20 Apr Defining What Makes a Practice “Gentle”
I have been contemplating the word “gentle.” What does it mean to use “gentle” as a descriptor of a yoga class, training, posture, or practice? What is Gentle Yoga?
If you have taken gentle classes before, you’ve likely seen that “gentle” has a wide range of meaning in the world of yoga. One teacher’s idea of gentle might mean never coming into standing postures, while another’s might mean lowering the knees during chaturanga.
And that’s just it. A gentle practice is expansive and wide-ranging, just as are the bodies and constitutions of all who practice yoga. To precisely define it, to narrow the concept and meaning, is to limit the potential and possibility of what it means to be in gentle practice. Practice is personal, a journey within, and only within can we each discover what it means to be gentle.
I teach several gentle classes and private sessions a week, and depending on where and who I am teaching, the style of Gentle Yoga varies widely. Sometimes we sweat. Sometimes we stay lying down the entire class. And always we practice in a way to allow for greater connection to the Inner Self. Whether that connection happens or not is up to the practitioner. What is up to me is to set the space, understand the dynamics, and teach in a way that encourages going within. This is what my years of training and teaching have provided me, the knowledge and ability to set the space.
That is precisely the mission of our training here at the School of Gentle Yoga: To train teachers in the subtleties of yoga, giving them the knowledge and ability to set the space for students and clients to practice in a way that allows their inner wisdom to take the lead. Again, another wide range of potential and possibilities here.
When I first suffered the head trauma that instantly took me out of my type-A-say-yes-to-everything-push-though-the-pain-too-busy-to-breathe lifestyle, I had no connection to my Inner Self. At that time, any gentle practice would have challenged the foundation of my Being. So, lowering my knees in chaturanga MAY have been a possibility.
As can be the case, a breakdown was needed before I could even begin to think of being present and aware in my body. I created my days in a way that left no space for quiet contemplation – for ease in my body or mind. Until the day I was forced into being gentle with myself. And even then, it took me time to undo the way of being that made stress and tension and busyness feel like home.
So maybe when your inner wisdom can first be heard, it encourages you to mix in a restorative class with all of your physically demanding classes. That’s a gentle practice. Or it encourages you to take a chair yoga class to move with safety while your injury heals. That is a gentle practice. Or it encourages you to intentionally focus on deep breathing for 5 minutes a day. That is a gentle practice. Or maybe it is the voice that says yoga is not just about how I show up on my mat, it is about how I show up in my life. Being present and aware throughout the day is a gentle practice, as it enables you to hear that wisdom within that is best heard when we move, breathe, and live in a way that brings Harmony into all layers of our being.
So what does “gentle” mean? It is really up to you to decide. And once you do, commit to finding a teacher, a healer, or any resource that will help you to develop your practice in a way that infuses all areas of your life with Harmony.
And if you are interested in becoming a teacher, trained in the many subtle aspects of yoga that create this Harmony, enroll in our upcoming training. It will help you define what gentle means to you in a way that enables you to help others find what it means to them.