separate from everyday life. How you move and breathe on your mat reflects bigger patterns that drive what you do every single day, like a sort of psychological operating system.
Behavioral patterns are sometimes too big and too all pervasive to see in our daily lives – like a fish swimming in water can’t see that water that surrounds him. One of the many advantages of sticking with a regular yoga practice is that you can start to observe your own operating system – your beliefs, your drives, your intensity, your self-confidence. You show up on your mat how you show up in your life. When you start to see your patterns, you can then start to mindfully make choices around them. It’s those patterns that make up your whole life.
Choosing How to Practice
The first yoga classes that I took back in the late 90s were taught by a statuesque blonde woman who had moved to the US from Germany several few years before. She had been a hardcore cardio fitness instructor for many years and teaching yoga was her new thing. She still wielded a full-on drill instructor motivational style though. With her strong German accent, she would announce the pose names in Sanskrit. I wanted yoga to kick my butt and this instructor certainly delivered. Danke schön!
The mental rigor, the physical difficulty, the novel Sanskrit syllables spoken with a German accent so that my ear couldn’t discern where the German ended and the Sanskrit began – all of it mixed together was exotic, challenging and very achievement-oriented. The class was compatible with my operating system; that’s what had drawn me in and then I made it even more challenging. I got out of it what I projected onto it.
When I moved from that smaller town to a larger city with many more options of yoga studios, I shopped around for my new butt-kicking yoga fix. As I grew frustrated with the ‘shopping’ process, the city’s first Bikram Yoga studio opened. Humbly hobbling out of my first class, I was thrilled… and hooked. Ninety minutes every day!
I have since come to understand that overdoing vigorous physical activity is not good for me, given my constitution and blood type; it can raise my cortisol and anxiety through the roof. What is better for me, what I need to consciously choose for myself, is more stillness. Now, I’ll always love a sweaty Bikram class – don’t get me wrong. But for me moderation and calm non-movement is smarter self-care.
Reflecting on the Patterns
American culture rewards Type A exertion, hypercaffeinated consumption, everything supersized and extreme! How much of that bigger-better-faster conditioning sneaks onto our yoga mats with us? Do we ever let go of our to-do-list tension? Yoga class done… check! On to the next thing…. texting and multi-tasking as we go!
If you push yourself to achievement to the point of exhaustion, probably both personally and professionally, are you also pushing to be a yoga overachiever? Take some time to consider this carefully and make sure that your asana practice is restorative for you.
What type of yoga practice have you chosen for yourself? Is it demanding? Is it meditative? Why did you choose that? What is your goal? Your current style of yoga might be great for you. Or it might need to be toned down or even completely altered. No matter what, how you practice definitely needs to be a conscious choice.
How can your practice become more therapeutic? How can it help your reprogram your operating system so that you are living the life you choose with continuity?
It’s all your choice.
Recommended reading on tailoring a yoga practice that will serve you well:
Frawley, D. & Kozak, S.S. (2001). Yoga for Your Type: An Ayurvedic Approach to Your Asana Practice. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.