“When we have the urge to jump out, that’s usually when the real work is being done. Work through it and usually you’ll have a breakthrough.”
I was bent over, in half pigeon, trying to coax my forearms down a little lower onto my yoga mat. “When we have the urge to jump out, that’s usually when the real work is being done.”
The calm, wise words of my instructor lingered in my ears. It struck me that the only time I don’t experience the urge to jump out is during yoga, especially in slow restorative classes like this one. But in life—in relationships (romantic and platonic), while building my business, during the self-development process—those are the times when my fight or flight instincts kick in. And more often than not, I opt for the latter option. I fly--away.
“Work through it and usually you’ll have a breakthrough.”
I turned this idea over and over in my head as I breathed, as every yoga teacher ever has instructed me: into the discomfort. Work through it, I thought. You’ll have a breakthrough.
This simple instruction lingered with me after class. And although it was clearly meant to apply to our yoga practice, I immediately began to apply it to everything in life. For me, holding on and working through physical challenge is easy. I love the hour I spend in my Pilates/yoga studio each day because it’s a chance to get out of my head and get into my body—to move, to release the stress, the pent-up emotions, to feel in a different way—to just let go of it all.
But outside of the studio? That’s a different story. When things get hard, or scary or uncertain, I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to get the F outta there. Fear is a huge motivator for humans, and when shit starts to get too real, often our first instinct is to flee. And there’s a good reason for this—we’re hardwired with the fight or flight instinct that kept our ancestors alive. As we’ve evolved and moved out of Bedrock, the threats we’re deciding to flee or fight have changed. We’re no longer calculating whether to run from or club a sabretooth tiger. We’re determining how much risk is involved in starting our own business; or trying to predict the odds that a new relationship will lead to happily-ever-after rather than leaving us heartbroken. And for many of us, myself included--because of our learning histories, past experiences, the wounds we’re already mending--we opt to run at any potential chance of being hurt (again). We jump out before we can fail, we don’t take the chance so we don’t have to risk the potential harm.
But what if, like that wise yogi advised me in that half-pigeon, we stayed the course when we felt like jumping out? What if we breathed into the discomfort, endured the uncertainty for a minute and put in the work? What breakthroughs are possible? It certainly is beneficial in yoga: continued focus and dedication improves your practice. If I released a pose everytime I didn’t think I could hold it any longer, I’d never grow as a yogi. If I refused to push myself harder in my workouts, I’d plateau. Seems like these principles should apply outside the studio, too.
Imagine the strains and stresses of our most important relationships. How many of us have wanted to run when we’re hurt, or when it seems easier to not put in the work and effort to have the hard conversations and see things from our partner’s point of view? When we’re hurt and feeling lonely, it’s tempting to escape pain by leaving—for a night, for a weekend, forever. But what do we miss if we leave? Love, understanding, intimacy? The things we truly want out of life?
Doing the work isn’t easy. It’s often much easier to jump out and do something else—something easier, more comfortable, less scary, less risky. But next time you feel the urge to jump out of your discomfort—whether it’s in your yoga practice, your relationship, your self-discovery journey or in your professional life—I invite you to stay. See what happens. There may just be a breakthrough waiting for you.