There’s an old trick question that asks, “why does a car have brakes?”
The obvious answer, of course, is to stop. However, the hidden answer is the opposite - “so that it can go fast.” The idea being that if you can’t stop, you certainly don’t want to begin gaining speed.
So why do we have “brakes” in our yoga practice? Why do we intentionally move slowly? Why do we sometimes take the less “heating” route? The answer is the same. It gives us control. We move slowly so we can program our bodies to better understand our movement. We move slowly so that our practice is meditative and controlled. We move slowly to protect our joints and ligaments. This slowness is what enables us to speed up, if and when we desire.
Once we’ve built the foundation of calm, precise, intentional movement, we can move through asana at any pace while avoiding injury, misalignment, or improper technique.
Once we’ve gained composure and calm, we can take that mentality into a new class, or off the mat and into our regular fast-paced lives without losing control, or falling victim to stress and anxiety.
Pace is central to any yoga practice, whether we intend it to be or not. Pacing will change the speed of the breath, it will change the way in which we’re thinking, and it will dictate the type of physical experience we have. So we have to think intentionally about pace when designing a yoga practice. Do we want to use our brakes? Or perhaps ease up on them? Either way, here is one of the many entry points teachers can use to discuss pace with students (or that practitioners can use to think about pacing themselves)!
The breath linking the body and mind: Contemplating the relationship between the breath, body, and mind is also a great way to begin thinking about pacing during a yoga practice. This is based on the idea that the pacing of the breath is what guides the mind and body. When we breath quickly, our mind will begin to race, and our movements will become more rapid. When we slow the breath, our minds will calm and movements will become fluid and gentle. With this in mind, simply moderating and being conscious of the breath can be an effective way to set the pace for a practice. Do you want a rapid heating flow, a calm meditative flow, or something in-between? Regardless, lead with breath.
Do you have any other thoughts on pacing or the effects of breathwork? Please feel free to reach out to us or comment below!