yin yoga

Variety within a yoga practice and some Ayurveda basics

I've mentioned before that my yoga practice does not look the same every day. Once a week I take a rest day and the rest of the time I listen to what my body tells me I need. Friday I did a really vigorous flow with a lot of back bending and power moves. It was great. My abs were sore, my side body and back felt really flexible and I felt mentally clear and strong. The next morning I decided to go to the back-to-basics Bikram workshop at Hot Yoga Downtown. Flexibility with my practice style has kept me moving along - flowing up and over plateaus and always grateful and happy to practice yoga.

The kind of fluidity, however, is very much against my nature. Any way you cut it, any personality assessment you do of me, I am in theory and in practice, a person that tends toward structure and discipline. For the sake of simplicity, let's keep to Eastern concepts in discussing my decisions and personality-type. Ayurveda is an Eastern approach to broad-stroke personality type characterization. At its basis it asks the person to observe him or herself physically - the personality characterization follows from the body-type. There are three body-based personality-types known as "the doshas." 

Even very modern personality theories have been debunked when the scope moves from personal analysis to analyzing others. So, while I can find some basic common sense suggestions in dosha theory as well as The Myers-Briggs, they are only facets of my self-understanding. That being said, its helpful to have the observation of millions of similar humans to guide my understanding and in that way dosha theory is helpful. People have seen correlations as they have been outlined by the doshas for many thousands of years - that's just enough of a pattern to cause me to stop and examine how I am the same and how I am different. Therein the characterization becomes a powerful tool. 

I am a pitta's pitta according to dosha type. Where I have done best to use that understanding to great effect has been in my diet and in my yoga practice. My diet is a topic oft discussed, as I have been able to put on muscle and drop weight on a whim since I was about 23 years old. That kind of ease in shifting my appearance leaves a lot of people wondering what my secrets are so I will write about that in another post.

As far as my yoga practice goes, recognizing my tendency toward order, I can imagine it would be very easy to do the same yoga routine over and over day in and day out at the same time every day. I also recognized that I would become so regimented that if something occurred to throw off that routine I would be super angry or depressed. I have not found the perfect balance (I suspect I would still do best to practice at a consistent time daily) but I have found fluidity in the style of yoga I practice and that has been a strong start to a lifelong practice (a year and a half daily practice to-date). Switching styles from yin to Bikram to power vinyasa has kept my practice feeling fresh and new and has allowed me a variety of poses and mental approaches to leverage continual change out of my body. It is also recommended for pitta personalities to do as much. I made that decision independently but I rediscovered that recommendation this morning as I was checking dosha theory.

The reason I wanted to spend a little time on dosha theory is to discuss how my body reacts to different yoga styles. In particular I wanted to highlight my experience with hot yoga which came in two different phases of my life. When I moved back to Virginia from Austin, Tx I did Bikram Yoga for one whole month, everyday. When I went to my teacher training in Austin, Tx I did hot yoga every day for one week. I found the same thing happened both times and I think it is worth sharing. I started out strong, enjoying the heat but after every class it was a fight to get enough to drink and eat to compensate for the amount of energy that I burn. I run hot, I sweat a lot. That, too is very pitta, apparently so retrospectively it all makes sense. My metabolism is always on afterburners so when I put myself into a hot environment I burn out fast and entirely. After several days of hot yoga, I was unable to maintain my usual intensity in work and other physical endeavors. In that moment it was not a good thing but it can be good. I am intense in all activities and find it hard to take days off from work and mentally strenuous activities so Bikram/hot yoga is the perfect yoga for the morning or evening before a day-off wherein I want to do nothing but watch Netflix, listen to audiobooks, cuddle with the dogs, and eat food. For someone else hot yoga might be the perfect daily practice and instead of sapping them of energy it might energize him or her. That person is not me. 

When I do yin yoga, I get super contemplative and very in-tune with the micro-changes that happen in my body. I have the opportunity to notice mental patterns that are tied into physical barriers. I also feel like I make super huge gains in flexibility from staying longer in the poses. The only problem is I miss the movement and the strength of vinyasa after a day of yin. In the same way that Bikram can be used to great effect, so too, can yin. It keeps me wanting more yoga. Is yin the perfect style for someone else to use primarily? Yes, surely. For me, yin is a supplement.

At the end of the day you are more than a personality assessment and your needs will vary throughout your life. Listen to your body and honor what it is telling you. Seek out different styles of yoga - we have all of the aforementioned and more right here in Lynchburg, Va. The more you know about the variety of yoga and your own body the more educated decisions you can make. Have fun, practice daily.