Think about it like this: your basic brain function is survival and if you were continuing things in the standard way you have survived so far, there would be no resistance. Growth and transformation feel completely new to your brain and thus can cause it to question whether it will stay alive. This is a brilliant mechanism in place to help you survive. Except most of us aren’t interested in surviving – we want to thrive. And in order to thrive we must push ourselves out of our comfort zone, which feels terrifying and can throw your brain into a wild fight of resistance.
This resistance can be physical – tight shoulders, a sore neck, pain in your hips. It can be physiological – short breath, difficulty focusing, darting eyes, twitching. It can also be mental – racing thoughts, negative thoughts, anger, apathy or frustration.
Yoga can be a powerful practice to notice how your body reacts to discomfort and change and where resistance comes up. You’re literally transforming over the course of a yoga session – opening your body, releasing tension, building strength, discovering flexibility. By physically putting your body into a position that feels uncomfortable and holding it, you can explore what happens – what thoughts run through your mind? Where does tension get stuck? Do you move it right into your neck and shoulders? Can you breathe and relax your hold on what you can’t control?
Taking note of where resistance shows up in a contained environment like yoga is powerful because it is likely similar to where resistance shows up in uncomfortable situations off of your mat.
Noticing my reaction to resistance in a yoga practice has led me to realize that I move from a place of empowerment to a place of defeat pretty quickly. I struggle with wanting to immediately leave when things get difficult – even just for one second of reprieve. My mind wanders, I get frustrated and struggle huge with taking in enough air to relax and struggle even more with exhaling. I hold my breath when things get hard. I have trained myself to sit in it, which I am by no means a master of. When I notice my mind starts tell me “just straighten your legs you crazy lady – this sucks!”, I breathe, feel the resistance and again, breathe, knowing I will survive it.
Knowing how my body and mind reacts to difficult things is extremely empowering. I can recognize when I am fighting change by noticing when my breath becomes short or my shoulders start to tense. From there I am more inclined to relax and let it happen. If I am holding my breath, I notice and look for other areas of tension. I focus on the resistance and reframe it as something powerful happening for me to move forward.
How do you react to tension or difficult sensation? What are your beliefs about resistance?
Yoga Playlist: Week of July 20
Geometria del Universo – Colleen
Animal – The Acid
It’s Only (feat. Zyra) – ODESZA
Light – Dr. Toast
What I don’t Know About What I know? – Daniel Paul
Right Thing To Do (feat. Jessie Ware) – Sbtrkt
What Love – Jagwar Ma
Your Drums, Your Love – AlunaGeorge
Bend – Chet Faker
Regret – St. Vincent
Feel It All Around – Washed Out
Eyes To The Wind – The War On Drugs
Outta My Head – M. Ward
Sea of Teeth – Sparklehorse
Rainbirds – Tom Waits