In Ayurveda (Indian holistic medicine), there’s a concept of doshas, which are basically excesses that need to be brought into balance: fire, earth, air.  A teacher of mine once said that one way to identify our dominant dosha or excess is by looking at how we approach a problem.  Some of us get angry and push through, others get anxious and avoid the issue, and others may dwell on the issue, be depressed about it, and get stuck.  While it depends on the situation, it seems true in my personal experience that over the long run most people have one tendency or another.

The risk of categorization is that it can pigeonhole us into seeing ourselves in a limited way.  But with a few dashes of salt and a step back, it can be really enlightening to notice how we react to situations, and to make a conscious choice to try something different.

For me, when a problem arises, my first inclination is to push through, to change it to be the way I want it to be, to make something happen.  Oh, a problem’s come up?  Well, here we go, just fix it, now, the sooner the better.  This isn’t bad, but it isn’t always the most productive approach, and often it isn’t the most pain-free.  So sometimes, when I catch myself early enough, it works best for me to let it rest for a bit, a day or two, and to actively try to think about it in a different way.  Normally I have to still plan out my usual “attack the problem” solution first, but then before acting I can sometimes remember to step back, think, and find a path around rather than through.

Working on a challenging pose is a great way to practice finding a better approach.  For example, I’m working on arm balances.  My normal tendency is to pick a couple arm balances, and try them 2-3 times per week until I get them.  This will eventually work; I have done exactly this.  Another approach is instead to really ponder, to dwell (earth quality) on what it is about those specific poses that makes them hard, and then try to work on those aspects of the pose first.  An “air quality” approach would be to try them from different transitions, build from the floor or from a different pose or using a prop a certain way, to figure out the pose.  My next arm balance project is dwi pada koundinyasana, a revolved arm balance like parsva bakasana (side crow or crane) with both legs straight.  We’ll see how it goes!