Thursday, May 17, 2012

Yoga - Slow Flow - What are the benefits?

Yoga - Slow Flow - What are the benefits?

I recently started going to yoga and have had already seen a number of benefits. There are a number of different types of yoga practices, each with it’s own set of benefits. I currently participate in four different forms: Slow Flow, Hot Yoga, Yoga Basics, and Yin Restorative. They sometimes have different names. You may or may not be aware of these, but I wrote briefly about each one here:

For this series I am only going to focus on Slow Flow and the types of poses performed. These poses are identical to what you do in other forms of yoga, although in the more advanced classes you may not hold them as long and there may be a slight variation to make it more difficult. I will go into proper technique at a later time, maybe I’ll include some pictures or videos.

Slow Flow

Slow Flow is the first type of yoga practice I did. It is a progression of various poses which you hold for an extended period of time in 75 degree temperature. Unlike other forms of yoga where you move quickly from one stance to the next, in Slow Flow you gradually transition. This allows for a deeper stretch. The benefit is that it tears down the muscle tissue which ultimately leads to muscle building. It is excellent for toning the arms and legs. Depending on the types of poses you do, it can also benefit the core.

Some of the more popular poses you may do include the following:

Downward Facing Dog - This particular pose will help you build muscle in your shoulders and triceps. You will most likely do this pose 8-12 times in an hour session, maybe more. You will definitely feel it in your arms. Another benefit is that it is a great stretch in your calf muscles.

Plank - The plank position can be done in a number of ways. For the most benefit hold your body in a push up position. If that is too difficult you can drop to your forearms. If that is still too tough you can put your knees down, but you won’t get as much out of it. Depending on which stance you do the sensation may be different. Regardless, the majority of your weight should be held up with your core. You could feel a stretch in your calf muscles and toning in your shoulders.

Upward Facing Dog - This pose should build muscle in the lower back and lead to more flexibility as well.

Warrior 1 - Consists of doing a lunge with your hips pointed forward and arms raised above your head. This builds muscle in the calf and quads. It will also help with the upper back and shoulders.

Warrior 2 - Consists of doing a lunge with your hips facing sideways and arms extended parallel to the ground, one forward and one extended behind. Like Warrior 1 it will build muscle in the quads, back, and shoulders.

Warrior 3 - Consists of standing on one foot with the other foot lifted in the air parallel to the ground. The arms can be placed in a number of positions for balance. This will build muscle in the calf and quad of the standing leg.

You can do the above poses in a series of flows from one posture to the next. Popular sequences are Sun Salutation A, B, and C. They become more difficult as you progress from A to C.

There are also a series of poses that involve twists and folds. These are good to massage the organs, lengthen the spine, stretch the back and legs, and increase flexibility. There are too many variations to go into details.

The benefits I have seen from doing Slow Flow Yoga for the past 3.5 months have been more definition in my arms, legs, back, shoulders, and abs. I am much more flexible in my back, arms, and legs.
Beyond muscle and toning, I have also improved my breathing. Slow Flow focuses on proper breathing technique, in through the nose and out the nose. Deep breathes known as One to One breathing. The inhale should be deep and be equivalent in length to the exhale. The top sage's in the world take 3 breaths per minute. A good sign to see how stressed you are is to count your breathes in a minute. Anything over 6 breaths says you have a stressful life. Practice this breathing technique and it will help you feel more at ease. Most people breathe 15 times per minute.
I guess that's why they say when you are stressed to "breathe." It really does help a lot.
The main thing with Slow Flow is to be free of all external thoughts, focus on the present moment, and keep breathing. 

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