Finding your signature style, from the inside out.
One thing I’ve learned as a long time practitioner and teacher of yoga is that one size definitely does not fit all. Our bodies are constantly changing and adapting according to differing daily circumstances, some within and some out of our control. Every day our physical bodies and energy levels will feel completely different according to how we slept, what we ate, our stress levels, our levels of physical activity and many other factors. As a student responsible for our own well-being is it crucial that we become aware of our bodies and how we are feeling at any given moment. Once we can identify with clarity where we are at in the present moment, we can identify what we may need to remedy that. I always like to start my yoga classes with asking my students to find and set an intention, by asking them “how are you currently feeling in this moment and what energetically do you need to remedy or balance that or simply to nourish yourself.”
I think once we’ve identified how we are feeling it’s possible to customize all of our movements in a yoga practice and attention to feed what we need at the moment – to use the practice as medicine. Some days we may need a very vigorous practice to help burn off excess energy and other days we may need a simple restorative practice in order to recharge our energy levels for the day. It’s so important to learn to take stock of what’s really going on internally since it is shifting on a daily, or even moment to moment basis. Similarly, our internal health is in a constant state of flux – once we’ve identified how we’re truly feeling on an energetic level, we can take the steps needed to nourish ourselves. Along with customizing my practice, I always customize my diet, switching in and out whichever foods or supplements I feel I need that day.
I’ve personally shifted to using a yoga practice in a therapeutic and medicinal way over the last few years. I used to go through the motions and pursue an extremely athletic and vigorous practice because that is just what I thought was the best for your health, but I would end feeling more depleted than when I started. Just like one diet does not fit everyone’s personal needs, a yoga practice is the same way. Some people can use a high intensity practice and it will help fuel their bodies while others can use a softer, slower practice, which will nourish them in exactly the same way.
I think the best judge of the effectiveness of a particular style of yoga practice, or pose, or even diet is how you feel afterwards. Do you feel better, more balanced, nourished? Or do you feel worse, or depleted? Over many years of practicing and experimenting and trying out all different styles and types of yoga practices I’ve learned to get really good with identifying how I’m feeling at the moment and custom tailoring my practice in accordance to what I need - that is how we begin to use our yoga practice, or diet and food as medicine, instead of just going through the motions.
Although I do customize my yoga practice daily according to how I feel, I maintain certain staples that I KNOW will keep me feeling grounded and nourished. I consistently add in some sort of heart opening poses and vigorous flow to increase circulation, as well as a long savasana and meditation at the end each practice. I know that’s what works best for my body and mind so I keep those in each time, the other parts of the practice will change. Similarly, with my diet, I maintain certain staples that I know will keep me feeling healthy and vibrant. Every day I take a multivitamin and my Bio-K+ probiotic to keep my digestion and energy levels functioning optimally. Those are two things that I know keep me feeling healthy and I can see it reflected in the state of my skin, energy levels and even in my moods. Although I will switch in and out certain veggies and foods, I always keep in my probiotics, because I know I feel better with them.