It’s no secret that human beings are feeling the effects of a fast pace of life. We’re living in the age of speed and time-poorness, straining to be more efficient, and cramming more into each minute, hour and day. Sadly, this way of being has seeped into some areas of modern yoga practice in a phenomenon that I often call “rushing to relax”.
Just like in life, rushing in our yoga practice causes the stress response to kick in, and results in overstimulation of the nervous system. Moving too fast without paying attention to the restrictions and limitations of the body, as well as hyper- flexibility, can also lead to injury. It can result in a mindset where we’re always trying to get to the next pose, and we lose the connection to the subtle nuances of the asana in the present moment.
Yoga is a process of moving beyond the continuum of time and dropping into each moment. Remember the last time you tasted dark chocolate? Did your natural instinct to slowly taste and appreciate the rich flavour override the desire to gobble it up as quickly as possible? These are our natural, meditative instincts, and they can be explored through a slow and steady asana practice.
Honouring a mindful movement practice with a balanced breath rhythm is key to honing in on the finer details of our experience – we slow down to discover the inner flow. According to Tantric and Ayurvedic wisdom, when you “marinate” within an asana, it allows prana to flow more freely through the subtle body. We become aware of these inner rhythms of prana through gentle, pulsing movements.
Prana is always moving through our bodies whether we realise it or not. When we let go of focusing on the outer self through the attainment of poses, we can explore the cycles and flow of meditative awareness through all of the layers of our being (koshas), and the practice becomes a “full being” meditation. Exploring the pulse of energy within the body, we awaken to the subtle rhythms of prana that underlie all movement (vayus), and this creates a deeper awareness of the connection between body, breath, mind and heart.
Whether it’s steady and considered vinyasa or deeply delicious yin, I try to incorporate the philosophy of mindfulness in my own studio’s classes. It’s not just about the pace of the practice – it’s a mindset that marries intention and purpose with living a balanced life. From this perspective, slow means being present within the flow, living each moment fully and putting quality ahead of quantity.
It’s not about over simplifying the practice or making it light and fluffy. It’s about discovering the art of attention, moving consciously through the flow of a class, pausing to tap into inner resources of strength, stamina and resilience, and allowing a deeper internal shift to occur.
At the end of a mindful practice we feel inwardly relaxed and focused, yet energised, alert and present. We awaken to the wisdom of what we’re learning about our inner selves rather than just physical achievement. The emphasis moves beyond accomplishment into realm of experience, which is where we’re able to savour the exquisiteness of life.
Nicole Walsh is the co-founder of InYoga, a vibrant Vinyasa studio in Sydney’s Surry Hills. She has been teaching yoga for 17 years and is passionate about inspiring a new wave of yoga teachers through InYoga’s 200-hour, 350-hour and 500-hour Teacher Trainings.
www.inyoga.com.au, Instagram: @inyogalife @nicolewalshyoga