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What is your body type? How does this influence your workout style and yoga preferences?

When I was in high school Levi’s jeans were one of the cool looks. Levi’s jeans are built for an ectomorph, someonewith long thin legs and a wider waist. I am a combo of mesomorph and endomorph; I have thighs and a more compact waist area. My thighs serve me well in cycling classes and in stability postures in yoga. However if I tried on a pair of Levi’s that fit my thighs, the waist area was too large.   It was not cool to use a belt if the fabric had to be gathered at the top. I did not fit the Levi’s mold. According to the Sheldon Somatotype model, each of us “inherited a body type based on skeletal frame and body composition”.   The University of Houston’s Teacher’s Corner article goes on to say, “William Sheldon, PhD, MD, introduced the concept of body types, or somatotypes, in the 1940’s. Since then, nutritionists exercise physiologists and even doctors have used it to help design effective, individualized fitness plans”.

The three types are characterized the following ways:

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Mesomorph

Muscular, broad shoulders, defined waist and slim hips.

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Ectomorph

Tall, long thin limbs and little body fat.

Endomorph 3

Endomorph

Are round and solid and often appear overweight.

I like to share this information with my USF students because I think it is important to understand one’s physical body type so that we may work in harmony and appreciation of our gifts and chose appropriate activities to balance our body/mind.

In the Ayurvedic system, there are 3 body types or “Doshas”: Pita, Vata, and Kapha. According to mindbodygreen these body types have the following characteristics.

Pitta: Medium physique, strong, well built; a sharp mind and good concentration powers. Pitta’s tend to be orderly, focused, assertive and self confident.

Vata: Slender, Tall and quick to learn and grasp new knowledge but also quick to forget.

Kapha: Easygoing, relaxed, slow-paced; affectionate and loving. Forgiving, compassionate and non judgmental. Physically strong and with a sturdy, heavier build.

I have correlated these 3 body types with the Somatotypes. I am not the first person to correlate these 3 Ayurvedic doshas with the Sheldon Somatotypes.

We can have an ‘Aha’ moment when we realize our personality characteristics are strongly influenced by our physical body type. A Pitta/Mesomorph, strong and muscular can be assertive and possibly quick to anger.   A Kapha/Endomorph, who has a solid build, has enduring patience and is slow to anger. A Vata/Ectomorph is the forward thinking, creative person who may move quickly from one area of interest to another.

In relationships and in the workplace these doshas and body types have a strong influence. The Vata/Ectomorph gets up early in the morning.   The Kapha/Endomorph gets up late, is slow to get moving and has the endurance to stay up late to finish a project for instance. This body type will stick with a project until it is just right, never straying from the goal. The Vata/Ectomorph works on a project but not non-stop.   The Vata/Ectomorph needs to eat regularly to keep blood sugar levels up. The Kapha/Endomorph can skip meals and then feast in one sitting. The Vata/Ectomorph will come back to the project several times before finishing it. Then may tend to jump to a new idea and has to work on “stick-to-it-ness.”

In fitness that same applies. A Pitta/Mesomorph is an avid exerciser choosing demanding workouts that are challenging and varied. They tend to like a schedule and want to monitor their workout progress with fitness gadgets. The Vata/Ectomorph needs variety in their workout to stay motivated. These are truly the individuals that the experience oriented marketers target. They are on to the latest, hottest workouts on the market. One Vata/Ectomorph type mentioned he like to do activities where he can keep score; he plays handball. The Kapha/Endomorph has to enjoy their workout. They would tend to not be the early morning workout person. They are the trickiest clients to work with because they tend to not be self motivated in this area. They may have to multitask when working out, such as watch the news or a favorite television program. I want them to do endurance workouts. I want them to do things to get themselves moving in the morning – even just jump on a home elliptical to rev up their metabolism while they watch the news.  Or, take their dog for a walk.

What about yoga and pilates? Unknown.jpegThe creator of the Pilates Coach program, Leslee Bender is an Ectomorph. Because of her long limbs, she added a mini ball between her knees to make a Teaser safer for her lower back. She became the fitness guru of using props in Pilates classes.  Joseph Pilates was a Mesomorph.

