In our society, we tend to associate slow with less. This outlook can give people the false sense that a slow-paced class won’t be challenging enough. As a consequence, mindful movement can be a difficult concept to incorporate in a power yoga class. The irony, however, is that it’s probably what most of us need–to slow down.
One of the main tenets of yoga philosophy is how our breath mirrors our emotions. We take shallow and quick breaths when angry and slower breaths when we feel calm.
I’ve noticed that slow and calm can be agitating for some in a power yoga class. I once practiced next to someone who started doing pushups during the opening section of the class when we were asked to check in, close our eyes, and breathe. I’ve also attended classes where the teacher screamed for us to go faster with our sun salutations as techno music played loudly. Given the many ways power yoga is taught, some carry particular expectations–that the practice needs to be frenetic, loud, and fast. Although that has its charm, the challenge rests on bridging the workout people expect, while incorporating the wisdom of slowing down.
Here are ways to get students on board a slow and strong themed class.
Slow and Calm
- Inform the class of the theme, slow and calm, but also remind them that this is an intense class. “You’ll get a workout while at the same time, clear your mind”.
- Add a peak pose: it helps some people to know that they will have a goal towards the end. Share the peak pose along with the intention for a slow class.
- Start with core exercises: One of my favorite classes taught at a yoga studio chain starts with slow intense core on the floor. The teacher has us start in savasana (corpse pose), and then slow leg lifts and core compression. This not only requires slow breath, but you feel it quickly. No one will think they won’t get a workout after this opening.
- Keep the class moving but with slow transitions. This can mean 5 counts down to chaturanga (push up) and 5 counts to plank. It also helps to count it out loud, especially transitions.
- Include jumps in sun salutations for those who want more movement.
- Freedom: dedicate some salutations to let students do what they want. This is a great way to check for pace and what students attempt. You can always incorporate some of these poses in the flow.
Poses & Counter Poses
- Add counter poses such as: backbends with forward folds, or inversions with child’s pose. These combinations allow us to feel calmness after exhilaration.
- Try a playlist that incorporates uplifting beats, but also ballads.