There is a general misconception that “gentle yoga” is not as beneficial as the more active styles. However, the gentle styles of yoga, such as Restorative Yoga, Somatic Yoga, Therapeutic Yoga, can stimulate the immune system and improve one’s overall health.
Gentle yoga styles help to get the body out of stress-mode, release tension, calm the nervous system, gain clearer thinking, and even restore an overall sense of balance to the body, the mind and the soul. While stress is essential in certain moments where we need to achieve a goal and the stakes are high, the body’s stress aparatus (the brain, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and muscles) become chronically over or under-activated when even low-levels of stress are persistent. Chronic stress can produce mental and physical illness over time, and the list of potential effects is too long and sad to list to here.
People often think that gentle yoga classes are easy, but these may be students who are already stimulated in life (always on screens) and physically very active (athletics and fitness outside yoga) and still choose to only practice vigorous forms of yoga. Unsurprisingly, many people actually find these classes more difficult because they require the body and the mind to relax when they have been coping with hyper-stimulation for years.
In our society, people tend to feel the need to always do something and to feel a sense of accomplishment. Rarely do we allow ourselves the opportunity to simply “be”. Believe it or not: “being” rather than “doing”, in and of itself, is an accomplishment!
So the next time you go to a gentle yoga class, be prepared to slow down. Allow yourself the opportunity to “be” in the poses by supporting your body, using props as needed, and then surrendering to the experience of the moment. Another important part of a gentle yoga class is knowing that you are cultivating a mindful practice, as well as stimulating your body’s natural healing abilities.
When you include a gentle yoga practice as part of your other activities, you will begin to experience an improvement in your overall health, and a deep sense of inner awareness and peace.
Christiane Parcigneau is a restorative and therapeutic yoga teacher at PranaShanti. You can see more of her tips on Gentle Yoga on our YouTube channel.