This is what I got when I Googled "angry yogi." I imagine my student felt a bit like this.

This is what I got when I Googled "angry yogi." I imagine my student felt a bit like this.

Article by Carrie Tyler

"Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance." - Steven Pressfield

Yesterday I subbed a class at one of my favorite studios. I received a comment from a student that I wish I could use as a general class description to describe what I do.

It pretty much sums up my teaching, a lot of which is getting my students comfortable with the discomfort that is "resistance."

I'm sharing this discussion because as a long time yoga teacher, I know how hard it is to hold space for our students when they don't like us. Despite what they might think of us, it's important to create a container where learning can happen through grit, sweat, patience, and a whole lot of losing their balance. The play on the mat between light and dark is the yogic path. Non-attachment to the outcome is the yogic path. Falling down and getting up is the yogic path.  Yoga isn't about unicorns (although sometimes it actually is), it's about finding your shadowy edges and learning to safely dance with them.

So here is the conversation.

Keep in mind it was a power yoga class, and power yogis tend to want to get moving right away (I know I'm stereotyping a bit), and I insist on slowing them down and doing some somatic and neuro-mapping work first. It went something like this:

Student: "I have to tell you I went through a huge range of emotions in your class."
Me: "Oh really? Do tell."
Student: first I was like what the hell are we doing here, this isn't what I need (I started them out nice and gentle with some somatic/postural reclined twists). I was actually a little angry. Then, we got moving and I thought, okay, here are some sun salutes. This feels familiar. I was happy."
Me: "Mmm-hmm"
Student: "Then, midway through the class, I actually hated your guts. I mean truly. It was hard, but I loved the challenge of the sequence. I found new things in my body."
Me: "Yeah, I tend to try to do that, start out slow to get your nervous system on board, bring in the familiar, and then surprise you with what you can do through a curious sequence."
Student: "Totally. By the end in savasana, I wept because I felt so amazing. And that poem you read (Long at Sea by Em Claire)...  I feel amazing." 

The conversation reminded me a lot of a book I have been re-reading given to me by my one of my soulmates Andrea Isabelle Lucas owner of Barre & Soul. It's called the War of Art by Stephen Pressfield. The whole first third of the book is about "resistance."  The book goes into great detail about how resistance shows up in our life, and how it keeps us from achieving our goals or reaching our full potential. To overcome resistance, you just shut up and do it, even if it's awful, even if you fall down, even if you fail. 

I think the same is true about what we do on our yoga mat. We rise to meet resistance over and over again. Have you ever actually listened to your brain during a yoga class? It's pretty amazing what the itty bitty shitty committee upstairs can come up with while you're practicing. Regardless of what it might say, you keep moving. That's overcoming resistance.  The very act of getting on your mat and bothering to show up is an act of overcoming resistance. But it's not always about taking the next advanced variation of headstand right into pretzelasana. Overcoming resistance can be taking child's pose because it is what you need while everyone else is in their billionth chaturanga. 

You know what you need in the practice. So do it.

Moral of the story: Get comfortable with the discomfort. What we do on our mat mimics what we do in our life.  Find resistance in your practice and your life and rise to meet it. The sweetness is on the other side.