Be More Snail, like the French!
A study conducted in Europe compared the rate of heart disease between the French, who have a low rate, and Austrians, who have a higher rate. In an effort to explore why, a group of Austrians were put on a diet similar to the French. But there was very little impact. Researchers then looked at the speed at which both groups ate. The Austrians took 10 minutes to finish a meal, while the French took their time and finished in 40. They found that eating more slowly helps the body to assimilate food properly and be nourished by it. Conversely, scoffing your food like there’s no tomorrow, can launch an assault on your digestive system, that renders it much less able to do its job properly.
With the development of so much technology, the pace of life has sped up crazily, and choosing to slow down has become almost a radical decision. Like nearly every other aspect of modern life, the trend in yoga over the past decade has been to go faster and faster. While I believe that there is not just one style of practice that’s right for everyone, I also believe that moving more slowly, savouring each centimetre of each movement, each sensation and each breath, has the potential to take your practice to a new, more sensitive, more meditative level, that can only seep into your other activities.
1. Build more strength
It’s not easier going more slowly, in fact it’s just the opposite. Your muscles have to work much more intensely when you move and transition slowly, posture to posture. Your muscles work less when you rely on constant momentum, and you put more pressure and stress your joints. In my classes, I suggest you move slowly, trying to be more ‘cat-like’ than mechanical.
-To try to seamlessly, move into, and move between your poses, mindfully, like you’re moving in slow motion, rather than in an aggressive or angular way. Try it for yourself. Move a few times from child’s pose to half plank. Do it several times. Now try it again but focus on moving super slowly. From Childs pose, and on an inhale, focus on the front of your sacrum lifting off your thighs, moving upwards, and then forwards, like cat pose, and slowly lengthening the front body, with a ripple, or opening an accordion effect, until your shoulders arrive over your fingertips. Which feels better? By focusing on the front structure of the body, you are also supporting the structure of your back.
2. Breath Awareness
The breath is the most important aspect of your practice, so it’s a no-brainer that choosing to move slowly allows you to better focus on it, rather than focusing on just the movements, when the breath plays second fiddle. The benefits of a slow, unhurried pace balances your body and your mind, and helps you to taste the practice rather than just swallow it in one. Simply, your yoga practice does not need to be rushed. We already spend too much time flitting around from here to there, fitting everything in, that moving ‘more snail,’ provides a much-needed,’ breath of fresh air’ for the nervous system.
3. Less injuries
Lots of yoga teachers have injured themselves through yoga by pushing their bodies too far and rushing through the practice. The quickest route to getting hurt is by moving at a pace that is simply too fast to pay attention to what’s happening. Moving slowly allows you to feel what’s happening in your body, to be aware of, and to make adjustments and make modifications. Rushing to get somewhere in your practice can stress your nervous system, which means you might actually leave class more stressed than when you arrived.
I have always done things quickly. I used to eat fast, talk fast, walk fast, and I was a sprinter at school. I have been consciously working on slowing things down, not only in my yoga practice, but in my life. I remind myself to savour every moment, to savour my beautiful walks with my dog and to savour the beautiful food I eat.
How can you slow things down and be ‘more snail,’ on and off the mat? Why not join Feel Great Breaks and take your practice and your life to a new, snail pace.
Enjoy the journey. Life’s just too damned amazing to rush through it.