Resistance and avoidance in your yoga practice

By Beth Rusk

Have you ever had a hard time getting on your mat? We have all had those days, weeks or even months where the idea of rolling out our mat seems overwhelming. I, too, struggle with this, even though I dearly love and appreciate the practice of yoga. And this is why we call it a practice, every day is an opportunity to set new intentions and become better attuned to what is actually happening in our lived experiences.

We all show up to yoga for our own reasons, in our own time and in our own ways. As we recognize our own uniqueness we can begin to give ourselves permission to create our own unique daily practice. This way we allow yoga to be received as a gift and not another chore or thing we “have” to do. 

Commit to a daily practice

Sometimes just reading or hearing the above words can create anxiety or stress. Every day?!! Are you kidding?!! Hold on, do not freak out just yet, let’s break this down. This is the part where we really get to tune into our own unique daily needs and form a practice around what is best going to serve you. 

Start your day in a quiet seat. For some this is best done first thing, for others it might come after morning tasks have been completed, and for others it could be with a cup of tea or coffee. This seat can happen right before a guided class, even later in the day. This moment of awareness to “what is” can be different to each person and to each day. Sit for five minutes, with as minimal distractions as your able to have. Ask yourself with love and curiosity “how are things?” Check in with your energy level, time restraints for the day, any emotional stirrings, level of anxiousness/stress, state of your thinking mind, your capacity right now to be able to feel/not feel what is present, where tension or restriction physically is showing up in your body, etc. At the end of this five minutes of inquiry, ask yourself “what does my yoga practice need to look like today?” I find if I allow myself time to tap into my deep inner knowing the answers arise without effort or forcing. This time gives ourselves grace and allows for our own uniqueness to shine through, in our practice and into our lives. 

Permission for your yoga practice to look different everyday

I feel like sometimes I become fixated on yoga looking or feeling a certain way. In my mind I create all these rules and expectations around my practice. Maybe that’s just me…..or perhaps you have had a similar experience. Can we begin to soften these constraints? There are so many styles of Asana (the physical postures of yoga), pranayama (breath work), meditation, mindfulness, and yogic philosophy. Its like a buffet and you get to choose moment to moment what is going to be of the most service to your experience. And like a buffet, maybe you take a little bit of everything onto your yoga plate, or maybe today you only want a whole plate of lobster.

Life is in a constant state of ebb and flow. Change and impermanence is the name of the game, let your practice be in that flow. But also let your practice be your anchor into the present moment experience. As life continually moves along, bringing with it challenge/joy/heartbreak/ease/etc., an established daily practice is where we can return in order to better align with ourselves. 

Recognize resistance and avoidance for what it is

I know for me when life seems to be falling apart, that is when my yoga practice is most beneficial–and also the most challenging time for me to practice. I can come up with a million excuses to not get on my mat. And getting on my mat is exactly what I need to do.

As human beings we are wired to avoid things that bring us discomfort or pain, it’s our survival instincts kicking in. But running away from a tiger is very different than running away from difficult emotions or feelings. So sometimes when there is a lot on our emotional plate we want to avoid practicing yoga so that we do not have to feel or be aware of these feelings. Can we lean in, feel and allow space for the full spectrum of emotions?

Another time we might avoid practice is when we have an injury or are low on energy. The beauty of yoga is we have at our finger tips a variety of options, styles and ways of practicing. Perhaps one day/week/month it is yin or gentle asana and the next is flow or a more active class. Sometimes asana is not what we need and your practice is breath work or a meditation practice. The beauty of yoga is it will meet you where ever you are, as long as you are attuned to what you need. There are also moments of resistance or avoidance that show up during a guided class. You might not want to do a certain pose that is being taught, something a teacher says doesn’t resonate with you, or you feel tension or physical resistance in a certain area of your body. Stay curious, keep moving, breathing, and have discernment for what is happening in your body.  

In the moments that I feel resistance or avoidance to practicing, I remind myself why I do yoga. Not all the external reasons society tells me it is good for me, but what it is that I truly receive from my daily yoga practice. My reasons are unique and ever changing, as are yours. Each day, give yourself permission to meet yourself where you are. Have patience, grace and trust in your yogic journey. Let your practice be a like a dear friend, always there for you and full of love and understanding. 

I hope to see you on your mat, in the virtual zoom world, and hopefully someday soon back in the studio.

As always with love and light,

Beth

Beth Rusk infuses her teaching with her anatomy knowledge as a massage therapist, and her many years of varied styles of yoga experience to guide students along their own yogic path. Click here to learn more about Beth and see her teaching schedule.

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