WHICH YOGA POSITION FOR YOUR PERSONALITY?
Claire Colomb & Valentine Guerin - May 2021
As a therapist, it is always extraordinary to see when a patient is willing to take his life on another level, including their physical shape.
I have been amazed to see how Yoga could enable you to reach a deep sense of wellbeing, by improving your strength and balance not only physically, but mentally as well.
The biggest surprise came up when I discovered that some yogis had combined their practice with one of my favorite tools: The Enneagram.
Enneagram is a brilliant way to explore your psyche. It describes 9 personality types and their own strategy to cope in life. More interestingly, it offers bespoke lines of thoughts and courses of action, in order to improve your relationship with yourself and others.
I am usually not keen on labeling people, but this tool goes way beyond that, and I have witnessed mind-blowing effects among patients and friends, not to mention how my own perception of life has changed.
Valentine Guerin is an extremely famous yoga teacher here in London, her practice has a deep effect on your mental wellbeing, and I have been honoured to work on this article with her.
The complexity of the Enneagram will be explained in detail in another article, for the moment will give a summary of each of the 9 types, and how a specific yoga position can help accordingly.
*You may find yourself corresponding to more than one type, try to look for the one that prevails the most for you. Remember that no type prevails over the others.
TYPE 1 - THE REFORMER
Ones are called Reformers as they put their focus on doing the right thing and expect people around them to behave accordingly.
They emphasize personal integrity, have very high standards, and tend to see the world in terms of right/wrong, good/bad, true/false, etc.
There is no room for intermediate nuances.
They are famous for their common sense, honesty, commitment to hard work, and dependability.
Working so hard to be right all the time, they tend to be critical and intolerant towards people who do not commit as they do.
“How the world would be a better place if people were as responsible as I am!!!’’ And they are partly right, world leaders could definitely be inspired a little more by Ones sense's of impeccable behaviour.
Those qualities though, come with a feeling of resentment, repressed anger, and Ones can also be extremely judgemental.
Challenge: Reconcile rigour and gentleness. Accepting the world with its little imperfections and richness. Train your critical eye to be more receptive to the different nuances, and learn from those differences. As a result, you will less judge yourself and others.
Mantra: "I can lighten up, loosen my grip on perfection, and find pleasure in things just as they are".
Your Yoga position: Dhanhurasana / Bow pose
1. Lie down on your belly with your forehead resting on your mat
2. Bend your legs and grab the outer edges of your feet with your hands
3. Lift your chest and your legs of your mat, as high as you can
4. Keep looking down towards your mat so you are not overstretching your neck
5. Try to keep your big toes to touch and your knees parallel to one and other
6. Push your feet back into your hands, to lift your chest higher and use your hand to push forward, to lift your knees higher
7. To challenge yourself you can try the variation where you grab the inner step of your feet, flexing your toes
o Stretches the entire front of the body
o Strengthens every muscle in the back
o Improves posture and spinal flexibility
o Helps to open the chest, abdomen, quadriceps, ankles, groins, hip flexors, and throat
TYPE 2 - THE HELPER
Twos are tuned to other’s needs and feelings. They excel in supporting people, bringing up their potential and they have the intelligence of adaptation and anticipation. Their energy is directed towards what they can bring to someone. Relationship builders, excellent communicators, extremely sensitive, they want to be accepted and liked by others which makes them very flexible. However, this focus on how they can bring what is missing tends to drive them away from themselves. They sometimes suffer and complain from the lack of gratitude, and tend to get irritable if things are not going their way. Pride about being special, and indispensable can also blind their judgment. Twos secretly need the acknowledgment of their contribution.
Most importantly, they need to learn to say no, to put boundaries, and not feeling guilty about it.
Challenge: Thrive in the relationship with others by mastering the art of balancing autonomy/dependency, giving/receiving.
Mantra: "I can follow my own needs and still being loved".
