Or is Gentle Yoga “too easy” to achieve that result? And what does it even mean, that a style or experience of yoga can be transformational? What transforms? What changes?
How Change Happens
Transformation can happen on a number of levels because we are multidimensional beings. Change can occur on the physical level. You can reduce stiffness, increase pain-free range of motion. You may reduce blood pressure, increase breath capacity, stimulate efficiency of the endocrine system, and improve digestion. Some people even use yoga to help them lose weight. Calming the nervous system can create change on the physical and emotional level, reducing stress, anxiety, depression.
Yoga can Change Consciousness
The yogis are known to say that through the practice of yoga you can change how you feel by changing the rate of your breathing. And, they continue, if you can change how you feel, you may change how you think, change your consciousness.
What does this mean? It can mean many things. It can mean that as I breathe deeper, I relax and become less fearful, more trusting, maybe even more content.
When change goes deep, beliefs change. Beliefs can be taken for granted. We’re not always aware of some of our beliefs. Our beliefs are what we consider to be the truth. Beliefs inform our thinking, our thinking informs our emotions, and together our thinking and emotions can drive our actions.
Yoga Teachers Must Challenge Students to Pay Attention
As a gentle yoga teacher, I have observed that what creates the calming and relaxation of a yoga class is breathing deeper throughout the class, and being challenged. The challenge is not necessarily on the physical level, rather, it is more mental. In gentle yoga the challenge can be paying attention. Indeed in all yoga styles, paying attention can be the challenge as much as flexibility and strength.
Providing the just-right challenge to maintain students’ attention where you want it to be is not easy for yoga teachers. Focus is a not something our busy lifestyle or culture supports. We live in a very stimulating and saturating society. Things move fast. Information moves fast. Things are constantly changing, evolving. Technology is continually innovating. We live in a high-stress environment and have become a species that suffers from attention deficit disorder in various degrees.
How to Guide Breath Instruction
To teach effective Gentle Yoga, and help students gain the focus they need to relax, yoga teachers need to continually guide breath instruction. This begins with simply cueing/guiding when to inhale and when to exhale. This is not as easy to do as it may sound, but is a critical part of the methodology that I teach in my advanced teacher training.
The effective Gentle Yoga teacher also needs to challenge students to pay attention by cueing/guiding details of movement throughout the experience. I once heard a student arriving in an afternoon class, lay out her yoga mat and in exasperation plead, “please, just tell me what to do so I can shut off my mind.”
Leading Meditation Practice
This student’s plea was essentially a call to be guided in meditation. Meditation practice begins with continually bringing the attention to one point, whether it be the breath or other chosen objects of focus.
Over time, continually bringing the attention back to a chosen point of focus, begins to dominate the mind’s experience and take the place of constant thought activity. This is how yoga can begin to be a meditative experience.
Dynamic Gentle Yoga is Steeped in the Kripalu Yoga Tradition of Conscious Awareness
Breathing deeper and the challenge of focus are part of the secret sauce of Dynamic Gentle Yoga. This is the result of having been steeped in the Kripalu tradition, a style of yoga that many find hard to define. The description will seem vague only to one who has not experienced it. For its practitioners, Kripalu Yoga is a yoga of conscious awareness.
What is conscious awareness? This is the state we know as meditation, where the mind’s attention becomes steady, alert, neutral, equanimous, unwavering amidst the storms of stimulation, emotion, fear and desire. It is actually a state where the mind shifts into neutral and the practitioner sinks into, or rises into, a state of simply being. Non-doing. Non-thinking. Non-verbal.
Dynamic Gentle Yoga™ is meditative yoga, which is accessible, inclusive and empowering.
To learn more about Dynamic Gentle Yoga, I would invite you to experience one of our daily or weekly classes.
If you are a yoga teacher, I invite you to consider the Dynamic Gentle Yoga Teacher Training. To learn more, visit the certification page. Trainings offered beginning Feb 11 and in the Fall of 2021, dates tba.