A few weeks ago I introduced the enneagram, a powerful tool for transformation and self-work. This week I’m sharing specific ways that you can bring the enneagram into your yoga practice.
An important part of using the enneagram is identifying your enneatype, which converge into one of three of the enneagram’s main points (Gut, Heart and Head). Finding your ‘type’ allows you to customize a yoga practice that best fits your unique needs. If you’re not sure of your type, don’t worry, you can use the below descriptions and yoga suggestions to cultivate these particular qualities into your practice and your life.
Gut points (8, 9, and 1) sit at the top of the enneagram. People in this triad process information in their environment at an instinctual gut level. The core emotion they deal with is anger.
Type 8 is known as The Protector. People with this enneatype tend to be larger physically and/or energetically, exuding a sense of power, often boisterous and courageous. Others may find them intimidating, but Type 8’s exterior protects a vulnerable, sensitive inner self. Anger is easily expressed by this personality type.
If the above resonates with you, integrate softness and gentle flows into your practice. Begin with classic Sun Salutations before moving into poses that foster emotional and physical opening. Chest-opening poses, including Cobra, Upward Facing Dog and Bow, will give you access to heartfulness. After this, move into deeper poses that are more yin or restorative, such Lizard Pose and Half-Pigeon. Try Frog pose for ultimate access to your second chakra, the seat of your deepest emotions.
Type 9 is The Peacemaker. 9s typically have little awareness of anger or try to avoid it, and struggle to express displeasure. People of this type value feeling comfortable, melding into their environments or relationships with others in attempts to go with the flow.
If this sounds like you, cultivate qualities of strength and depth with Sun Salutations, and then transition into core-strengthening poses like Plank, Low Plank, and Boat to focus your energy and center. Like 8s, moving into deeper hip openers can give 9s access to more intense, hidden emotions.
Type 1 is The Perfectionist. They seek to improve everything around them, including themselves, and frequently offer advice for “fixing” others and the world. Possessing a strong sense of right and wrong, 1s tend to be physically tight and feel anxiety easily.
If you’re a Type 1, bring in some playfulness! With tendencies toward perfection, silliness and messiness is great for loosening up. Integrate some playful balance poses like Tree or Warrior III into your flow sequence. Practice getting grounded and watching your weight shift around. When you fall, start again. Have fun with it, and don’t forget to laugh!
Heart points (2, 3, and 4) are on the right side of the enneagram. People in the heart triad can be very emotional and possess a lot of compassion for others. Their core emotion is shame.
Type 2 is The Helper. This type expresses emotion easily and gets satisfaction out of anticipating others’ needs. They can be cheery and energetic, seeking connection through pleasing others with a blind spot for their own needs. When their own needs aren’t met, they can be resentful and angry.
2s can benefit from core-based practices to gain a better sense of their inner strength. Poses like Prayer Twist, Plank push-ups (transitioning from high to low plank), Boat and Abdominal Twists can help 2s access their power, giving them a better sense of self. If you’re a 2, choose poses that draw you toward the centerline of your body, like Tadasana and Tree, which are great for finding your feet and foundation in the world.
Type 3 is The Achiever. This success-driven type is concerned with portraying a capable, dazzling image to the world. They seek connection to others through accomplishments, personal and professional. They fear being judged by others, though this fear can motivate them to reframe setbacks as part of their personal growth.
Although 3 is a heart point, 3s can live in their heads, cut off from their emotions. Chest-opening postures like Cobra and Upward Facing Dog give 3s access to their heart centers, while working deeply into poses like Twisting Crescent and Bound Side Angle can challenge the heart to open. Try this heart and chest sequence for accessing feelings of heartfulness.
Type 4 is The Individualist. 4s seek love through deep emotional connection, and experiencing pain or sadness connects them to insecurities around being unloved and misunderstood. Artistic and expressive, 4s radiate beauty and melancholy. Their intense inner world can cut them off from others as their own personal tragedies often become their identities.
4s can benefit from getting out of their deep emotions and into the world. 4s should practice in studios and groups, and during practice, keep a strong focused drishti with eyes open throughout their practice. Core strengtheners and flow classes are great for this type, as are partner practices—or even acro yoga!
Head points (5, 6, and 7) sit on the left side of the enneagram. Cerebral quick thinkers, they gather lots of information in order to deal with their core emotion, fear.
Type 5 is The Observer. Pulled back and withdrawn from the world, 5s are often scholarly and interested in esoterica, and are fulfilled when synthesizing information. They avoid intense interactions with others, as they’re easily emotionally drained. They often feel weak, as if they need to protect themselves from a hostile world.
Like 4s, 5s can benefit from poses that connect them to the present moment and lead them to accept external world. Keeping an open-eyed drishti and moving into partner poses are great practice options. Because 5s may feel weaker physically, doing more vigorous sun salutations and core strengthening can help them access, cultivate and maintain strength.
Type 6 is The Skeptic. 6s want to feel safe but easily mistrust authority. They process information quickly, turning it into plans. The quickness of their minds is often expressed in their body and speech—they can be jittery and talk fast or stutter. Phobic 6s will actively avoid situations that cause them fear, while counter-phobic 6s will seek out excitement and adrenalin.
Because of their tendency to be skeptical, 6s can use partner poses to build trust and dispel fears. All head points can gain a lot from poses that are grounding, so pulling in postures like Child’s Pose, Triangle and Wide-Legged Forward Fold will greatly benefit 6s and the other members of this triad. 6s would also benefit from a regular restorative yoga and seated meditation practice.
Type 7 is The Enthusiast. These adventure seekers fear missing out on great experiences, and are always searching for the next big thing. Energetic, charming and enthusiastic, they can seem enlightened and joyful, but when they’re not fully entertained, they’ll focus their brainpower on planning the next adventure rather than being in the moment.
7s love being playful but struggle to stay with things when the going gets tough. Slowing down and staying with deeper poses after some faster moving sun salutations is suggested. Take at least 5 long breaths in each pose practiced, and focusing on a drishti point to stay grounded and calm. After this, move into deeper yin-like hip openers, like half-pigeon and frog, staying for 3-5 minutes (or even longer!) on each side.
Next time you’re practicing, try out a few of these poses based on your type or the qualities you’d like to cultivate in yourself. Which type resonates the most with you? What poses help you access your best self?