One thing that sets The Yoga Collective apart from other studios is our Gentle yoga classes. There are many ways to define Gentle yoga – perhaps as many ways as there are Gentle yoga teachers. As one such Gentle yoga teacher, I like to think of it as a practice of meeting ourselves where we are at. Not where we were a few years ago, nor where we hope to be someday soon, but where we are at - today.
We Gentle yoga practitioners facilitate an awareness of our body’s needs today, and make repeated choices to honor those needs. It takes honesty and compassion to recognize our own needs. Sometimes it takes tremendous courage to accept them.
Rather than striving to reach your toes like the young teacher leading the yoga fit class, or lift your leg higher to resemble that person you saw on the cover of a yoga magazine, in a Gentle yoga class you are encouraged to use props and make adjustments to meet your particular body’s needs. This generous use of props gives you permission to do your poses the way that is most comfortable and appropriate for you. Prioritizing comfort and safety, we reach for props rather than our toes, or we lift the leg with the benefit of a belt.
Props come in many forms: foam blocks and pads, long cotton straps and belts, firm cushions called “bolsters”, blankets, balls, chairs and walls. In a Gentle yoga class, you may reach for blocks instead of the floor in triangle pose, or use the wall to help with balance in half moon pose, or use a belt to make the arm position of the cow-face pose actually work for your shoulders. The Yoga Collective’s studio has amassed quite a collection of props for our students’ use, and all our Gentle yoga classes use a variety of them depending on the focus of each class, helping students achieve alignment and a healthy shape of a variety of poses.
Of all the props, I find the simple chair the most revolutionary. The chairs we use in our sweet little studio are just common metal folding chairs – transformed by my fellow Yoga Collective teacher, Mike Miller, into amazing wonder props.
As you probably expect, chairs can be used for seated poses like twists and forward bends, but chairs can also be used to support multiple kinds of backbends, inversions, relaxing restoratives, wrist-relieving arm balances, and, turned upside down, even as a landing pad for a foot in triangle pose. Using a chair as a prop allows many students to access a pose they are not comfortable trying without the chair – like a shoulderstand, or a headless headstand. As a teacher, I notice a distinct burst of excitement and lifted spirits after trying a new challenging pose, accessed through the chair. Students are amazed at what they can do.
If you haven’t given a Gentle yoga class a try, I urge you to check it out. In the 12 years I have been teaching Gentle yoga, I have grown more convinced of its transformative effects on all types of people. Even if you are an active athlete who can easily touch your toes, the slower pace and emphasis on mindful alignment you’ll find in a Gentle yoga class will help offset the intensity of your regular workouts and hone a more skillful response to your body’s need each day. If you’ve been away from the mat for a while, easing back into yoga through Gentle yoga is ideal. If you’re new to yoga and wanting to establish good habits – again, Gentle yoga is a great place to start. And, if you’re like me, flexible and able, but wishing to slow down the buzz of the day and reunite yourself with your grounded inner self – Gentle yoga is the way.
Hope to see you on the mat in a Gentle class sometime soon.