A tale of Mat Resistance, and practicing anyway

This entry is part 8 of 10 in the series Forty Days of Yoga: Commit to Your Practice
See all articles in the Forty Days of Yoga: Commit to Your Practice series here.

Opening into a variation of Cobra

Opening into a variation of Cobra

By Kara-Leah GrantMusings from the Mat

Mat resistance.

Happens to the best of us, no matter how long we’ve been practicing.

Here’s a glimpse into a moment of mat resistance in my life.

Notice how I respond to it, notice the process, notice life isn’t all peaches and cream because I’m practicing yoga everyday.

*****

It’s been a rough week or two. Of course, since I successfully published my first book ten days ago, it’s meant to have been an exciting and wonderful few weeks.

So how come I have this underlying sense of awfulness and unease?

Maybe even… dare I say it… depression.

Yes, I dare say it. I’ll use that word. I am depressed. Or I am a shade of depressed. I can feel it, tugging at me, an undertow of blah that makes it difficult to receive glowing letters of joy from readers of my book, hugs from my child, or the glory of the landscape I live in.

That’s how I know I’m a shade of depressed. These awesome things in life aren’t reaching me, aren’t touching me – I can’t feel them. I’m closed, withdrawn, sunken, not quite there.

Get on your mat,

Something whispers inside;

Get on your mat.

No, I don’t want to!

Responds a sulky, petulant 8 year old girl, stamping her foot for emphasis.

Anything but the mat. I’ll sit and meditate. I’ll do pranayama. I listen to yoga nidra. I’ll plan a class. But asana practice?

I don’t want to.

There’s no point in asking why not, because it doesn’t matter. I’ve been here before. I’ll be here again.

This is mat resistance. Part of me doesn’t want to face where I am, own where I am, be where I am… which allows me to move through where I am.

That’s what will happen on the mat.  I’ll face it, own it, be it, allow it to move.

This shade of depression isn’t constant. I flip out of it at odd moments and life lightens and opens before me in all it’s glory. There it is! There I am!

But I’m dropping back and down again, in the sludge and the drudge and the can’t be bothered.

I know that my increasingly sensitive, attuned Self makes these shifts in awareness all the more potent.

Once upon time, I wouldn’t have noticed them.

I would have unconsciously responded by going for a run, having a drink, going out dancing, calling a friend.

Now I’m learning, as always, to be with the process.

Yesterday, stuck in a funk, my mind wanted out. It wanted a solution. It wanted to fix the problem.

My mind started wondering if I was living in the wrong place, if I’d feel better somewhere else, if my needs weren’t being met, if I needed to move.

Maybe I go to Queenstown. What about Dunedin? No, how about Christchurch, I have family in Christchurch.

Mind chatter. I stopped and meditated. Did some pranayama. Stilled the mind. Tuned in. Asked. Received a clear answer.

Stay.

Later, I realised this is the pattern.

We feel uncomfortable on the inside and we seek to change our external circumstances to make ourselves comfortable.

This is why asana practice is so valuable – it teaches us to sit with the discomfort.

I’m sitting in discomfort. I’m recognising that I don’t feel great right now. That I’m constantly shifting up into my mind, that I need more body practice.

I’ve been here enough times, in this shades of depression, to suspect that something is arising from the deep. THat perhaps some old monster has been unteethered from it’s lair and wants to surface. There’s a feeling wanting felt. And I don’t want to feel it.

My habitual response has been to avoid feelings, and that avoidance samskara shifts me into my mind and creates thoughts of running.

I catch it now.

I see it.

Instead of buying into it, instead of running, I turn to face the feeling. I pay closer attention to my dreams.

{I’m in nightclub wearing a denim jacket with my phone in the right breast pocket and wallet in the left. It’s pumping. I’m afraid to take off my jacket and dance because I’ll lose my belongings. The music’s good. There’s a sexy man. I fling off my jacket and it feels so good. I’m free… Panic. Where’s my jacket my phone my wallet. Find my jacket. Phone is safe. Wallet is missing…}

Dreams provide clues. Afraid to let go and dance… afraid to lose my identity… afraid…

Those clues provides fodder for practice. Clues. A direction to go in. I need to practice to music. I need to dance. I need to go out and dance. I need to let go.

I am safe.

I am safe.

I am safe.

Eight years ago, after a summer of letting go and dancing and just being with life (bliss!)… feeling tuned in and sublime and on track (bliss!)… I ended up psychotic (bliss ungrounded untethered unhinged).

That’s a deep fear.

I’ve mined that experience of crazy for all it’s worth. I’m glad it happened and I learned so much.

I don’t want it to happen again.

It won’t.

I’m different.

It’s safe.

I’m safe.

Let go.

Stepping on to my mat.

Cranking the music.

See you on the flipside.

*****

Five sun salutations. That’s what I did. I told myself;

Do five sun salutations. Stay with it. Just five.

An hour later, I roll off my mat. It felt like ten minutes. I want to stay longer but I have to go and pick my child up from childcare. I want to just lie and watch the clouds. I want to stop for a moment and soak up this sensation of stillness, or being.

How do I feel?

I feel… still the depressed undercurrent but it’s ok. It’s just there. Maybe it’s just a message to stop. To chill and rest and de-press.

I can go with that.

Practice felt good. I feel good. And depressed. All at once.

Such is life.

This too will change.

And you? How do you deal with mat resistance?

P.S. There’s an entire chapter on Mat Resistance in Forty Days of Yoga - why it arises, what shades it comes in, how to deal with it and the gifts it brings. Mat resistance and I, we’re old buddies now.

Read more: Forty Days of Yoga: Commit to Your PracticeHow to anchor your home yoga practiceFive strategies for starting and maintaining your home yoga practice

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Comments

  1. Chez says

    I love your open and heart felt honesty in your writing. Just wanted to say thank you for helping me make my way back to the mat. I am the one with the herniated disc. I have made great progress thanks to you and your tip of just getting on the mat for 7 minutes which of course usually ends up much longer. After pranayama, I am just doing a 10 minute stretch in the morning to get my spine moving and then make my way back to the mat later on during the day..most days anyway. Childs pose has really helped me also, so thanks again for that one too. My mantra for this year is “There is abundance in simplicity”. And, I am finding this now with my practice. I do miss being able to do a lot of the snazzier poses, but it’s the simple ones that are helping me at the moment and keeping me grounded. Yoga truly is for Every Body. Namaste Kara-Leah. You have been a great inspiration to me and I really do appreciate it. xx

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey Chez,

      That is so wonderful to hear! Good on you for getting back on the mat and finding ways to work with your spine. I’m so excited for you. I love your mantra too – one of the feeling states I’m cultivating this year is Abundance, and that’s such a beautiful way to see it.

      Many blessings,
      KL

  2. says

    How true is that internal feeling of discomfort manifesting in a desire to move? This is also one of my escapist fantasies, and one I indulged in many times in my 20s. I still get it now, but the universe has arranged things so that it is very difficult to move ie. stay put and face your shit. And face it I have and will continue to do so, because like you, I’ve learnt that it won’t kill me :). I think it’s called growing up…

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey Sara,

      Having kids definitely makes it harder to up sticks and move to a new locale! Growing up – or maybe growing conscious!

      Blessings,
      KL

  3. Renee says

    Dear Sara,
    Thanks for sharing these lovely words, they are beautiful and touching. I salute your humility, your openness and I leave this page enriched and inspired.
    Will get your book and visit your page more often.
    With all my respect,
    R.

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