Several years ago, I followed the thought process that if the number on the scale rose slightly following the holidays and a few big dinners with friends and family, I would need to amp up my cardio routine, to work harder to burn the extra calories. Of course, yoga was very high on my list of priorities, but only if the routine was a challenging power sequence with hundreds of Chaturanga Dandasana variations. If I missed a day of exercise, the sense of guilt would permeate the entire day. Scrolling along my Facebook newsfeed and seeing the progress my friends were making with their runs or cross-fit training sessions would remind me to push myself harder to keep up with them.
Slowly and organically, as I continue to study and explore Ayurveda in relation to my lifestyle, my attitude toward exercise also continues to evolve. Today, I approach every form of exercise with the same frame of mind with which I arrive on my mat for a formal asana practice. I no longer judge my progress based on that of my peers. Instead of counting calories and allowing the number on the scale – in fact, I no longer use a scale – to dictate my daily workout, I crave mindful movement. Chaturanga variations are no longer high on my radar, though I do enjoy them once a week. I still love the occasional powerful core workout and arm balances because they leave me feeling strong and connected to my core power. Yet, stillness helps to create the right balance. I alternate dance with 20-minute HIIT workouts thrice a week – the jumping variations are fabulous for awakening the lymphatic system – but those are always followed by a grounding and cooling yoga sequence.
These days, before starting to move in the morning, I ask myself how I want to feel, and what my schedule looks like for the day ahead. Due to the fact that on weekdays, I spend eight to ten hours at the computer, I do choose a stronger heating but grounding practice. On weekends, when I go hiking, I choose a slower practice. In general, I gravitate toward slow-flowing Vinyasa, combined with Yin and Restorative yoga. It’s a question of the energy we need to balance at any given moment. Ayurveda teaches us that when we feel lethargic and heavy (Kapha imbalance), we need movement to stoke the fire element to help us wake up; when we feel irritable (Pitta imbalance), we should seek a cooling and grounding routine; when we feel anxious or scattered, a slow, warming, and grounding practice is the answer. The weather plays a big role in the Ayurvedic lifestyle. On cold, windy days (Vata weather), we are called to focus on grounding and staying warm. On hot, humid summer days (Pitta weather), a gentle, cooling practice early in the morning or in the evening is the ‘go to’ exercise. During my moon cycle, Yin or Restorative yoga, combined with a walk at a comfortable pace, allow me to remain grounded while pacifying the fire element. I start each daily practice with a few rounds of pranayama and a short meditation, and end with a longer seated meditation. The meditation component reminds me to clear and reset my focus each time, and also helps to set the tone for the day ahead.
No doubt, my approach to movement and my yoga practice will continue to evolve. My goal is no longer to burn calories, but to stay healthy and vibrant, physically, mentally and emotionally. My priority is not to exceed the standard set yesterday but to move in a way that allows me to feel grounded, light, open, and centred. I am following the intuitive cues of my body and my mind, adopting a softer, more feminine approach to exercise.
I’m curious to know whether you also have observed shifting patterns within your yoga practice or workout routine in the recent years or months. Perhaps your body craves a different type of movement and you have been exploring new avenues. Please leave a comment below, and feel free to share this blog with a friend.