Dynamic Gentle Yoga™ (DGY) is a method of guiding and instructing yoga that evolved over the 35+ years I taught yoga and trained new yoga teachers at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health*. DGY is built on a strong foundation of Kripalu Yoga and has three main characteristics: slow, meditative, and accessible.
Slow has many benefits. Slow can increase the safety of movement. Slow can enhance body awareness making it easier to feel all that’s happening in the body. Slow can allow the breath to lengthen and deepen. Slow can help draw the attention inward.
Slow is also particularly preferable to bodies that are experiencing stiff joints, tight muscles, chronic pain, weak muscles, recovery from injury or surgery, heart conditions, obesity, neurological disorders, anxiety.
One of the challenges of teaching yoga at a slow pace is that yoga teachers tend to refer to their own experience of what’s pleasurable in practice. The experience of their students may be completely different – what feels slow to the yoga teacher may be faster than optimal for the student. The speed of meditative yoga may be a notch or two below what many yoga teachers think is possible, effective or desirable. Teaching slow yoga can take some getting used to and teachers benefit from specific skill development in the language of cueing for a slow pace. Ironically, it takes more words and careful word choices to cue a slow pace. .
There are also some “risks” with slow-paced yoga! If the teacher isn’t providing almost constant guidance when the pace is slow, the practice can become “sleepy” and under-stimulating. It can be difficult for students to stay engaged mentally if the class is low-energy and lacks a sense of appropriate challenge. Again, the tried and true techniques I have used in my classes can be learned and I am eager to share these with teachers who want to learn.
Kripalu Center* has been training yoga teachers since the 1970s and is renowned for the highest quality professional teacher training in the country and, I would argue, internationally. However, even the best 200-hour teacher training can’t fully train new teachers in the nuances required to teach Gentle Yoga. That’s what advanced training is for. Given the increase in popularity of yoga for seniors and bodies with movement challenges, I created the Dynamic Gentle Yoga Teacher Training (DGYTT) to give teachers the advanced skills they need to offer high quality Gentle Yoga infused with the Kripalu tradition of meditative yoga.
In order for yoga to be meditative the mind needs to be challenged to focus, to become one-pointed in its focus and to be able to focus on subtler and subtler sensations. In order for yoga to be meditative the energy must be raised. In order for yoga to be engaging enough to raise the energy, there must be some degree of challenge. The challenge in meditative yoga is to pay attention.
A DGY Teacher creates constant opportunities to draw the students’ attention inward with clear details of instruction. The DGY teacher provides specific guidance about what body parts to move and where to move them, how and when to breathe, and where to bring attention.
What does accessible mean? Reachable. Attainable. Available. Approachable. To make a yoga class accessible means to guide movement and postures that most people will be able to do.
To be sure, “most people” is vague. In the case of Dynamic Gentle, a mat yoga class would require that people be able to sit on the floor, lie on the floor, and get up and down from the floor. (With practice a yoga teacher can guide a hybrid mat yoga/chair yoga class where a chair can be a prop for sitting and for getting up and down from the floor).
Accessible primarily means three things.
- There are traditional yoga postures that you simply would not include in a gentle yoga class because the risk is greater than the benefit.
- The approach to entering postures involves nuanced exploration, including easier options on the way toward greater degrees of challenge for flexibility and strength. The nuanced exploration adds time for experiential education regarding tensions, vulnerabilities or limitations one might encounter entering a posture.
- The pace is slow. So, again, the slow pace enhances awareness and is simply safer. Slow, by the way, can also be strengthening. Slow movement requires more support from the muscles than fast movement. Fast movement draws from momentum, reducing the requirement of muscular effort.
Slow and the Importance of Breath Cues
Is there a risk of going too slow? How does a DGY teacher know how slow to pace a class?
The pace of the class is timed by the breath flowing in and out. Breath cues are essential in DGY. Breath cues make all the difference to the degree of engagement in the experience, to the level of awareness attained in the practice, to the quality of relaxed effort and calming of the nervous system, while keeping an energy level that sustains alertness.
Refining breath cues is a foundational aspect of the DGY Teacher Training. As a yoga teacher, you will learn about the specific types of breath cues, specific use of breath cues, and how this awareness of the breath rate of your students becomes your guide to timing and pacing. You will be steeped in the language of empowerment and accessibility in guided practice sessions.
Studying with me will deepen your own practice and transform your yoga teaching, making the benefits of yoga even more available.