Why Your Fitness Plan Needs Slow Movement
Setting health and fitness goals usually means changing one of two things – the way we eat or the way we move. The latter often involves a new fitness regime around high-impact exercises that burn calories, build strength and tone muscles. But a fitness regime based solely on cardio and strength training is akin to an eating plan that comprises only carbs – imbalanced and unsustainable. The missing link is slow movement. Yes, we are talking yoga or qigong. The fitness buff in you may groan at the thought but these slow moving practices can bring equanimity and richness to our mind and body.
Here woman with drive’s three reasons to include slow movement in your fitness plan today:
When we move at high speed, our mind races ahead and waits for our body at the finish line. This makes it tough to pay attention to what our limbs are doing. A lack of body awareness means we do not realise when we are pushing ourselves too far, which then leads to injury. In yoga, body awareness is the core of a yin style of practice. Unlike a flow class where practitioners move through a continuous sequence of poses, yin yoga requires that each pose be held for three to five minutes*.
“Lingering in yin poses allows our body to find balance and work on deeper tissues, like bones and joints,” says Esther Ekhart, yoga teacher and founder of Ekhart Yoga. “This is important because if we do not regularly take our joints through their full range of motion, we will eventually become stiff.”
“As we become quiet in our body, our busy mind also comes to a rest. If you lead a fast-paced life, practicing only fast-paced yoga might not bring balance. When you bring yin yoga into your life, you will notice the benefits, and your body and mind will be very grateful.”
*Yin yoga consists of seated and reclining poses and the use of props.
While fast-paced activities allow us to offload the day’s stress, they often leave us more depleted than calm. Chances are when we encounter the same triggers the next day, our stress levels will begin to climb again. Slow movement allows for the gradual release of emotion and the gentle easing into a deeper calmness. Quiet sports like kayaking and swimming, for instance, are great for clearing your head.
The breaststroke, the slowest and easiest swim style, helps us focus on each kick and sweep of the arms. Kayaking invites us to do the same with each pull of the paddle. The repetitive movement of these two sports and our proximity to water deeply calms the mind and lulls it into a meditative state.
The first thing that is compromised in fast movement is the breath. Quick, shallow breathing can stimulate or agitate the mind and keep it alert, which could eventually lead to insomnia or poor sleep patterns. When you move slower, you have the opportunity to draw in fuller breaths, which soothe the mind.
The slow, graceful movements of practices like tai chi and qigong also improve circulation and free the body from the tension that keeps us awake at night. And unlike a vigorous exercise before bed that can ramp up our heart rate and interfere with sleep, yin yoga, tai chi and qigong prepare the body for proper rest.
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