An Excerpt from The Yoga of Food by Melissa Grabau, PhD.
The next step to managing your resistance in a more conscious way is to anticipate it. I want you to think about the repetitive excuses listed above as a tic line monotonously circling around your experience. Resistance is ubiquitous. It is also boring—it offers no new information and seeks to keep the status quo. It’s no big deal if you learn to recognize it, label it, and carry on with your commitments in spite of it. The more you do this, the easier it becomes and your resistance becomes weaker relative to your intentions. This gives you a feeling of great strength because you develop the confidence borne of knowing that You, your intentions, your values, and your capacity for change, are larger than your resistance. Each repetition offers you the opportunity to do something different, but you have to be ready for the magnetic pull back to the status quo and determined to hold to the road of your larger intentions. As Iyengar says: “Humans innately resist change because we feel safe with what is familiar and fear the insecurity that comes with something new. We tend to live in a familiar fixed routine and try to avoid accepting or even feeling what is beyond the known ... We seek freedom but cling to bondage.”
In the process of committing to a yoga and meditation practice, you can expect to bump up against a lot of resistance. For one thing, although sexy yoga pants abound in magazines and shops, the spirit of the practice of yoga and meditation are not supported in our cultural milieu. The spirit of these practices has very little to do with, in fact is antithetical to, a fixation upon how you look or image enhancement. Furthermore, in our daily lives most of us are inundated by to-do lists and are juggling various demands in what can feel like a nonstop race to the finish line. Because “everyone else is doing it,” it lends this style of living a veil of normalcy and even virtue. Although you may know that this is a very dysfunctional way to live, running from commitment to commitment, collapsing in front of the TV at night, grabbing takeout food on the way home ... it feels “normal” because this is what you are used to. You also may feel as though you have no choice given the various demands on your time. You have to trust that by giving yourself over to the unfamiliar, new vistas of experience and possibility await you.
Here’s how anticipating resistance can help. Let’s say you promised yourself that you were going to go to yoga class after work three evenings a week. It is Wednesday evening and you are preparing to leave work after a stressful day. You feel like crap. You have a pile of undone tasks on your desk and your habitual pattern would be to grab a snack and plow through it. But, you made that commitment to yourself, “Damn ... !” You also remember your last conversation with your therapist and how you both agreed that you needed to be prepared to face your pattern of flaking out on your intentions. That settles it. Tired of the years of broken promises to yourself regarding exercise and remembering how good you felt after class on Saturday, you schlump out of the office and head to the studio. You get there just in time, dreading the practice because you are so tired. What if you can’t keep up? The thought of a cool glass of wine and the news sounds so good. The young girl at the desk checks you in and greets you with a big smile. You warm in response. The class starts out in child’s pose and the teacher holds the room in silence for a few minutes, merely suggesting that you connect with your breath. You feel very safe in the shared stillness. The weight of your body sinks in to the mat as your arms stretch over your head. You are surprise to feel your eyes well up a bit as you connect with the amount of tension you are holding in your body. You lift into downward facing dog and feel the blood flow through your aching shoulders and into your head. You have entered the practice. A new pattern is being born.
Allow A New Perspective:
Remember the pictures you may have seen in school as a child where if you look at it one way it appears to be a vase, but then if you look at it with a different focus you see the profile of an old woman? This is a great example of how our perspective can get captured by one way of doing things, or looking at things, when another possibility is right there, “hidden in plain sight.” When you change your perspective on a “problem,” often you see that the problem actually hides a gift. Perhaps the pain created by your relationship to food has allowed you to be open to this book and will help you to re-prioritize your commitment to make more room for self-nurture in your life. In order to begin seeing the “problem” differently, however, you must first clear some space that allows you to have a different perspective on your life.
Essentially, this means that in order to see the problem differently, you must DO something different. A shift in perspective only occurs when you break out of the familiar pattern/ samskara. As long as you are doing the same old thing, you will see the problem in the same old way. In the example above, if you had plowed through your work and then gone home and had takeout food in front of the television, you would have conceived of the problem in the same old way. “I have no willpower.” “I always self-sabotage.” “I’m just too busy.” But because you did something different, you see the problem differently. “I carry so much tension in my body.” “I have been so driven in my life that I haven’t learned to take care of myself.” This new perspective comes from a place of empathy and self-love, rather than from a self-punitive and defeated place.
Reflections on Your Resistance:
Look over the list of excuses for non-action (or continuation of self-sabotaging behavior) and check off the ones that you most commonly use.
2. Reflect further on your pattern of self-sabotage. How often do you make internal commitments to take better care of yourself? How long do you usually stay with these commitments? What reasons do you give for foreclosing on the process? (Remember, foreclosure means aborting your commitment when it gets difficult rather than holding form in the face of discomfort.) I am guessing you might be surprised to discover that your pattern of foreclosure is relatively consistent. This is actually good news because it allows you to see the stagnant quality to your resistance and can spark curiosity about what lies on the other side.
Now make a list of your intentions for the week. How often do you plan to meditate or do yoga? When will you practice? How will you manage your resistance?
Melissa Grabau, PhD, (Roseville, CA) received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Duquesne University in 1998. She became licensed as a psychologist in California in 2001 and has been in private practice since 2003. More recently, she has broadened her existential/humanistic background in psychology to incorporate her long-standing interest in yoga and Eastern psychology. She is a certified yoga teacher and currently integrates mind-body techniques in her work with clients.
Excerpt from The Yoga of Food reprinted with permission of Llewellyn Worldwide. Copyright Llewellyn Worldwide, 2014. All rights reserved.