses accessible by breaking down the posture into its essential elements and intent. For those who lead very busy lives and like to go-go-go the meditative aspect of gentle yoga can be quite challenging. Slowing down, tuning in and being with ourselves is often harder than constant movement.
Q: What are the benefits one might derive from a Gentle Yoga Class?
A: Like most yoga classes there are many benefits to be gained from practice. I believe a gentle yoga class provides better stress reduction because students aren’t usually worried about coming to class and what they can and can’t do. Competition is very rare in a gentle yoga class. In addition, because of the type of practice students may find their cortisol levels lower which creates a great sense of peace in the body. Students will also gain flexibility and strength in a gentle class just like in a more traditional yoga class. Students might actually find greater range of motion in gentle because of the pace at which we practice.
Gentle Yoga Practice
I very much like a gentle practice that keeps students on the floor, however, there is no reason not to work also with a gentle standing practice. Here I share a more standing oriented Gentle Yoga Class.
Theme: Find Love for YOU
Teach this class with your student’s short side of their mat on the wall:
- Start seated with a blanket under the buttocks and back against the wall
- Lead Dirgha pranayama
- (move slightly away from the wall)
- Cat and cow
- Torso circles
- Easy twisting kriya
Transition to table and then standing
- Mountain Pose
- Standing Hip Circles
- ¼ moon kriya
Turn to face the wall – fingers touching the wall but feet 1 foot from the wall
- Inhale and lift left arm up while extending right leg back – repeat a few times as a kriya; repeat on other side
- Reach left leg back, heel to the ground for a heel/achilles/calf stretch; repeat on other side
- Practice warrior on both sides
Turn sideways and place right fingers lightly on the wall
- Engage abdominal wall and lift and lower left knee/thigh
- Hold left thigh parallel to the ground and externally/internally rotate
- Circle knee/thigh
- Turn and repeat on the other side
Place a block near the wall and step the right foot onto the block while right fingers touch the wall
- Swing left leg forward and back
- Abduct leg
- Lift and lower foot to floor by dropping and lifting pelvis
- Repeat on other side
Turn and place buttocks/back against the wall
- Walk feet about 1 foot away from the wall
- Squat kriya
Fold forward with back against the wall/hands on blocks
Walk hands forward to come to table with forearms on the floor
- Small cat and cow
- Small side bending/lateral flexion
- Small hip circles
Lower to belly
- Cobra kriya
- ½ locust kriya
Side lying Right side
- Clam shells
- Roll to other side
Roll to back
- Knees into chest – rock
- Lower feet to floor – reach arms easily over head
- Support Bridge with block under pelvis
- Release spine for a few breaths when done
- Easy twist (R/L)
- Feet up the wall if you’d like
- Dirgha breath for 2-3 minutes
Poem: The Odyssey by Leza Lowitz
On and on we row,
Drifting this way and that
Through the raging tempest
Of hours, days, years.
Great sea of mind -waves!
Not wind nor rain
Sun nor shadow
Sound nor silence
What can stop this great wave of time?
Only love can lash itself to the mast –
Love of self,
Love of others,
Love of every living being
Truly cherished as one,