A Pitta/Mesomorph will have strong, well defined muscles. Standing, strength postures come easy to this group. An Ashtanga or Bikram class would be appealing. Touching their toes may not. Because their muscles are short and strong, flexibility is not their strong suite. Bending their knees, widening their stance in a forward bend is helpful. The Vata/Ectomorph has long limbs and muscles, they adapt to flexibility more easily. Standing single leg balances such as standing bow can be challenging. Iyengar or Flow classes may be more appealing to these long limbed individuals. Vinyasa, as long as the sequences do not load the hips repeatedly would be a good choice.

The Endomorph/Kapha is strong and stable in yoga postures. Forward bends may be uncomfortable because of the compression to the abdomen.   Their bodies respond very well to an appropriate yoga program that is paced evenly and presents a well balanced series of postures. Wide base standing postures such as triangle, Warrior 1 and 2 are good for this body type as well as spinal twists.  A flow that is challenging is recommended becausethey need a practice that keeps them engaged.

real-face-2.jpg                                 The Breath Diva says:

“In this moment I can slowly inhale

and fully appreciate my body/mind.”

 

MikeI recently took a ‘Hot Pilates’ class. The format begins with one minute of continuous bicycle abs followed by a minute of mountain climbers.  We repeated this combination 6 times. So, 12 minutes later I was hoping this exact segment would not be repeated during this hour of exercise! What I did notice is that my mind was grasping for the next mountain climber segment, since this was easier to perform than the bicycles. I wanted relief from the demands of the bicycle exercise. You know what I am talking about: lying on your back with your elbows bent and palms holding your head, knees bent in table-top position, you alternate right elbow to left knee, left elbow to right knee. Your legs scissor back and forth. The object is to lift from your respective sides employing your oblique muscles, the muscles responsible for twisting and rotating our spinal column. This is a demanding process; done properly it is a very demanding process. A mountain climber is executed starting in down dog position, lift your knees to your chest repeatedly for the minute.

Question is, “How do we employ mindfulness during these demanding exercises?”  Our mind is actively processing the comfort or lack there of during each repetition. The instructor is reminding you of proper alignment and execution. Our self-talk is noting, “Am I lifting and twisting my chest high enough?” “Am I being precise enough?” “This is uncomfortable!” “How much longer will this go on?” There is relief when one segment is completed. Then the possible self talk when we have completed all 6 segments of each. “Wow, I did it!” “I want to do this class again!” “I am getting stronger.” Is this not mindfulness? It is not the quiet mindfulness when we pay attention to one breath. This is not the quiet mindfulness technique of counting our breath, four counts in, pause, four counts out, pause.
I would suggest that it is the same mindfulness expect for the physiological response of exercise. During the bicycle and the mountain climber exercises our breathing is increased, we are sweating, our heart rate is increased and we are moving our body.  During a simple mindfulness moment we may be stationary, not moving. Our physiological responses are going in the other direction. Herbert Benson termed the phrase, Relaxation Response. Heart rate slows, positive hormones increase and breathing slows. The combination results in feelings of comfort, ease, i.e. ‘relaxation’.

Like a boxcar on a roller coaster track, I had to corral my thoughts into a positive direction during this demanding class. I didn’t want to be negative; I wanted to inspire myself to perform as well as possible on that given day. It helped to keep me going. I often remind myself that, “What I focus on, expands”. So by ignoring the unpleasantness of the workout, I was able to have success. I left feeling better than when I entered the class. I felt as if I had accomplished something demanding.

In our mindfulness practice we can apply the same principles.  Choose a time of day or a routine event like walking to your car. Make it a practice to look around. As you walk this familiar path, notice everything around you. Employ all of your senses:  look at the sky, feel yourself in the outside world, smell the air and just generally be mindful in the present moment. This requires a type of endurance.  This focus will put you in the moment so that other mundane or disturbing thoughts are replaced. By practicing this sensory awareness focus, mindfulness will be enhanced. Perhaps gratitude will become part of the mix!

Whispers of the Breath Diva:

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In this moment I can fully focus and be present!