The Yoga of Least Resistance

Hi Practical Yogis! Bee here! In this, the inaugural granola post for Practically Yoga, I want to talk about the yoga of least resistance.

I recently started my first full-time job (until now I was an exemplary member of academia). Full days at the office followed by exhausted nights has led to one thing; a very short yoga practice based on instant gratification. I started only doing those postures that I knew would make my body feel instantly better like seated wide legged forward folds (Upavishta Konasana), bound forward folds (like Marichyasana), and reclined spinal twists (Supta Matsyendrasana). After a long day at work and faced with having to make dinner, do dishes, etc, I started taking the easy way out. In a way, I was short-changing my body and not giving it the ability to grow.

I believe this process of choosing the yoga of least resistance happens in our off the mat lives all the time. In our relationships (personal and professional) this looks like shutting down, or not speaking up, either when you have a great idea, or you feel uncomfortable with something, or you don’t want to start a fight. You might not want to ‘rock the boat’, so it becomes easier to not even bother. Eventually, you don’t even think about interacting in a different way at all; least resistance becomes your new pattern.

The formula is pretty simply here.

  1. I want XYZ thing—–What’s the easiest way for me to get it?
  2. I don’t want XYZ thing to happen—-what’s the easiest way to avoid it?

If you can see yourself in this cycle, don’t be too hard on yourself. Our bodies and brains are hardwired to look for the greatest reward for the least amount of work. Not to mention that avoiding unpleasant things probably saved our ancestors lives thousands of years ago. However, we aren’t neanderthals anymore, there isn’t a huge toothy predator around every corner who wants to eat us.

In yoga terms, we could call this cycle raga and dvesa aka two of the klesas. Raga is the desire to repeat something you like and dvesa is avoiding what you don’t. If you want an even more granola filled discussion about the klesas, I would recommend reading the Inner Tradition of Yoga by Michael Stone.

We are constantly on this cycle, jumping back and forth in our lives between raga (attachment) and dvesa (aversion). Which can get exhausting! So it’s time for some tough love. Doing the hard/tedious/boring/fill in the blank- things in life is good for you. It’s the equivalent of eating your brussel sprouts when your mom tells you to. You don’t like it, but you know it’s good for you.

So how do we get off the hamster wheel of this cycle between attachment and aversion? Well if we had concrete, fail safe answers, we’d probably be enlightened already. Unfortunately, Elle and I aren’t there yet, although some days we reckon we must be close. However, we do have some insights for you.

Step one is  watching for these patterns and cycles in your day-to-day life. Like people-watching at the park or on the bus etc. Practice becoming a master of your own mental surroundings. For example, if you get an email at work that makes you want to chuck your computer out the window (it can’t just be me that feels this way sometimes), take a step back before you actually do that and think about why that was your initial reaction.

What about that email makes you want to avoid it? Did it remind you of all the work you are behind on? Was it from a particularly challenging coworker?

You might not always be able to ‘win’ in these situations, and it is for sure easier to hit reply all with a snarky comment. But if you continually choose that path, you are short changing yourself and limiting your personal growth potential.

That probably sounds a bit dramatic, but I think its true. Taking the time to notice how you hold onto the good things in your life and avoid like the plague the things you don’t like is the first step to breaking the never ending cycle.

What does that mean for me in my life at this moment? It means making a more conscious effort to sit in and experience the ‘bad’. Recognizing that being impatient and wanting to move on only makes my day harder. It also means trying harder to let go of the ‘good’. Clinging onto it is wasted effort. I came across a quote on Instagram this morning that seemed particularly fitting “May the space between where I am and where I want inspire me”. Some days suck, some days are fantastic. But it is how you react to both of them that shapes how you grow as an individual.

I for one am done being on the hamster wheel inside my own head. Whose with me?

Want more raga and dvesa action? Tune in next week when Elle will turn the Yoga of Least Resistance into a moving practice. Use #practicallyyoga to keep in touch on your off the mat lives!

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