Have you ever been in a yoga class where the flow was moving so quickly you couldn’t keep up? “I thought yoga was supposed to be relaxing”, you think to yourself, yet you feel a little bit stressed just trying to keep up with all the sun salutations and chaturangas.
This is what drew me to slow flow yoga: a type of yoga that offers all the benefits of vinyasa while giving you more time to pause, adjust, and breathe. Slow flow yoga is deeply relaxing and easier for beginners to follow. It also helps you connect more deeply with your body, breath and inner journey.
In this ultra-fast world, we need slow flow yoga to rebalance and relax. Let’s dig deeper into the soul of slow flow yoga. Here we’ll cover:
- What is slow flow yoga?
- 10 benefits of slow flow yoga
- Pros and cons of slow flow
- Slow flow vs. power yoga vs. vinyasa
- Slow flow vs. yin yoga
- How to practice slow flow yoga
- A slow flow sequence for beginners
What is Slow Flow Yoga?
Slow flow yoga is a low-impact yoga workout excellent for beginners and those seeking stress relief, as well as children and elderly yogis. It still has the rhythm of yoga without the rush.
Your joints and muscles gradually warm up over a longer period and you have more time to perfect your alignment in each pose. Slow flow yoga still helps you improve mindfulness, breathwork, flexibility, balance, and strength, but it does so in a less intensive way than other styles.
Slow flow is all about slowing down and concentrating on your mind-body connection. New students, or those with a more contemplative disposition, will gravitate toward slow flow yoga as a way to go deeper in their practice. On the other hand, advanced students and those with a more fast-paced or athletic disposition may find slow flow to be lacking challenge and not offering enough of a workout.
10 Benefits of Slow Flow Yoga
More time to focus on alignment:
There is simply more time between transitions and a slower pace than typically vinyasa or power yoga classes
Slow flows allow your muscles to warm and flex more gradually, resulting in less lactic acid buildup, therefore less fatigue.
Mindfulness and awareness:
The dance and rhythm of slow flows help bring you into a meditative state by slowing your heart rate and bringing attention to your thoughts.
Improves strength in muscle fascia and joints:
Smaller muscle groups are targeted through strategic movements and isometric exercises when holding poses for longer periods.
Suitable for all age groups:
Slow flow is especially great for children or elderly groups who need a slower pace and more time to explore different asanas.
Synchronization of breath and movement:
Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “to yolk”. This style of yoga especially embodies the “yolking” or bringing together of mind-body-spirit through synced breathing and motion.
Easier to use props or modifications:
You can modify poses to fit your needs without feeling rushed.
Improves oxygenation of blood:
Deep breathing that coordinates with movements in or out of asana increases lung capacity and the amount of oxygen in your blood.
In a fast-paced world, we could all use a little more slowing down and releasing to the flow of the universe.
Like many vinyasa classes, slow flow often repeats the same sun salutations or sequences multiple times. The repetition brings more bodily awareness and opportunities to delve deeper into poses.
Pros and Cons of Slow Flow
- Accessible for beginners and all age groups
- Easy to follow pose transitions
- More relaxing than power yoga
- More time to adjust and sink into specific asanas
- Improved concentration and awareness
- Ample time to meditate and self-evaluate
- Improves balance during longer hold times
- Targets smaller muscle groups and muscle fascia
- Improves joint health
- Improves stress response
- Oxygenates the blood
- Helpful for people with back pain
- Easy to learn
- Less strength building (compared to power yoga)
- Less cardiovascular workout
- May not be challenging enough for advanced yogis
- Meditative practice is needed to keep the mind from wandering
Slow Flow vs. Power Flow Yoga vs. Vinyasa
Vinyasa is the traditional form of flow yoga; sort of like the broader category that slow flow and power flow rest underneath. To flow simply means to sort of dance or elegantly move the body between postures that have been strategically designed in sequence.
There is an art to flow. It is a fluidity in transitions that helps the body open up and become less rigid.
Slow flow and power flow yoga are two opposite ends of the Vinyasa spectrum, but the speed and intensity of each can vary widely among different teachers and classes.
Slow flow is all about grounding, stable energy. The focus is primarily on balance and safe alignment. The sequences move slower and may hold poses for longer. There is also more time to use props like yoga blocks and bolsters.
Slow flow yoga warms up your muscles gradually and may slightly raise the heart rate, but it is not really a cardiovascular or strength-building workout.
On the other hand, power yoga is much more athletic, vigorous, strengthening, and intense. Power yoga is more of a workout than a relaxation practice, though it provides both. There is less focus on meditation and more focus on dynamic movements.
Your heart rate will raise more quickly as you transition between poses, not holding any one posture for very long but likely returning to the same posture many times. It helps to already have mastered alignment in power yoga asanas because there is not much time to make adjustments.
Slow Flow vs. Yin Yoga
Far opposite of power yoga, yin yoga is inspired by ancient Chinese Taoist practices that were also used in Kung Fu training for thousands of years. It involves holding yoga poses and stretches for a long length of time.