Your Yoga position: Paschimottanasana / Seated Forward Fold
1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you (ankles touching)
2. Flex your toes to stretch the calf muscles and keeping the legs active
3. First, sit upright, creating an L shape with your body
4. Lengthen your spine as much as possible from your tailbone to the crown of the head
5. Keep your chin parallel to the floor so the neck is long and an extension of your spine
6. Relax your shoulders away from the ears
7. Now without changing the shape of your spine or neck, slowly fold forward, to bring your lower abdomen closer to your upper thighs
8. Your hands can stay, palms flat on the ground, on either side of your thighs
9. Once your abdomen is connecting with your upper thighs, without compromising the shape of your spine, you can then bring your arms forward and grab your feet with different variations:
o Variation A: with your two-piece fingers, grab your big toes and look towards your toes.
o Variation B: grab the outer edges of your feet and look towards your toes.
o Variation C: grab with one hand the opposite wrist behind your feet. In this variation, the upper body is lying flat on your legs and your forehead is resting on your shin bones.
• Stretches the spine, shoulders, hamstrings
• Stimulates the liver, kidneys, ovaries, and uterus
• Improves digestion
• Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause and menstrual discomfort
• Soothes headache and anxiety and reduces fatigue
• Therapeutic for high blood pressure, infertility, insomnia, and sinusitis
TYPE 3 - THE ACHIEVER
Threes are goal orientated. They excel in getting things done, and they intend to do it better than anyone else.
Success is the only possible outcome and they will adapt and work hard towards that goal. They also know how to promote a successful image of themselves, displaying signs of material wealth and achievements. Highly popular, they love to be the life of the party.
Working with them can be extremely inspiring, as they have this contagious motivation, optimistic vision, and solution-driven personality.
On the other hand, Threes tend to push themselves too hard at work and neglect their own needs and health.
Focused on their image, they can sometimes lose contact with their own deep feelings.
Challenge: Letting go of the deceptive-social-winner persona, and connect with your inner-self.
Mantra: I value deep heart contact.
Your Yoga position: Sasangasana / Rabbit pose
1. Come to a kneeling posture, sitting onto your heels
2. Lift your bottom slightly off your legs so you can tuck your toes under
3. Hold onto the heels with the hands
4. Round your spine and lean your torso forward, placing the crown of your head onto the floor without losing the grip of your heels
o To deepen the pose, bring the crown of your head as close as possible to your knees
o To make the pose a little bit easier, simply rest your arms alongside your legs, palms facing up
o Strengthens the back muscles
o Strengthens the arms and shoulders
o Opens the spine deeply, helping to stretch and stimulate the intervertebral disks
o Aids to maintain the spongy nature of the disks which helps them absorb shock from daily movement to prevent back pain
o Stimulates the immune and endocrine systems
TYPE 4 - THE INDIVIDUALIST
Also called the Romantic or the Artist, Type four is a never-ending seeker of meaning and depth.
They are particularly tuned to the environment, the vibes of a place, or the people surrounding them. Many of them are artists and have a real quest in expressing human feelings. Fours are sensitive to authenticity and aesthetics. They really value honesty about emotions and hate small talk.
Passionate and empathetic, they are non-judgemental friends and will encourage creativity and intuition.
Fours need some time alone to process and deal with their inner melancholy and tend to sometimes be overly dramatic or emotional. They also need discipline and routine (which they hate) to find balance with their emotional up and downs.
Challenges: Create your bespoke positive routine and stick to it. Do not let sad emotions jeopardise the present and seek positive action.
Mantra: "I am free of my old story. I stand my ground and speak my truth".
Your yoga position: Virabhadrasana 3/ Warrior 3 Pose
1. Stand on one leg and extend the other leg towards the back of the room
2. Bring your torso parallel to the floor, creating one long line from the crown of your head to your back foot
3. Keep both of your legs straight
4. Level your hips so they are parallel to the ground
5. Turn your back toes to face down, helping you to keep your hips levelled
6. Keep your neck long, as an extension of your spine
7. Look down towards your mat
8. Keep your hands in a prayer position at the middle of the chest with your elbows in one long line
9. Try to create a T shape with your body, with your foot aligned with your head
1. Extend your arms to the front, aligned with your ears, and keep your palms facing each other
2. keep your arms alongside your body, with your palms facing each other and reaching towards the back of the room
3. Try to hold this pose for at least 5 breath
Strengthens the whole backside of the body, including the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, ankles, and back
Tones and strengthens the abdominal muscles
Improves balance, posture, and full-body coordination.
TYPE 5 - The Investigator
Fives are the intellectuals, the passionate ones about knowledge. They love to go deep into reflection and have their own opinion.
