Resistance at Yoga Class… and Bleeding as a Result


I’m a firm believer in getting enough exercise and the right kinds of it. Over the last year, I’ve found hot yoga to not only blast my core, arms, and legs, but it does a number on my spirit and mind as well.

Last week I was in yoga class, meditating at 5:45 AM as the room began to heat up. The instructor started us off by doing small stretches and working into bigger ones. Eventually, we moved into the down-dog position, lifting one leg, then the other. Moving our limbs into space stretching for a point somewhere in the universe.

“Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are.” –Jason Crandell

Being winter, I paid no mind when my nose started dripping and wiped it with my shirt which was getting sweat-stained anyway. Hot yoga ain’t about looking pretty.

My nose kept dripping and it wasn’t until I wiped it with a snow-white terry-cloth towel did I realize, “holy shit! I’m bleeding!” And it was all over the front of my shirt!

Sure, nosebleeds happen all the time to people, but it looked like I just murdered my down-dog! My ego was saying “holy crap” as I kept wiping my nose, but nothing was stopping. I went through two towels and a few wipes as deftly and quietly as I could (luckily the room is fairly dark and I was in a corner).

The bleeding eventually slowed after 5–10 minutes of attempts and I laughed a bit at the sight of myself. Definitely not pretty.

“When you listen to yourself, everything comes naturally. It comes from inside, like a kind of will to do something. Try to be sensitive. That is yoga.”–Petri Räisänen

What had happened is that due to the dry air of winter, caused by 24/7 heating in the house (thanks bomb cyclone), combined with the pressure in my nose as I was moving through the positions, the vessels in my nose broke loose and like David Bowie’s song, started screaming “let me out!”

And then it struck me. Why was I creating so much pressure in my nasal cavity? Was this normal? How can I modify what I am doing to release the pressure as much as possible?

Aha! It was because I wasn’t breathing! I was actually holding my breath, something I hadn’t noticed before. I have heard the instructors say 100 times that “this is a breathing class first, movement class second”. But I was holding back. I was doing it “my way!”

I was creating a ton of pressure when I should be letting go and releasing into my breath. I was creating a story about the fact that I knew how to breathe, so subconsciously, I was drowning out the instructions. And it had a physical effect on me: blood and lots of it.

Yoga is not about tightening your ass. It’s about getting your head out of it.” –Eric Paskel

The hour passed and as I sat at the end of my mat (facing the instructor) physically spent and sweating from every pore, I said one of those things I say to myself quite often: “Huh”.

-Where else am I holding pressure in my life and not going with the flow?

-Where else am I not listening to the experts?

-What physical/emotional/spiritual effects is this neglect having?

The nosebleed was a signal. A sign to release and be aware of what I was doing and not just go through unconsciously doing things the way I have always done them.

-Where are you holding back and creating unnecessary pressure?

-How can you release this pressure?

-Once you release the pressure, what does life look like?


You want to talk about what?

body, mind, soul, spirit and you on blackboard
you, body, mind, soul, spirit

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” — attributed to Albert Einstein

When is it appropriate for psychologists/psychiatrists to talk about spirituality (if ever)? “Psyche” literally means the human soul, mind, or spirit. Therefore, psychology is the study of these things even though soul and spirit have been left out of the equation and replaced by a more favorable — and predictable — scientific method. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM for short) is hailed as the Bible for practitioners and provides reliable information on how to work with patients who fit in the categories. I’ll echo that: categories.

But it seems as if there is a chasm in this approach. There is a part of the equation that is missing. Some of the ingredients in the recipe for a whole person have been scrapped in favor of expediency.

While speaking with a fellow coach who works primarily with veterans coming back to the States. Upon return, the veterans are assisted with getting a job which, as it turns out, isn’t the primary driver of their wants and needs. He told me that what they are looking for is to belong. To find purpose and passion. “Work” is secondary to that and as a society, we place too large of an amount of weight into the notion that working is the end-all-be-all to a human’s existence.

We need a “why”.

In a recent WSJ article, Dr. David H. Rosmarin, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, writes about his experiences at McLean Hospital, with patients who have approached him asking for him to speak with them about God. While there is no doubt the need for spiritual leaders, what is a person trained in psychological science to do when presented with this request? Ignore or disregard it? Explain it to them in scientific terms? Rid themselves of their patient’s “neurosis” and refer them to someone else?

Dr. Rosmarin didn’t think so, and he is now part of the hospital’s “Spirituality and Mental Health Program” where he serves as Director. To ensure they are following the wishes of the patients, at the beginning of a session, they respectfully ask “Do you wish to discuss spirituality with me?” If the answer is no, they move on. But if the answer is yes, they move into an enriching setting that nurtures the soul. To ensure they are providing value to the patients the program asks the patients to complete questionnaires where is very common that patients rate the discussion about spirituality as the “highlight” of their treatment.

“For many patients, their spiritual lives provide hope, meaning, purpose and a connection to the divine.”

As an executive coach, I draw distinct similarities in my field as I dive deep into the energy around the way my clients are “showing up”. That is, what my clients are either doing, or desire to do in their life, business, or careers. There is no 12-step process or guidebook that works in these scenarios because we are dealing with something much more powerful and enlightening (and game-changing!). Focusing on what motivates people, beginning with an inward to outward approach, has infinitely more opportunity to affect real changes that last a lifetime.