“Slow is smooth and smooth is fast" is a common phrase in the military. Its roots are in the Special Operations community, and its one I have heard wherever we were stationed, every drop zone I have visited and something I have used in our own home as well. “ Connor, slow down or you will fall off your bike and it'll take longer for you to get where you’re going” or “Zach during your speech, slow down and breathe, give your voice a chance to catch up to your brain.” Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. I have heard many similar phrases, but very few have stuck with me or have spoken to me as much as this one.
I think of this term frequently when i am teaching and practicing yoga. In Power Yoga when I feel my heart quicken and my breath shorten, I sometimes think “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” and that helps me find my pace and rhythm of breath. When I get in my head while holding a pose longer than my body wants, once again, I think “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” and that helps me remember that holding the pose longer will strengthen my body, my resolve and my practice and I will become stronger, faster.
I think of just how much all of our students have grown since day one, whether they have found their way to Yoga Central since January or those that come to continue their yoga journey. Day by day, we watch them come to their mats, and sometimes the slow process of using modifications seemed to crawl for the excitement they were feeling in their minds and their bodies. But the thing about moving too fast before properly understanding a movement is that it's simple to overlook the important details that make the movement. You expend more energy than is necessary, and it's easier to become fatigued. This is where injuries happen and when we become discouraged, or possibly lose heart for the yoga practice.
Having a mind-set of “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” takes self-discipline and determination. But, when we are forced to slow down, we remove the competition with ourselves and allow time for our yoga to develop. Then, days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months and months turn into years. Before you know it, your slow and smooth dedication to your yoga practice has turned into more than a practice but an entire way of life.
When you move slowly all the time, will you always move slowly? I say no. I believe when we slow our movements and understand how they work, we learn when we need to move fast and to what degree we actually need to move, causing us to move more smoothly. And when we move more smoothly, we waste less energy, and streamline the entire practice; getting from one point to another faster. “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast” is not the same as having “paralysis from analysis”over a yoga pose. Rather, it's when we don’t rush through a yoga pose before fully feeling the pose land, the breath synch, and the body ground. The opposite would be similar to a runner that doesn't pace themselves during a marathon or the person that cooks his food on super high heat, always burning the pots in their hustle to finish faster.
If you’re a beginner to yoga, remember you will not always be. Try out a "slow is smooth, smooth is fast" outlook. Take your time and be consistent. Test the timing of your asana and as you feel the movement, look deeper to understand when your body needs to move it's parts. Where do you need to speed up and where you need to slow down. Push or pull, hard or soft. Learn how to gently cook your yoga at the right temperature and for the right amount of time- slow and smooth so it doesn’t burn.