We love a good yoga trend — and there's plenty out there. Beer yoga? Cat yoga? How about rage yoga? But the latest idea that's caught our attention is "gentle yoga," aka, a form of restorative yoga that's based primarily on slow, deep stretches and relaxation poses.
Even better: A brand new study from Care New England offers new evidence that yoga can help treat depression over time. And what better way to get into a regular practice than by, literally, taking it easy with gentle yoga? Here's what you need to know.
And by the way, For more easy-to-follow yoga routines you can try in the comfort of your own home, check out our series Namaste Yoga, where renowned instructors lead morning flows shot in exotic locations around the Pacific Northwest. Learn more about the show here, and find out where you can tune in.
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What Is Gentle Yoga?
Gentle yoga, or restorative yoga, is a broad term used to describe a wide variety of restorative classes and practices.
Gentle yoga classes vary from studio to studio, but they all maintain the theme of a slow, mindful, and relaxing practice. For example, the gentle yoga class at Liberation Yoga in Los Angeles describes it as “a calming, stress-relieving yoga class to stretch and strengthen the body gradually. Emphasis is on building awareness of the breath and the body.”
Sounds pretty mellow, right? In fact, it’s so mellow that some gentle yoga classes are geared towards seniors to ease them into the practice. Writer Nicole Tsong took one of these classes and wrote about it for the Seattle Times. Of the experience, she wrote, “the slower pace reminded me that movement is important, no matter the pace or form. We challenged our bodies in all directions, in mobility and in strength. While it is an all-levels gentle class Hiroko [the teacher] said her regulars are strong, so she likes to challenge them, and I could tell.”
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Gentle Yoga Can Have Short And Long-Term Benefits
Restorative yoga (essentially an umbrella under which gentle yoga lives) works to calm and reset your body. It’s also a practice constructed to help you achieve ultimate relaxation. Whether you’re seriously depressed (in which case, please also seek counseling) or just feeling blue, gentle yoga classes possess all of the qualities needed to make you feel better in the short term.
In the long-term, bringing it back to the recent Care New England study, practicing hatha yoga — which encompasses gentle and most types of physical yoga practices — can effectively fight depression over time. This all points to the value of bringing a regular yoga practice into your life. A "gentle" class is just a bit of extra Zen.