What is Gentle Yoga?

I teach two Gentle yoga classes per week at Grassroots Yoga studio here in Christchurch. People often ask if Gentle yoga is the same as “Yin” yoga. I generally find that the long holds in Yin can produce a very intense level of stretch. Also, in the Yin classes I have been to, modifications were not always offered for people with minor injuries. So my answer tends to be “not really”!

My classes are a mix of fluid action and short- or medium-length gentle holds, with guidance in how to monitor and bring ease to your breath, which gives length and mobility to your spine. We focus on smooth unforced movements, postural alignment, relaxation and mental clarity. Modifications and props for particular body differences are the norm, and you will do less weight-bearing on your arms and legs than in a standard yoga class (many poses are done lying down or seated).

Expect to be reminded at key points throughout class to return to awareness of your body-mind state. Even long-term practitioners can benefit from this; Gentle yoga is for students at all levels. It can accommodate pregnancy and may bring relief to those with minor injuries, pain or fatigue.

The aim is to leave feeling both relaxed and more alert!

Quick Gentle Yoga Sequence

Do the poses in order, as they work progressively to open the hips, lower back and torso.

Corpse Pose — Shavasana

shavasana

Relax the muscles of your front body down into the mat. Breathe naturally, do not try and deepen or change your breathing in any way. Plenty of time for that. Just rest.

Hip Rotations

Lie in shavasana as above. Then using your legs to turn your feet, roll them in towards each other, and then away from each other a few times. Stop here if it’s all the time you have. This will free your hips and spine just enough that you are able to move more easily for a time. Stop and do this periodically throughout the day if you can.

Wind Removing Pose — Apanasana

Draw each alternate knee into your chest using your hands for a few breaths each side. Take the full weight of your leg into your hands as though your hands were a sling. Let your lower back be soft.
Draw each alternate knee into your chest using your hands for a few breaths each side. Take the full weight of your leg into your hands as though your hands were a sling. Let your lower back be soft.

Reclining Hand to Foot Pose — Supta Padangusthasana I

Use a long scarf or a belt if you don't have a strap. You can also interlace your fingers behind your thigh if you have to. Keep the thigh of your top leg vertical. Work on straightening your knee.
Use a long scarf or a belt if you don’t have a strap. You can also interlace your fingers behind your thigh if you have to. Keep the thigh of your top leg vertical. Work on straightening your knee. Do both sides.

Windscreen Wipers — Jathara Parivartanasana Variation

Have your feet as wide as your mat to begin with (half wider than your hips if you don't have a mat). Keep both shoulders soft and grounded on the floor. Look to left or right, or straight up.
Contrary to this image, have your feet as wide as your mat to begin with (half wider than your hips if you don’t have a mat). Keep both shoulders soft and grounded on the floor. Look to left or right, or straight up. Do both sides.

Cat / Cow / Dog Sequence — Chakravakasana Vinyasa

Build up to the sequence in the image. Start by alternately arching and then rounding your spine on the inhale and exhale for three rounds. Then add in child's pose on the exhale for three rounds. Finally, do the full sequence as shown in the image for three rounds.
Gradually build up to the full sequence. Start on all fours (table pose). Arch your spine towards the floor on the inhale and then rounding your spine towards the ceiling on the exhale — do five rounds. Then exhale and come to child’s pose (hips to heels, big toes touching, knees wide, forehead towards the floor), inhale as you come up to table pose, and arch your spine towards the floor. Do that five times, moving with your breath. Finally, do the full sequence as shown in the image for three to five rounds (if your wrists, shoulders and neck feel up to it).

Bridge Pose — Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

Keep strength and stability in your foundation (the parts of your body on the floor). Press down into the floor with the backs of your arms. Keep your elbows in at your sides. Only go so far into the pose as you feel comfortable and stay for as long as you are able to breathe smoothly and your shoulders and neck are relaxed. Repeat two or three times.
Keep strength and stability in your foundation (the parts of your body on the floor). Press down into the floor with the backs of your arms. Keep your elbows in at your sides. Only go so far into the pose as you feel comfortable and stay for as long as you are able to breathe smoothly and your shoulders and neck are relaxed. Repeat two or three times.

Belly Twisting Pose — Ardha Jathara Parivartanasana

Hook the toes of your top foot behind the back of your bottom leg knee for greater ease. Keep both shoulders soft and grounded on the floor.
Hook the toes of your top foot behind the back of your bottom leg knee for greater ease. Only come so far into the twist as you can, while keeping both shoulders soft and on the floor. Relax through the abdomen and hips. Do both sides.

Constructive Rest Pose

Close your eyes or soften your gaze. Let the weight of your knees fall inwards and down. Sink your thighbones into your hip sockets.
Close your eyes or soften your gaze. Let the weight of your knees fall inwards and down. Sink your thighbones into your hip sockets.

Sequencing Options

  • 2-Minute Nano Practice: Stop at Hip Rotations only.
  • 5-Minute Micro Practice: Stop at Apanasana. Do Constructive Rest for 1 minute.
  • 10-Minute Mini Practice: Stop at Windscreen Wipers. Do Constructive Rest for 1 minute.
  • 13-Minute Baseline Practice: Finish after five rounds of Chakra Vakasana. Do Constructive Rest for 1 minute.
  • 20-Minute Full Practice: Do the whole sequence as listed, allowing for 2 minutes of Constructive Rest at the end. Only thing to be aware of is that you do not skip the Abdominal Twist or Constructive Rest after Bridge Pose. Twists followed by a rest are important to neutralise the spine after backward bending.

Optionally do shavasana instead of Constructive Rest pose at the end of your practice.

Enjoying these practises or have questions, suggestions for others? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.