Slow Flow Yoga is one of the many modern styles of yoga asana that you can commonly find at any yoga studio in the Westernized world.
You may have found yourself in a vinyasa or power yoga class before where you felt like the pacing and the intensity were too high for your liking and your needs. At the same time, you may have tried a yin or restorative yoga class that was then too far on the other side of the spectrum
For many yoga practitioners, slow flow yoga is a happy medium where you can reap the benefits of vinyasa and flow practices in a way that is more accessible.
In this article we will discuss:
- What is Slow Flow Yoga?
- 7 Benefits of Slow Flow Yoga
- Slow Flow vs Vinyasa Flow
- Slow Flow vs Restorative Yoga
- Structure of a Slow Flow Yoga Sequence
- A Slow Flow Yoga Sequence for Beginners
Let’s dive right in!
What is Slow Flow Yoga?
Although it is an asana style in its own right, the practice of slow flow evolved from the traditional practices of Viniyoga, a practice that emerged from Nathamuni’s text, the Yoga-Rahasya and that was rediscovered in the 20th century by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya.
Viniyoga is one of the first asana yoga styles that takes into consideration making the practice accessible and adaptable to the practitioner.
Compared to other flowing styles of yoga like Vinyasa, Power Yoga, and even Ashtanga, Slow Flow yoga contains fewer postures than any of the other flow-style practices, allowing more space to explore alignment and sensation in each asana.
7 Benefits of Slow Flow Yoga
Slow flow yoga shares many of the benefits of vinyasa flow and other more active styles of yoga, but with some that differ, or are added. Here are some of the most relevant:
1. It can help you slow down body and mind
2. Accessible for beginners
3. More space for mindful transitions
4. Room for self-reflection and introspection
5. Can be adapted to different needs with ease
6. Improves balance and resilience through longer holds
7. Allows space for breath (pranayama) exploration
Slow Flow vs Vinyasa Flow
Vinyasa flow is one of the most popular modern yoga styles taught at in-person and virtual yoga studios all over, the westernized world.
As its name implies, the Vinyasa Flow yoga style is based on performing the practice of asana often at a one-breath per movement pace, creating fluid and dance-like sequences that are very enticing, especially for those who are young, able-bodied, and want to move with freedom while getting their heart rate up.
A slow flow yoga sequence will follow the same format as a vinyasa class, also focused on creating meaningful transitions from shape to shape, forging a coherent and meaningful experience for the practitioner.
Slow Flow yoga differs from Vinyasa because of the pacing; where we would be in each shape for 1 to 3 breaths during a vinyasa class (as well as a power yoga class) in a Slow Flow class we will most likely hold the poses here for at least 3 to 5 breaths.
In a 60-minute class, a vinyasa flow sequence will have close to twice (or more) the number of postures and transitions as a slow flow, since in the latter we hold the poses for longer, hence spending more time in each asana as well as putting more intent and giving more space for transitions.
Another relevant difference between a fast-paced vinyasa flow and a slow flow yoga class, is the emphasis on alignment as well as accessibility options and variations.
With a slower pace comes more detailed cueing, and with more detailed cueing, there is simply more space to explore and see what you may need at any given moment of the practice.
A slow flow moves at a steady and dynamic pace just like a vinyasa flow, yet the teacher or the practitioner is able to tailor the number of postures and the time spent in each posture quite a bit more by simply increasing the number of breaths in each posture.
Slow flow yoga provides the practitioner with more room to breathe with awareness, which helps us regulate the nervous system increasing stability. It moves slower, helping us calm and find a little bit of separation from the so-called monkey mind.
Slow Flow vs Restorative Yoga
Restorative yoga is a more relaxing, grounding style of yoga that is very slow paced and geared toward letting go of stress, anxiety, and tension in the physical body and the fascia in order to relax into the deeper layers of being.
Slow Flow yoga is similar to Restorative yoga only in the way in which both place emphasis on spending time in each yoga asana, taking a bit more time to settle into the shape and explore what happens in body, mind, and spirit while we are there.
As the world of yoga becomes more aware of the need to make the practices accessible and move away from performative and gymnastics-like styles of yoga, many slow flow yoga classes are becoming accessible classes since teachers and students understand the benefit of using blocks and other props to support and enhance their practice. The props however, are not necessary in order to have a good experience.
In Restorative yoga classes, the use of props is encouraged and almost necessary, since they are used to bolster the body in order to help you relax and reap the benefits of the practice.
The poses that are found in a slow flow yoga sequence versus a restorative class also differ.
Even with the reduced amount of postures in a slow flow practice, restorative classes can contain even fewer postures, since they are usually being held for 3 to 5 minutes each.
The types of postures offered in these two practices will also be different, since restorative yoga focuses more on static shapes and doesn’t place much emphasis on transitions, providing the practitioner with a very gentle and comprehensive experience.
Structure of a Slow Flow Yoga Sequence
Again, based on a 60 minute class structure, a slow flow class will have a very similar class structure to a vinyasa class simply with fewer poses per side, probably simpler transitions, as well as space to explore not only the peak pose, but many of the postures in the sequence, for at least 3-5 breaths.
The structure of a slow flow class can vary greatly from teacher to teacher and studio to studio, but here is a basic, classic way to do so:
- 15 minutes of warm up: movements of the spine and opening up and strengthening up the body to prepare
- 25 to 30 minutes of flow; this could include sun salutations, moon salutations, or any other linked up sequence where the postures are intelligently linked, sometimes arriving at a peak. Each pose will be performed for 3-5 breaths.
- 15 to 20 minutes of cool down: space for counterposes and starting to settle down, reserving the last 5-10 minutes for savasana and closing.
If you are choosing to practice for a bit longer, consider stretching each of the sections a bit to fit your needs, and make sure you never skip your warm up and cool down, since they are integral parts of the practice!
A Slow Flow Yoga Sequence for Beginners
If you’d like to give Slow Flow yoga a try, here is a sequence for you to experiment with.
Consider that you can leverage the amount of intensity, the length, and the feel of the practice by simply choosing to breathe longer in each asana.
This sequence is designed assuming that you’ve already done your 10 to 15 minute warm up.
- Tadasana (3-5 breaths)
- Utkatanasana (3-5 breaths)
- Uttanasana (3-5 breaths)
- Anjaneyasana (3-5 breaths)
- Ardha Hanumanasana (3-5 breaths)
- Gate Pose (3-5 breaths)
- Modified wild thing (3-5 breaths)
- Anjaneyasana with bind or high lunge (3-5 breaths)
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (3-5 breaths)
- Phalakasana (3-5 breaths)
- Chaturanga (slow descent)
- Cobra (3-5 breaths)
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (3-5 breaths)
- Back to Tadasana (3-5 breaths)
- Repeat Other Side
Notice what happens physically, mentally, and even energetically as you explore this simple sequence, which does not mean easy, by the way…
If you want to practice for longer, you can also repeat the same sequence twice on each side, and then proceed to your cooldown.
Whether you’re an avid Vinyasa, Power, or Ashtanga yoga practitioner looking to refine your alignment or work on being present, or perhaps you’re looking for a slower paced flow-style class, definitely give slow flow yoga a class.
Moving slower than other styles yet fast enough to not bore or annoy the pitta‘s in the room, Slow Flow yoga is a style on the rise.
With space to play within each posture, opportunities to explore variations and modifications in the shapes, as well as an emphasis on pranayama, slow flow yoga can be tailored to your needs and is sure to help you ground and harmonize.
Check out more another 35 styles of yoga that you may want to try in this article.