The Four Tendencies is a book written by Gretchen Rubin which proposes that we all fit into one of four personality types that shape every aspect of our behavior. Never heard of it? Check it out here The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People's Lives Better, Too) and take her free online quiz to see what personality type you fit into.
How can using this framework help you set up your home practice?
Understanding how you respond to inner and outer expectations can set you up for success when it comes to turning up on your mat every single day. Firstly, it's worth noting that a home practice doesn't have to look like a studio session; it doesn't need to be a carefully sequenced 75 minute practice! A home practice looks very different for everyone, and while it can include high intensity workouts, it can also be gentle or slow, short or long, or time spent practicing pranayama and meditation.
So let's see how you can use these tendencies described by Gretchen to help us in our practice. Firstly, here are the four tendencies;
Upholder: Meets outer expectations, and inner expectations
Questioner: Resists outer expectations, meets inner expectations
Obliger: Meets outer expectations, resists inner expectations
Rebel: Resists outer expectations, resists inner expectations
Once you've done the quiz and you know which tendency you fall into, let's have a look at how it can help you design your practice, how it can help you get to your mat, and what you might need to watch out for too.
Upholders by nature are self directed and disciplined. Perhaps the group that find it the easiest to come to their mat every day simply because they said they would, and they do what they say! If you're an upholder, you may benefit from a set sequence to appeal to your predisposition towards structure.
What to watch out for; Upholders will turn up to their mats no matter what and can sometimes err on the side of being inflexible minded. Upholders can be a little rigid and so may not take an easier practice when it's needed and this can lead to burnout or injury. If you're an upholder, notice any tendency to be judgmental of your practice and any urge to keep going even when you're tired or something doesn't feel right. Practice listening to signals from your body and be ok with going easier when needed.
If you're a questioner it's important to understand the reasons for your home practice in order to consistently show up. Questioners will often resist outer expectations, but meet inner expectations, so if this is you, once you know why you want to practice every day, it's likely that you will. To get going, have a teacher design some practices with you and explain the benefits/reason for each sequence and understand which you would do when, and why. It may also be useful to keep a journal to show your progress overtime.
What to watch out for; analysis paralysis is a thing! Questioners often overthink things, once you're committed to your chosen practice, don't continue to question it. If you're a questioner it may be tempting to jump from one sort of yoga or meditation to another, questioning if the one you're doing is the right one, or the best one, or if perhaps there's something out there that's better. It's also possible to turn the questioning on the practice itself if you don't see results straight away. Commit to a practice for a set period of time such as a month or three months before allowing yourself to research any other style or sequence, or before making changes.
Obligers while finding it easy to meet the expectations of others, but resist inner expectations making it difficult to prioritize a home practice, which fundamentally is for themselves. If you're an obliger it's important to do two things. Firstly, journal to understand how committing to a regular practice not only will benefit you, but will in turn benefit the people around you at home and/or in your friendships, community and work. Some of the commitment to the home practice must be rooted in the understanding that taking care of yourself will have a positive effect on how you show up for those around you. Secondly, get an accountability partner; someone that you report to every single day with an update of what you got done in your home practice.
What to watch out for. As an obliger it can be tempting to put everyone else's demands and priorities before your own, meaning your practice can be overlooked. Also be aware that keeping up with other peoples demands can lead to overwork and burnout so a restorative, comforting practice can often be beneficial.
Rebels resist expectations from themselves and others. If you're a rebel, it's useful to have a super simple minimum basic practice which feels easily achievable, with free reign to do whatever you want on any particular day. Rebels tend to resist structure and like the freedom to do things their own way so this is important to keep in mind that the practice remains a 'want to' rather than a requirement. If you're a rebel, it can be useful to appeal to your sense of identity to stick with a long term practice; realizing that your practice is part of who you are as a yogi, or remember the results of a regular practice, i.e that your calm nature is a result of your meditation practice.
What to watch out for; A minimum basic practice is useful for taking the pressure of expectation off a rebel, however there is a danger of that becoming the standard, or even finding resistance to the practice at all. If you're a rebel, allow yourself to have lots of options including practicing morning, afternoon or evening, 5 minutes, 30 minutes or an hour, yin, restorative, meditation or flow; variety is key to keeping the rebel engaged.
I hope you enjoy Gretchen's book if you pick it up, and I hope that it in some way can help you to understand yourself and others a little more, and achieve your goals both on and off the mat.
If you're ready to begin a regular home practice but don't know where to start, schedule an in-person on online private session with me to discuss your needs and I'll be happy to help design a home practice that's right for you!
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