They are much appreciated for their perceptive, independent, and cultivated mind. Fives know how to observe and take distance from an event, so they can take the right time to forge the right analysis. The technical side, the details, and the complexity attract them. They find extreme comfort in their area of expertise, which they take the time to enrich and expand as much as they can.
That brilliant mind can sometimes find difficulties with feelings, and enjoy privacy, freedom, and detachment. That tendency to withdraw may be hard on the family, in the couple, and with friends.
Challenge: The key for type five is to really step in social life, allowing emotions to be shared and reconciling the inner world with the outer world.
Mantra: "I can engage with the world without holding back".
Your yoga position: Ustrasana / Camel pose
1. Place your chin onto your mat and keep your torso in an upright position with your hips aligned with your knees
2. Make sure that your knees are hips distance apart
3. Place your hands onto your lower back, fingertips facing up our down
4. Squeeze your shoulder blades and bring your elbows as close as possible to one another
5. Start to lean back with your torso and press your hips forward to keep them align with your knees
6. Drop your head back if it is comfortable for your neck
Variations to deepen the pose:
o Variation A: Tuck your toes under, place your hands onto your heels, and keep pressing the hips forward to keep them align with your knees.
o Variation B: Keep the top of your feet flat on your mat, place your palms onto the instep of your feet and keep pressing the hips forward to keep them align with your knees.
o Variation C: From B position walk your hands onto your calf muscles and towards your knees (maybe even placing your hands on your thighs). Place the crown of your head down on the floor behind your feet.
o Stretches the front of the body – i.e. chest, abdomen, quadriceps, and hip flexors
o Improves spinal flexibility
o Strengthens the back muscles, improving the posture
TYPE 6 - The Loyalist
Sixes have extraordinary skills when it comes to protecting themselves or others. They know how to detect any signs that could harm the safety of the group, whether evolving in the professional or personal spheres. More than anyone, they want to feel safe.
They know how to obey the rules when needed, or questioning them if they represent a threat.
Anticipation, doubt, caution run constantly in their super analytic mind. They rely on facts and intellect rather than instinct and are excellent trouble-shooters in any given situation. That comes with a price, and when in need to make a decision, or to trust, constant doubts can be overwhelming and block the situation.
Procrastination, suspicion, the tendency to hold back become obstacles in relationship or project building, and Sixes have to learn how to trust themselves or others, as perfection is not part of this world.
Capable of being real heroes and serve the community, the Loyalist has to learn how to live in peace with others. It will strengthen their own courage and considerably ease their life.
Challenge: Increase my capacity to see beauty and reliability in others.
Mantra: I have faith in myself and do not need to fear the unknown.
Your yoga position: Matsyasana / Fish pose
1. Lie down on your back with your arms alongside your body (palms facing up or down) and your ankles touching
2. Lift your chest and bend your arm so you can rest on your forearms
3. Let your head go back until the crown of your head is lightly touching the ground
4. Adjust your position so you can lengthen your throat and open your chest without putting too much weight on your head (Note that your forearms should be supporting the weight of your upper body)
Once you feel comfortable in this pose, you can then lift your feet and arms off the floor. Keep your ankles touching and interlace your fingers except for your indexes (creating a pistol shape)
o You can hold this pose between 5 breaths and 5min, depending on your practice level.
o Stretches your deep hip flexors and intercostals muscles (muscles between the ribs)
o Relieves tension in your neck, throat, and shoulders
o Stretches and tones the front of your neck and your abdominals
TYPE 7 - The Adventurer/Enthusiast
Sevens have this forward-thinking, optimistic attitude and excellent communication skills that make them highly popular. They drive their energy towards pleasurable experiences. Rather than limiting themselves, they favour an open-minded vision with multiple options. They constantly seek new adventures, challenges, and satisfaction. Their attention shifts quickly, they hate to be bored, to miss the best party, and are not too keen on listening to people’s suffering. Priority is on having fun. Bringing them to focus on down-to-earth issues can be quite challenging. Partners in private and professional life have sometimes the feeling to run after them.
High consumption of food, alcohol, or medication can also be a problem for this insatiable mind.
Challenge: Enjoy the present moment as it is, in-dept and simplicity. Take your time to resolve a problem, and then: celebrate.
Mantra: I have everything I need here and now.
