Western culture loves to stress a one-size-fits-all approach to exercise, especially to yoga. While I completely believe that “you need more yoga in your life," (a quote I heard over the weekend at an amazing and inspiring class led by Dan Nevins at a HEAL Buffalo event) I want to take this a step further and add that you need more of a certain type of yoga in your life.
For someone who is struggling with issues like anxiety. restlessness, and pain, and /or waking in the middle of the night and not being able to fall back asleep, a class that has them up down and all around and straining to loud music does not serve their needs. These people need a slower class, maybe even a still class. They need to build strength and heat, yes, but not in a bootcamp sort of way. Think about how you build upper body and core strength by doing plank pose and contrast that with the level of exertion required for push-ups. This mind/body type needs to ground down and gather their scattered minds. They need to make an attempt to turn off their senses and connect with their physical bodies, not the sights and sounds around them. In addition, a meditation practice for this mind/body type is difficult without the proper body and mind preparation. They need to be taught to treat themselves delicately and to not give up so easily.
Someone who is under extreme stress, who is overworked, feeling irritated, is often angry, and who suffers from digestive issues like heartburn and ulcers is not served by certain types of yoga. These mind/body types are fiercely competitive, not just with others, but also with themselves. When they go to a yoga studio they are overly interested in what other people are doing compared to themselves and conscious about how they look. They over intellectualize the practice and miss out on the the freedom of letting go. Classes with lots of standing postures and backbends are dangerous and can inflame this already hot type. This groups needs poses that emphasize diffusing the heat and stress, like side bending and twists that literally ring out stress.They need to feel an attitude of non-judgement and fun. Smiling, laughing, and comeradery should be seen, heard, and felt in the class.
Others struggle with feeling lethargic, especially during the spring. They feel uninspired and often have issues with their sinuses and excess mucus. They are most resistant to starting an exercise regimen, but once they commit they are die-hard. For them, going to a slow gentle class where they lie in corpse pose and meditate for long periods of time will put them fast asleep. These folks need to get moving in class. They need to build heat and be stimulated by the sights and sounds arounds them. It is appropriate to challenge these folks with strengthening poses and vigorous movement. It is also important for them to consider the more subtle aspects of their being since they live so heavily in their bodies. Classes that include sun salutations and walking meditations are great for them.
You need yoga in your life, yes, but pay attention to what kind of yoga you are practicing and which type will serve you best. If you don’t relate to one of these groups, or if you can relate to more than one, it is important to take into consideration the season. For example, in spring there is a tendency for people to fit into the third, lethargic group, even if they are not llethargic by nature.
This approach to yoga is based on the ancient science of ayurveda or science of life. Ayurveda teaches us that we are each born with a unique combination of the five elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth. A creative and athletic dancer, for instance, would have a lot of air in their constitution. A passionate lawyer would contain a lot of fire. The elements combine to form energies called the vata, pitta, and kapha doshas. Ayurveda teaches us to explore who we are by nature and to tune into the ways in which our bodies and minds have become imbalanced. With this knowledge we can address what we actually need to bring back balance. Knowledge of ayurveda results in the creation of a personalized lifestyle that includes, diet, exercise, sleep hygiene, and routines.
To learn more or to ask questions, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, look into the new six-week series being offered at START WITH SLEEP this April. The series contains a yoga class for each of the mind/body types listed above. It also teaches each group which foods to focus on and which to avoid and how to cook some basic dishes using that knowledge. Because the class starts in spring we will also be conducting a metabolism tune-up to get our digestion burning bright and strong.