When holding a pose in yoga, a teacher will sometimes say that the pose may bring up a lot of “stuff”. At first I searched my body and mind for a rush of emotion expecting to start crying as the emotions stored deep in my muscles were released. I waited and nothing happened, nothing that I noticed until I started to look a little deeper.
I started to notice that I didn’t have raw visceral emotion clawing it’s way out of my body but instead a slight emotional discomfort. This didn’t surface in anything as obvious as breathing difficulties, tears, ruminating thoughts, increased anxiety or worry but in the need to move, shift my position and change the pose or perhaps come out of the pose all together. In these moments I am physically and emotionally resisting what the pose is trying to do for my mind and body. These moments come and go in waves, when one comes it may subside and then come back a few minutes later, it may even present itself differently. Don’t be afraid of this resistance and instead try moving into it and stay with it as long as possible.
It is in these moments of resistance that it is most important to hold the pose. These are the moments of change and growth, you can either rise to the occasion or shrink back into your comfort zone. Just keep in mind that if you do the same thing you have always done you will get the same results you have always gotten.
This week in class a teacher was talking about these moments of resistance. She said that when you feel one of these moments coming is when your pose starts, when the work of yoga really begins, and she couldn’t be more right. Yoga is designed so that it stresses your body and mind, intentionally awakening your nervous system and the anxiety centers of your brain so that you can teach your body and mind that you are capable of moving through moments of adversity.
By controlling your breath and watching how it changes as you move through your practice you are learning to listen to the way physical and emotional stress appear in your life and teaching your body how to deal with it more effectively. Breathing deeply biologically reassures your body that although it feels physical stress everything is alright, allowing you to calm yourself down. After practising this you will become more and more able to respond to emotional stress by breathing deeply and your body will be more responsive to the message you are sending “everything is alright, you’re ok” allowing you to stay calm reducing anxiety and other negative emotions.
By encountering these moments of resistance and staying in the discomfort you are teaching your body that it’s ok to be afraid but that doesn’t mean you have to back down. The more physical barriers you are able to sit through the more your mind will be able to endure the emotional barriers we all face in life.
I have found this especially true when dealing with recovery from my eating disorder. These moments of resistance for me and my disorder are fairly easy to recognize because they are still fairly strong but I recognize it as a moment of growth and change and I don’t back away from it. These feelings and thoughts have come and passed before; they will likely come and go again.
I have seen myself move through barriers that I thought were impossible, I look back and still have no idea how I made it through certain struggles. The truth is that I didn’t have a strategy, I didn’t have a plan or a cognitive way that I dealt with getting through it- I breathed to try to stay calm, slowed down and didn’t turn back. Sometimes I actively put myself in uncomfortable situations directly challenging the fears and beliefs that my disorder had instilled in me but other times I had to sit with the discomfort and continue to live despite it.
I thank yoga every day for the practice it gives me in taking charge of my own life again and the lessons it teaches me each time I get on my mat. It’s not always easy, but it is ALWAYS worth it. <3