Your yoga position: Malasana / Yogi squat
1. Stand tall, and separate your feet wider than your hips
2. Turn your toes out
3. Lower your bottom towards the floor, in between your legs
4. Bring your hands in a prayer position in the middle of your chest and use your elbows to push your knees out
5. Drop your tailbone down towards the floor and lengthen your spine by pushing the crow of your head towards the sky
6. Keep your chin parallel to the floor
7. Engage your quadriceps to lift your bottom slightly off the floor if you want to also strengthen your leg muscles (buttock, calf, thigh).
8. Variation: place a block underneath your bottom and sit on it for support. This way you will be able to stay in this position longer and really focus on opening your hips and lengthening your spine.
Stretches the thighs, groin, hips, ankles, and torso
Tones the abdominal muscles
Improves balance, concentration, and focus
Improves the function of the colon (helping with excretion)
Increases circulation and blood flow in the pelvis (helping to regulate sexual energy)
TYPE 8 - The Challenger
Eights feel definitely comfortable and generally excel in a leadership role.
Their energy, appetite for power, and intensity are quite impressive. People around them can be highly inspired and in awe in front of their courage, resilience, and self-confidence. Some may feel protected, others may feel threatened. Obedience to them and strength are what Eights value and they tend to despise any form of weakness. They can also appear as being completely insensitive when harming someone else’s feelings.
Grudge, excess, and hot temper may damage their relationships.
The perfect outcome for Eights is when they start to fuse their power with a cause such as helping others. They can literally change the world and transform their energy into a positive pursuit.
Judging less and protecting more, committing their love for justice at the service of the unfortunates, will definitely bring peace and higher recognition for those powerful human beings.
Challenge: Challenging this incredible energy of life into productive humanist action.
Mantra: I’m willing to be vulnerable.
Your Yoga position: Anjaneyasana / Low lunge pose
1. From a down-facing dog position, bring one foot in between your hands at the front of your mat and lower the back knee down on the floor
2. Untuck your back toes and rest the top of your foot on the floor
3. Lift your chest to an upright position
4. Slide your back leg away from your front leg as much as possible, so you can lower your tailbone towards the floor
5. Press your hips forward to bring your pelvis closer to the floor, stretching your hip joint even more (let your knee pass over your ankle)
Note: You can keep your hands resting onto your front thigh and focus on lengthening your hip joint
o Lift your arm above your head with your palms touching; and/or
o Keep your arm levelled with your ears and lengthen the side of your body; and/or
o Arch back keeping your arms aligned with your ears.
TYPE 9 - The Mediator
Nines have this precious and rare ability to understand all points of view. A quality that makes them unparalleled mediators and peace-makers. Famous for their open-minded spirit, they can show extreme tolerance and sensitivity toward others. They like to be discreet, welcoming, easy-going, and friendly. Their motto is: “When in Rome, do as Romans do.” What they seek is harmony, peace of mind, and stability. It becomes difficult when they have to assert themselves. Their indecision can irritate others, and generate conflict which they hate and fear.
The more Nines will move toward action, and pay attention to what they really need, the more they will develop that inner harmony without the help of anyone else.
Challenge: Stepping up and being independent without falling back on the passive/aggressive mode.
Mantra: I can dance to my own drumbeat and still be part of my tribe.
Your Yoga position: Natarajasana/Dancer pose
1. Come to a standing posture, with your feet hips distance apart
2. Bend one leg back and bring your heel close to your bottom and the knee aligned with your other knee
3. Grab the instep of your foot with your hand (same side of your bent leg)
4. Lengthen your other arm towards the sky and keep your hand in one long line with your shoulder
5. Start to lean your torso forward and kick your leg back, pressing the foot into your hand
6. Lift your knee as high as possible and try to bring your torso parallel to the floor,
7. Look down towards your mat and keep your neck long
8. Engage your glute muscles to lift the leg higher
9. Level your hips as much as possible to keep your knee pointing towards the back of the room
10. Keep your standing leg straight
o Opens the shoulders, chest, and hips
o Stretches and strengthens the thighs
o Stretches the entire front of the body
o Improves flexibility in your spine, shoulders, and hamstrings
o Strengthen the back muscles, improving the posture
Many Thanks to Yogajournal.com for Their Mantra inspirations.