Whenever we make progress in one area of our life, it’s really common to experience a step backwards.
This might look like
- getting that promotion at work only to be overcome by imposter syndrome
- getting out of debt and building up our savings only to be hit by a big, unexpected bill
- Or finally deciding to take our health seriously, only to come down with an injury or illness.
Has this happened to you too?
It can really knock our confidence when this happens, as we assume it’s a sign of failure. But in fact, it’s a universal phenomenon.
Expansion and contraction
What expands must contract, and what contracts will eventually expand again.
We see this in our breath.
An inhale (expansion) is always followed by an exhale (contraction).
We can’t have an inhale without an exhale. But over time, our lung capacity increases when we learn to breathe correctly, and so we expand/grow a little further.
In yoga philosophy, this concept is known as Spanda and refers to the ebb and flow of consciousness.
Whenever we stretch outside our comfort zone, there is a natural tendency to contract back.
Like a rubber band that’s been stretched, it will snap back to its original shape.
Yet each time we stretch outside of our comfort zone, we grow a little more.
The elastic of the rubber band loosens, and even though it still snaps back, it’s slightly larger than it was before.
This principle applies to emotional yoga too.
Whenever we push through self-doubt to create or achieve something great, we’re buoyed with confidence and are riding a high.
Then hours or days later, self-doubt creeps in, the inner critic pipes up, and we’re overcome with anxiety. We just want to run and hide.
But the truth is, whenever we expand outside of our comfort zone, we’re always going to experience that shrinking feeling.
It’s like we have an inner thermostat setting, and whenever we exceed our inner setting, it feels uncomfortable or unsafe, we shrink back to our comfort zone.
Knowing that this is a natural cycle that everyone experiences can help us to normalise and ride out our own contractions.
When my Yoga Alchemy clients experience a contraction after an expansion, they assume they’ve gone backwards and that they’re regressing rather than making progress.
But the truth is, we don’t contract back to our original state – we grow a little each time.
With each cycle of expansion and contraction, our comfort zone increases slightly.
So next time you feel like you’ve gone backwards, reframe your experience with the knowledge of expansion and contraction. Take a long exhale and notice how expansion returns on the next inhale.