What Is Gentle Yoga?

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Most of the yoga limelight goes to the new hybrid trends and ever-escalating extremes of temperature and athleticism. And while I'm always up for trying new things, sometimes you just want an old-fashioned stretch, maybe with a little chanting? I'm talking about gentle yoga, done for the joy of stretching and stillness of mind, not for the calories burned. Gentle yoga styles may not be in the news, but they still have an important part to play on the yoga spectrum.

What Does Gentle Mean?

The dictionary definition of gentle is along the lines of moderate or mild. So when a yoga class is described as “gentle,” what should you expect? Gentle has been adopted into the yoga lexicon to describe a style of practice that focuses on stretching and breathing, not feats of strength or extreme flexibility. Still, you shouldn’t expect to spend the whole class in a supine position wrapped in a blanket (try restorative if that sounds appealing). You may do standing postures, forward bends, and even low-impact backbends in addition to seated stretches. 

Does Hatha Mean Gentle?

Not necessarily. Although many hatha classes are gentle, the words are not synonymous. Hatha yoga is a much more general term that can really mean any type of physical yoga, although it is often used to indicate a class that is not flow-oriented. A gentle class could include some vinyasa flow, but the point is not to raise your heart rate or try to get your leg behind your head.

It’s to really tune in to your body and your breath. Expect prop supported postures with an emphasis on stretching.

Is Gentle Yoga for You?

Gentle yoga classes are going to be accepting of beginners and people who are physically challenged. They may include meditation. They are intended to be calming and to reduce stress.

Gentle Styles

Beginning level classes in the following yoga styles are good places to start your exploration of gentle yoga. However, classes do vary, despite how they are labeled. Speak to the teacher or studio director beforehand to find out if they consider the class to be gentle.


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