Lately a lot of my vinyasa yoga students have approached me after class to tell me how much they appreciate my slower teaching style. Of course the critic in me goes into hyperdrive with comments like that. Are my classes too slow? Am I on own planet and no longer in line with what my colleagues are teaching?
The inner dialogue that happens in my brain is truly maddening.
Ultimately, a student wouldn't commend me for something if they didn't mean it. In general, people, no one will go out of their way to compliment you if they didn't mean it so let's stop being so modest and hypercritical. (There's your unsolicited advice for the week. You're welcome.)
When students started telling me they liked my slower style I instantly started to get uncomfortable. I wanted to own who I was as a teacher, but often found myself trying to sell my students on the benefits of a slower practice. At the end of the day students who like a slower flow will continue to take my classes and students who aren't into it just won't return. That's what's great about yoga! It's everywhere and you're pretty much guaranteed to find a teacher who offers you want you need in a practice.
In case you're not sold on this slower pace, I put together my top five reasons for why I think all vinyasa yoga students should give themselves time to slow down in their practice.
Take in the Lesson
If you're always whipping through postures at lightening speed how do you expect to actually take in the information your teacher is providing you? Perhaps your teacher has a great message to deliver that day. Or maybe your teacher is providing you with new insight on a common posture. Your yoga mat is a place to learn all sorts of things about your mind, body, and spirit. Slow your flow a bit to actually take in those lessons.
You'll Get Stronger
Want to build physical strength and mental tenacity? Moving through Chaturanga as fast as you can will not help you in that endeavor. Have you ever held Warrior II for more than a few breaths? It's freaking hard! The more time you hold a posture the more engaged you'll be physically and mentally. Although I'm a big fan of cross training outside the yoga room, simply slowing down your vinyasa yoga practice can be a great way to get stronger.
That's enough, right? Moving fast has to potential to compromise safe, sustainable alignment. Period.
You Get to Actually Experience the Practice
When you're moving fast you don't actually get the chance to take in what you're experiencing. Do you actually know how the posture feels physically, mentally, emotionally? How can your body and mind compute all of the sensations that arise when you don't take a moment to let it all settle? This goes along with the idea that moving slower is safer. If you give yourself a moment to pause and actually experience a posture you can then adapt and adjust the alignment in a way that serves your practice and you.
We Move Fast Already
How often do you freak out in your car because you're stuck in traffic and you have somewhere to be? How frustrated do you get when the webpage isn't loading fast enough? How irritated do you get when someone isn't walking fast enough in front of you at Target? (None of these are from experience...) We already move so fast in our everyday life! Your yoga mat should be your place to do the opposite and find some balance. Roll out your mat and take 30, 60, 90 minutes to just slow down!
There's nothing wrong with moving fast. I was initially drawn to vinyasa yoga because of its quick, athletic qualities. Moving fast has value! Plus vinyasa yoga is about connecting your breath with poses. However, a vinyasa yoga practice doesn't mean constant movement. When you want to get your flow on let your quicker movements be simple. Stick with basic salutations if you want to move quickly and then give yourself the time to slow down when integrating more complex postures. Your body and mind will thank you for it.