Last week I posted this -- a bit of a diatribe about my experience with handstands, but mostly the beginning of an exploration into what it means to find a practice that serves us best. I'm not just talking about our schedules and which studio is close by, but about the energy, style, and approach of a given practice.
So? I start with this 'type', because, well... it's me.
Note: I put 'type' in quotes because these are fluid categories, and you may find you shift from one to the other depending on time of year, time in your life, or other things.
We've all heard that yoga is helpful for stress, anxiety, and our nervous system -- and on the whole, I'd agree. But some yoga is more helpful than others. In fact, I've found some practices to be more aggravating to my system than helpful.
WHAT?! I know. So here's the breakdown: the right yoga for you!
Slow it down.
For those of us whose nervous systems and brains are already on high-speed from the moment we open our eyes, we don't need to speed ourselves up any more. In fact, we need support and practice to help us slow down and feel our bodies.
Living in a very mind-driven state leaves us feeling disconnected from earth and our roots, struggling to hear the information and guidance that comes through our felt senses. We miss cues that we're hungry, thirsty, tired; we tend to hurt ourselves more in practice because we're just pushing through at light speed. Hence? A slower practice supports us to land in our bodies.
Create strong rituals.
First and foremost: turn off and put away anything that bings, buzzes, or electroncally demands your attention. Yes, that means your iWatch can't record your every breath and might get worried. You'll be fine, I promise.
When we sit down on the mat or cushion, it can take a long time (an eternity in our minds) to finally settle in and feel present. So we need that time at the start of practice to close our eyes and breathe -- every.single.time. Classes that just jump straight into asana practice can leave us feeling scattered and without a sense of how we are feeling or what we are needing. Physically, our bodies often need a few minutes of breathing to unwind the holding patterns, at least a little bit.
At the end of practice, we benefit from some pranayama breath practice. Our bodies are now soft and receptive enough to access these practices, which can otherwise feel stressful when tension prevents full breath or our minds are screaming about something entirely unrelated.
Build slow-motion, grounded strength.
I've heard that some yogis don't feel like they've gotten their "workout" if they haven't done 40 vinyasas. My friends, I invite you to try slowing your practice down to half speed: every transition slowed way down, every pose held longer, and then tell me about how your muscles feel. Slowing the practice down allows us to bring focus and presence to each micromovement, each muscle that needs to engage to support a fluid transition. Thrusting yourself into Upward Facing Dog doesn't build sustainable posture or strength. Slowly uncoiling with a microbend in your elbows? Now we're talking.
Poses we need: Standing series! Tadasana, chair pose (yay!), the Warrior series, standing balances (think Tree Pose), belly-down backbends, reclining stretches. Focus on grounding each pose through the big toes, finding subtle flowing movements in the pelvis, ribcage, and joints to help stay present. Focus on lengthening the inhale.
Don't. Skip. Savasana.
Is this a thing people do?! We Can't-Stop-Won't-Stop types especially need a nice, long, quiet savasana at the end of practice to let the relaxation sink in. Since our nervous systems/brains are a little (or a lot) more zingy than average, letting ourselves bask in the glow of our slow flow helps us get maximum yum and healing from practice.
So take a deep exhale and let yourself soak it in.
So does all of this mean you can never go to your Power Vinyasa class again? No. But when looking across the range of activities in your life, I encourage you to add in some slower practices. Including a regular Yin Yoga or Restorative class is super helpful, and as you tune in to your body's needs and what kind of movement feels most nurturing, you'll learn to recognize what you need in a given season, time of day, or moment in your life.
Happy practicing, y'all. Next week: For the Firey, Adrenaline Junkie, Uber-Motivated Types.