All of us – at some point in our life – get stuck in a rut. We go to the same restaurants, always go to the beach, or even go to the same beach for vacation. In and of itself, these things are not bad. Sometimes, it’s about tradition and that’s great! But it becomes a problem when it’s a behavioral thing that causes us to get stuck. 

Not Being Able to Say No

The person who can’t say “no” is an example. When there’s some unpleasant task that needs to be done, he is the person that can be trusted to say “yes.” He doesn’t say “no” because he doesn’t have good boundaries. This person ends up spending a lot of time doing things he doesn’t want to do and he recognizes it. But he’s still unable to get out of it. He’s in a rut.

Lack of Boundaries

The lack of boundaries creates unhealthy relationships with the people around him. A dynamic of expectation is created, oftentimes unconsciously in both parties. They know they can count on him to do things. Because he doesn’t know how to say “no,” he becomes resentful, and that doesn’t work either because it’s usually the people he spends a lot of time with who knows about his lack of boundaries. It doesn’t mean they’re bad people for asking. The resentment is his own fault for not being able to create healthy boundaries. And so the cycle continues, and the rut stays in place. Nothing changes. 

Yoga’s Take on Behavioral Patterns

What Yoga has understood about being human is that every experience leaves some residue in our system. Something has remained in us from every experience we’ve had over the course of our lifetime, which accumulates and develops into patterns. The patterns actually start to drive us, and often we’re powerless to do anything different. The pattern takes over and then we repeat some version of the same experience, again and again, throughout our lives. 

Developing New Patterns

Simply resolving to discontinue the pattern isn’t going to work. Will power is not a solution. So many things happen in our system that are beyond our immediate control, like digestion, circulation, etc. If we’re honest with ourselves, our behavior is oftentimes one of them. There is a limit to the usefulness of awareness and mindfulness; at some point, we have to go beyond that and actually change it. In other words, we have to create new patterns. How do we do that?? The short answer is, by having new experiences. If you want to be a different person, you have to do things differently. To truly make change happen, you have to start having different experiences.

But, how is this possible when you go to the same places every day? You live somewhere and you work somewhere, and there are people that you see daily. You spend 80-90% of your day in the same locations. Again and again. How are you going to have different experiences? Leaving aside the possibility of moving somewhere else (which should be the topic of another article, because it won’t work anyway!), Yoga can help because it is a system of intentionally engineered experiences. 

Having Different Experiences Through Yoga

Incorporating Yoga practice into your daily routine changes you, and it will cause you to start having different experiences even though you’re still going to all the same places and interacting with the same people. Your interactions will be different because you will be different. And then the pattern you start building from that experience will be different. And it will change the way you feel. For example, when you’re having a great day and your child spills his milk, you probably won’t react strongly. But if you’re having a terrible day and you’re stuck in your old patterns and he spills his milk… you get the idea.

Learning to Say No to Break Patterns

So back to our friend in the rut. Yoga provides an opportunity for him to build a new pattern that will change the way he experiences his boundaries. By doing a Yoga practice, he can change his state, the way his body feels, and the way his mind operates. It will shift his breathing and his emotions. The changes in how he feels will change his daily experiences with the same people and places. It will likely take time for the pattern of inappropriate boundaries to change, but over time and with an appropriate practice, instead of saying “yes” and feeling resentment, he’ll be able to say “no” in a way that develops into a new pattern that experiences healthier boundaries–for him and his loved ones. Practice to Break Patterns

A Simple Yoga Practice for Change

A simple, low commitment practice can affect these changes too. If you’re at work and feel yourself sliding into the same old rut about a situation or person, take a step back. Try this: find somewhere quiet to sit down, close your eyes and inhale through both nostrils. Then slowly exhale through one nostril. When you exhale, try to make it as long as you comfortably can. Then, inhale again through both nostrils (or your mouth). And close the other nostril and again try to make the exhale as long as you comfortably can. Do this 10-15 times (or more if you like), switching the nostril each exhale. This simple, highly effective technique will change how you feel and that will change your experiences. Give it a try!