Yin practitioners often stay in an asana for 3 to 5 minutes, or even more. This is especially useful for balancing the nervous system and targeting connective tissues during periods of rest in long-held postures.
If you think of the taijitu (the “yin-yang” circle), yin is the black feminine resting side of this duality, whereas yang is the white masculine muscular movement type of yoga represented in most studios across the U.S.
Power yoga, vinyasa, and Ashtanga are all very “yang”. Yin yoga is much more subtle and in-depth. Slow flow yoga lies somewhere between this spectrum, with equal balances of both types of energy.
Yin yoga is very still. Slow flow yoga is active, yet unhurried. Both yin and slow flow yoga include very slow, easy poses, however yin does not does not “flow” between the sequence. Yin yoga involves holding deep stretches for long periods of time (several minutes or more), whereas slow flows may hold asana for just a few rounds of breath.
How to Practice Slow Flow Yoga
To practice slow flow yoga, you will want to begin with a yoga mat and maybe a few props (such as yoga blocks or a yoga strap) to help you maximize the benefits of certain poses.
Slow flow sequences are typically about half the number of poses you would practice in a typical vinyasa class. A deep, mindful sequence will help you feel calm, focused, and revitalized.
The key to experiencing all the benefits of slow flow yoga is release. We must be able to let go and savor the gradual pace, enjoying a more passive meditative experience that can stay with us even after leaving the mat.
“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Slow Flow Sequence for Beginners
The easiest way to begin slow flow yoga is with a very simple sun salutation. Rather than moving with every single breath, each pose will be held for several rounds of breath in and out.
Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Stand with feet together or hip width apart, hands open and relaxed to your sides. Take 3 long slow breaths.
Raised Arms Pose (Urdhva Hastasana)
On your 4th inhale, bring your arms out to the sides and meet your palms together above your head. Pull your shoulders down away from your ears, feeling the shoulder blades against each other. Hold for 3 gentle breaths.
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
On the 4th breath, inhale and then exhale down, folding forward over your legs. Slightly bend the knees and reach for the floor. If you can’t reach the floor, use a block or place hands on shins. Breathe for 3 rounds.
Half Lift (Ardha Uttanasana)
On an inhale, slowly lift your head to look forward. Straighten your spine, engage the core, and half lift your body with fingertips on the floor or on your shins. Hold for 3 slow rounds of breath.
Plank Pose (Phalakasana)
On the 4th breath, inhale, place the hands flat on the floor, and walk feet back to plank pose. Shoulders should be aligned over your wrists and toes beneath the heels. Back is straight. Core engaged. Hold for 3 slow breaths, feeling the muscles strengthen.
Chaturanga (Chaturanga Dandasana)
On an exhale, bend the elbows directly by your sides and lower the chest and chin toward the ground as if a low push-up (optional to drop the knees for support). Keep your butt up high and elbows hugging against your ribcage. Hold for 2 slow breaths, embracing any shaking or wobbling in the muscles.
Upward Dog (Urdhva Mukka Svanasana)
On an inhale, very gradually roll over your knees onto the top of the feet and reach your head upward, straightening the arms and rolling shoulder blades down and back. The thighs should be lifted and engaged, or if this is too challenging, rest the thighs on the floor in Cobra pose (Bhujangasana). Take 3 long slow breaths, feeling the heart and spine open up.
Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
On an inhale, push backwards into a downward dog, palms pressing into floor and tailbone reaching toward the sky. Shoulders should be away from the head, shoulder blades engaging in the back, and heels pressing toward the ground to open your hamstrings. You can “walk the dog” by slowly pressing one heel down and then the other. Breathing very slowly for 5 rounds of breath. Take time to pause, hold, and reflect in your first inverted position.
Half Lift (Ardha Uttanasana)
On the next inhale, gently walk your feet forward to the front of the mat and return to the half-lift position, gaze forward, holding for a few breaths with the core engaged.
Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
On the next exhale, release and breathe. Feel your hamstrings opening a bit more as you relax downward for 5 slow inhales and 5 slow exhales, sinking deeper with each breath.
Raised Arms Pose (Urdhva Hastasana)
Hinge at your hips to stand back up, raising the hands over your head. Slight backbend optional. Breathe for 3 breaths, stabilizing the feet and hips.
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
On the last exhale, let your arms release down to your side. Return to mountain pose, full circle to where we began. Breathe deeply for 5-10 breaths, letting your mind release any lingering thoughts and softening your gaze forward.
Top Slow Flow Yoga Videos
Best for Beginners:
Best for Flexibility:
Best for Intermediate Yogis:
Best for Evening Yoga:
Best for Yin/Slow Flow Blend:
Slow Down and Savor the Moment
Even us yogis can sometimes get caught up in the rush of an exciting power yoga workout or the bustle of a crowded studio. Slow flows remind us to go with the flow of the universe and settle in for some silence and reflection.