Slow down like a sloth
Being a perfect yoga sloth: simple practices to help you slow down. By Gopala Amir Yaffe
We have so much to learn from sloths. Seriously! Our world is so fast and it’s getting harder to be human (especially a human child!) in what is fast becoming a notso-human world.
We are always rushing, always trying to achieve something, get somewhere, do stuff. That’s why we are so stressed! This is also why it is so hard for us to be in any kind of quarantine or lockdown.
We forgot the art of being a perfect sloth. There is a body-mind connection here: if we go so fast, then our mind starts racing too. And, at a certain point, we don’t even know how to slow down anymore. I’m sure we’ve all definitely been at this point.
Over the centuries, people have derided sloths (and teenagers!) for being either stupid or lazy or a combination of both. But have you ever thought they might just be onto something?
After all, they always kind of look like they’re smiling. Don’t you wish you could have that serene expression on your face every now and then?
Everyone deserves to relax sometimes; to be let off the hook and fully embrace and enjoy being as cool as a cucumber.
Learning to slow down can really help us enjoy the little things in life.
To be a proper sloth you should allow yourself to just let go and relax a lot more often. Make sure you get enough sleep, take a walk through the park or a long bubble bath, make a real dinner.
We humans should realise that although we may (arguably!) be the most intelligent species, that does not mean there aren’t things we can’t learn from other species. And who could possibly teach a better lesson about how to relax than the sloth?
Why slow down? In a world that often feels more fast-paced, busier and more hectic than ever, it’s easy to get swept up in the feeling of needing to do more, just to keep up.
But the trouble is, sometimes we spend so much time and energy trying to keep up and fit everything into our days that we can’t even enjoy any of it.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, frantic or like you’re always rushing from one thing to the next, learning how to be a sloth may be just what you need.
A sloth would have enjoyed this very different era of Covid-19 that mostly stopped our lives…and so can we if we really try (or try less!).
When you intentionally slow down your days and your life, it helps you become more present and mindful in each moment. And even better, when you aren’t rushing from one thing to the next, struggling just to keep up, life can be a lot more enjoyable.
But learning how to slow down isn’t always easy. It takes intentional effort to resist the societal norm that ‘busy is better’, or that being busy equals productivity and importance, and choose to be a proper sloth.
Maybe you’re ready to slow down, but don’t know exactly how to do it. How do you get out of the fast lane and embrace a slower pace of life? The answer is in a little sloth yoga class! I recommend that you do it as a whole family of truly royal sloths!
The goal of this exercise is to help all of us slow down and practice observing what’s going on around them. Anyone can slow things down at any time of the class simply by saying: “Sloth Time!” Whenever anyone calls “Sloth Time”, everyone needs to stop and look around like a sloth in a VERY slow, exaggerated fashion.
Take turns sharing details about what you see and notice around you that maybe you haven’t before. It can be objects that you notice, sounds, people or even behaviours.
You can even make it more multi-sensory, grounding yourself through the senses and taking a moment to name:
- five things you can see
- four things you can feel
- three things you can hear
- two things you can smell
- one thing you can taste
It’s a great mindfulness exercise. And anytime you notice anyone going a bit too fast or faster than a sloth would give each other ‘speeding tickets’ just to be super helpful in making sure that everyone is taking it real easy.
Deep breathing is another great way to slow down when you find yourself feeling rushed, busy or overwhelmed.
Try taking three deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth to help release some of the stress and ‘busyness’ so you can find more calmness and slow down.
Now that we are sloths, let’s try this slow and deep breathing in all kinds of sloth situations:
- Lying on your back
- Lying on your belly
- Lying on your side
- The other side
- In child’s pose
- In your favourite yoga pose
- In tree pose
- In mountain pose
The slowest sloth sun salutation ever!
The whole family (you can do it just by yourself, of course, too) can follow a designated leader in a very slow sun salutation. No instructions are necessary. After a couple of rounds, challenge yourself (or everyone) to do it slower… And next round slower… And slower…
Eventually, do it so slow you barely move, and it takes you ages to transition from one pose to another. There is no ‘too slow’ here. Go as slow as you can!
And it is good for you too! Besides helping to slow the mind, in some poses, you may find that going slow will challenge your core strength as well.
What else can we do super slow in a sloth-like manner?
- How about the slowest pillow fight in the universe?
- Slowest race: Race each other across the room — the slowest one wins of course!
- Slowest dancing
- Slowest eating
- Slowest smiling
- Slowest yawning
- Slowest breathing - measure it! Let everyone come up with their own ideas too… anything we can do that makes us super slow. It’s fun!
Try a few of these Yin Yoga poses to stay in for a while, up to three minutes in each. You want poses that will help you become still in body and mind, poses you can relax into. Here are some of my favourites:
- Standing forward bend (and you can even lean with your bum against the wall)
- Seated forward bend (can be with legs together or with feet apart)
- Turtle pose
- Sphinx pose
- Butterfly pose
- Reclined pigeon
- Child’s pose
- Happy baby pose
- Reclining twist (do both sides)
This game is perfect for bringing out your inner sloth on a partly cloudy day. Lie down on your back and look up, or look out of your window, or spread out a blanket in a shady spot (so you don’t have to squint so much but can still see up into the sky) and watch the clouds pass by. You can even play the alphabet game, looking for clouds shaped like something that starts with each letter.
Connecting to nature always helps. Watch and see for yourself. If there are no clouds, you can watch trees. If you are indoors and there are no windows, you can just imagine clouds in your mind. None of this should feel like an effort or an achievement. Simply let it all go and embrace your inner sloth.
Gopala Amir Yaffe is the founder of Rainbow Kids Yoga. Learn more about yoga for children, teens and families at: RainbowYogaTraining.com