Everyone understands that when you start something new, you’re going to encounter resistance. What becomes harder to figure out is knowing when the resistance isn’t really resistance and is just that you don’t want to do it because it’s not for you.
This is exactly the question I needed to ask myself the day when I decided to ditch yoga. I’d been going to Bikram yoga classes while taking time off from running, to allow a foot injury to heal. For years now, I’ve been a runner. While some people can’t imagine why anyone would want to sweat and pant through a run, I’m hooked.
Almost immediately, however, I began to loathe going to yoga class.
For the uninitiated, Bikram yoga consists of the same 26 postures done each day in a room that’s heated to 105 degrees. A yoga as challenging as running? I was in. I psyched myself up and dug out my teensy yoga shorts.
Every single day I was confronting a heavy dose of resistance. A voice saying, “I really want to quit” kept popping up.
I’m a life coach. I’m no stranger to resistance; I understand it, why it crops up, and how it works.
My challenge was knowing myself whether this was resistance, or personal preference. How do you know when something’s just not right for you — and that’s that?
Resistance vs. Taste Preferences
This is the type of thing that many new yoga practitioners have had to ask themselves at some point: Is it resistance? Or is this just not for me?
Some people hate the taste of kale. It’s not that they need to try more — it’s that they honestly just don’t like it.
Where, in our quest to be healthier, more loving, and more connected human beings, might we be choosing paths that are perfectly lovely for other folks, but just not quite the right fit for us?
For instance: do you really want to be going to yoga? Is that something that you truly want to do? Or is that something that you do because people say it’s the right path?
We have to ask ourselves with any eating plan, with meditation, with adopting a spiritual practice: how do you know that line between resistance, and something not being a match?
For me, this starts with somatic awareness — the ability to scan your body and know what the different sensations are translating to. In other words, the better you know your body, the better you’re able to know when the discomfort that you feel is the kind caused by fear and it’s worth it to push through, whereas other times the discomfort is caused because you really just don’t vibe with what’s happening.
Somatic awareness practices can start with continually scanning your body to see what you notice. This is what yoga and holistic health practitioners call “listening to your body” to “see what it tells you.”
The sensations themselves will be different for everyone — what’s “Don’t do this” for me will be a bit different for you — but everyone has the capacity to tap in.
To start, try stopping and scanning your body every hour on the hour. Notice what you what comes up; don’t force the “a-ha,” just observe.
Running vs. Bikram
I was forcing myself to go to yet another Bikram class that I wasn’t enjoying (classmates, clearly, were satisfied with the practice) when it hit me:
Even though running is really hard, and requires hours of dedication, I’ve always been up for it, in spite of the fact that I’m talentless, slow, and have had injuries. Every time I’ve ever been injured, I research obsessively to figure out what’s happening and how to prevent re-injury. Then I start running again, though more carefully.
I realized that part of me had been afraid that I’d been resisting Bikram yoga because I was … lazy. Yet I knew that my dedication to running proved otherwise. I was up for challenges. I wasn’t lazy.
Yes, I could force myself to go (and resent it). Yoga just wasn’t for me.
Ask yourself why it is that you do what you do — and whether you want to keep doing it. It’s worth noticing if you’re doing it because you think you have to, while you ignore something that you embrace wholeheartedly and enthusiastically.
When I realized I didn’t need to force myself to go to Bikram again, I instantly felt better. Sure, I was a quitter. But I was quitting in favor of something that I wanted more: to continue the path of rehabbing my foot so that I could go back to what I loved. That will always be running.