Why ‘slow movement’ is gathering speed

One thing pandemic life has taught us is the benefits of a gentler pace. Great for the body and mind, here’s why yoga and tai chi are gaining in popularity.

It seems the pendulum is swinging towards a more unhurried approach to life, including how we chose to move our bodies and nurture our minds.

“Burnout is on the rise, and people are beginning to realise modern life might not offer readymade opportunities to pause and slow down,” psychologist and University of Sydney researcher Ash King says.

“We might need to actively introduce such moments and activities into our schedules.”

Enter slow movement, a philosophy that’s rooted in ancient wisdom.

Endeavour College of Natural Health head of Chinese medicine Dr Shuai Zheng says the idea of slow movement has existed within Chinese philosophy for thousands of years.

“For the Chinese it is seen as aligning one’s thoughts, actions, and lifestyle with the natural flow of the world in which we live,” Dr Zheng says.

How slow movement benefits your body and mind

Slow movement may be the perfect amalgamation of exercise and self-care for the mind,” according to Dr Zheng.

“Traditional Chinese exercises like tai chi and qigong go beyond simply doing or completing a set of movements, but rather contain elements of mindfulness found in meditation,” he explains.

Known as mind-body exercises, they not only train one’s physical body but also mindfulness.

Exercise physiologist Drew Harrisberg says slow movement definitely has a place in a balanced fitness regimen, alongside more strenuous forms of exercise such as HIIT, cardio and strength training.

“Martial arts such as tai chi and qigong are great for active recovery because they are a form of low heart rate zone training that causes very little systemic fatigue, has less risk of injury and are far less likely to cause functional or non-functional overreaching,” Drew says.

Slow movement also allows us to embrace mindfulness in a slightly more dynamic way. “Slow movement integrates physical practice with other soothing and centring processes such as mindful breathing, so it might be a worthwhile practice for someone keen on the idea of mindfulness meditation but not too hyped on the idea of sitting, unmoving on a cushion somewhere,” Ash says.

5 ways to embrace slow movement

Tai chi

A form of Chinese martial art, it is a low-impact exercise that’s done in slow motion and is often referred to as “meditation in motion”.

You go through a series of martial arts moves that are done slowly, without pausing, and as you move you breathe deeply and focus on the sensations you’re feeling in your body.

“Tai chi’s benefits may include improving balance, gait, metabolic disorders, arthritis, back pain, and mental health conditions, to list just a few,” Dr Zheng says.


Similar to tai chi, it is a mind-body exercise, that has “a strong emphasis on breathing, such as taking slow and intentional breaths while completing movements, or sitting in a meditative state, which further helps practitioners to reach a state of mindfulness,” Dr Zheng says.


It’s free and easy to do, with a plethora of benefits, so why not take a leisurely stroll out in nature?

Walking has been found to improve stress and cortisol levels and can also improve cardiovascular health.


Traditional yoga often involves doing a series of poses, while adopting certain breathing techniques and meditation principles.

It’s also very accessible, making it an easy addition to your routine.


A form of body conditioning that according to founder Joseph Pilates is said to be a “complete co-ordination of mind, body and spirit”.

Pilates involves doing a series of movements while simultaneously focusing on your breathing throughout.

Written by Tania Gomez.