Gentle yoga is a style of yoga that is far less strenuous than other forms. It is less intense, so it can be very useful for people who are not capable of fulfilling the demands of other practices, such as seniors, women who are pregnant, practitioners who are recovering from injury, those who are in very poor physical condition, or even those who are simply looking for a more relaxed workout. This practice can also be beneficial to those who already are quite fit but who lack the overall flexibility to be able to do some of the more intense yoga poses.
The way that gentle yoga works without putting any unnecessary strain on the practitioner is by using modifications of standard hatha yoga poses. Sometimes, this simply means that the yogi does not go as deep into a specific posture as he or she otherwise would. For instance, when performing a warrior pose, a practitioner will keep the feet slightly closer together, so that the front leg does not have to bend all the way down to a 90° angle. As a result, this pose puts less strain on the thigh muscles and is easier to perform.
Other poses require more extreme forms of modification in order for them to be appropriate for gentle practice. For instance, when performing Purvottanasana, a yogi will perform a variant of the pose rather than simply lowering the intensity of the usual one. To perform this particular pose, he or she usually would balance on one leg while holding onto the big toe of the other leg, which he or she would straighten before bending the body toward the raised knee. A practitioner of gentle yoga, by contrast, simply would balance on one leg while holding the other in the air with a bent knee. The yogi would then use the hands to hold the knee in order to provide more support.
In addition to reducing the intensity of a yoga practice by simplifying some of the poses, this practice also maintains a much more relaxed pace than many other styles. It rarely makes use of Vinyasa techniques that synchronize motions with the body's breath, because they tend to lead to a sustained physical workout. Also, the practice tends to allow its practitioners to take more time between poses in order to allow the body to recover.