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Sometimes Practice is Letting Go (Part 1)

My resolution in 2022 was to release resistance. We hold so much tension in our bodies, in our breath, in our thoughts, in our relationships, and in our expectations of ourselves. So, I embarked on a journey to release resistance. Resistance to doing less. Resistance to doing more. Resistance to letting breath and muscles and tears move freely. Resistance that holds fears and inhibitions in place. Where does resistance turn up in our daily lives and how do we let it go? The first step is recognition.

My year began with a 200 hour yoga teacher training, keeping this resolution in my mind throughout. The choice to learn how to teach yoga was not sudden, but rather a slow shift over many years. Yoga, a common thread in my life, has surfaced and resurfaced for me over the years through career changes and growths, grief and loss, injury and acute stress, and the happiest, most memorable moments. I’ve found resistance in all of these.

As I’m currently part way through a 300 hour advanced yoga teacher training with Ghosh Yoga, reading yoga texts and practicing daily, I’ve found that 100% of resistance lies in our mind. Yes, our body may resist certain shapes physically, but fear is the greatest barrier to progress. While there is valid fear in falling and injury, the biggest fears manifest due to our own thoughts. Swami Vishnudevananda writes, “Fear is the most debilitating emotion…Fear is a product of the imagination, but nonetheless it assumes real forms, and can be troublesome in a variety of ways…Taking hold of the mind, imagination works havoc and makes one prey to all sorts of fear…Fear can be overcome by self-inquiry, devotion to a higher cause, and the cultivation of the opposite of fear, courage.” (Meditations & Mantras p 249)

Our autonomic nervous system responds to danger by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system. This signals the body to fight or flee, raising the heart rate and blood pressure. In an effort to conquer fears both on and off the mat, my recent practices have focused on backbends - postures that stimulate and train the sympathetic nervous system, and that promote confidence. In order to advance the physical practice, the practice of releasing resistance is key.

Sometimes practice is letting go of fear.

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