Acknowledging and dealing with unexpected learning moments and outcomesChanges learning processes accordinglyLearning to learnReflects on the learning processSkill to reflect and adjust the learning process

Obstacles in learning – resistance potential and body |mind| connection tool

The main focus of this article is the so-called resistance to learning, a personal impulse which becomes activated in situations where learning seems unacceptable. The solution we present is a set of 10 body exercises designed so as to activate our inner energy for being a proactive learner.

Why did I choose this tool? 

Emotions as a component of learning should not be overlooked. On the contrary, emotions are a powerful driving engine for any life activity, learning included. By tapping into the energy of emotions, we are able to set this energy free and use it for constructive learning purposes. The goal of introducing this tool is to capitalize on the potential of emotions for learning.

This tool refers to the competence to acknowledge & deal with unexpected learning moments & outcomes because it teaches to use our emotions for the benefits of learning.

How does this apply to being a trainer? 

Instead of trying to ignore or suppress emotions such as anger, frustration or excitement, simply because they might be considered work-unfriendly and inappropriate, this tool provides the space for trainers to embrace their emotions and use them for productive purposes.


As Illeris points out, learning psychology is mainly focused on what happens when we learn something. However, it is just as important to assess what exactly occurs when learning does not take place. (p. 157)

There are many reasons why learning content might not become internalized. Illeris (p. 174) distinguishes among the following main types of obstacles in learning: mislearning, defense against learning, ambivalence and resistance to learning. Mislearning can result from erroneous prior knowledge, a lack of concentration, misunderstandings or inappropriate communication.

In our modern information-saturated society, defense against learning is a necessity. In the era of overabundance of knowledge, skills and competences to learn, it is important to use this type of mental defense simply because the availability of learning opportunities exceed individuals’ possibilities by far. Moreover, an even deeper reason for employing this defense mechanism can be found in the need for preservation of one’s own deeper identity structures. (p. 175)

A special kind of learning obstacle is ambivalence, which occurs when the person does and does not want at the same time to learn. This would be typical of the modern age where individuals are expected to constantly hone new skills to keep up-date with the ever growing demands of the job market, even though they might not actually want to do so. (p.175)

The main focus of this article is the so-called resistance to learning, a personal impulse which becomes activated in situations where learning seems unacceptable. Some of such situations can be poor learner self-image, fear of the unknown, disjunction between learning and teaching styles, apparent irrelevance of the learning activity, inappropriate level of required learning, student’s dislike of the teacher and other. (The Skillful Teacher, Stephen Brookfield)

However, resistance itself contains a strong potential, the so-called ‘resistance potential’, a fundamental resistance drive to protect one’s life and develop one’s potential, a drive biologically embedded in us to assist us in the struggle for survival. Everyone develops resistance potential, which can be used as a powerful driving force for learning and growth. (p.173)

All learning requires psychological energy, and this energy comes from either the desire for life fulfillment, the desire for resistance, or a combination of the two. Moreover, personal development, so highly valued in the modern age, often happens precisely through a process characterized by resistance.

In working with resistance to learning, we need to consider the fact that emotions play essential role. When we come up against an insuperable obstacle that limits our life fulfillment, we tend to react with psychological resistance that can manifest itself as anger, fury, aggression or some other emotion. (Illeris, p.171.) Instead of trying to suppress or counter such emotions, we can use their potential to capitalize on the learning experience. Reasoning itself is not enough to create an environment conducive to learning; emotional experience is central to educational practice (Alcorn).

body|mind|connection is a conscious tool of working with the mind, body and emotions.

We connect with our body and use this connection to release any inhibiting emotions that prevent the learning experience to take place.

The activity can be used before the learning experience or in the breaks. Depending on the goal, the trainer can choose to either incorporate all of the given exercises or focus only on specific ones. The tool can be used either for individual or group purposes. The whole practice lasts approximately 45 minutes, with each exercise lasting 4-5 minutes.

“What our brain needs is just a little hint to start this process of changes – and we don’t even have to be aware of it. The more we develop our senses, the more effective our mental pictures become (body|mind|connection).“

Exercise 1.  CALMNESS

To be practiced when we feel overexcited, anxious or stressed. It is an excellent way to help us recover from the turmoil that surrounds us. It helps to calm down your breathing, mental processes and regain the harmony. It is a calming down exercise.

Exercise 2. WOW EFFECT

This exercise helps you to find the inner WOW effect, which is everything that is exceptional and unique in you, by using joke and absurd. Try to make fun of yourself. It really helps, especially when it comes to distorted image of yourself and low self-esteem. It is an energizing exercise.

Exercise 3. Find an inner DJ

Feel your favorite song which suddenly makes your body dance without any embarrassment. Dance as if nobody is watching you. Let yourself feel physical freedom and wild expression. Don’t be ashamed. This exercise aims to awake and free physical and emotional joy. It helps when you feel down. It is an energizing exercise.

Exercise 4. SHAKE

When you are in a state of rage and feel growing anger, negative energy, and frustration – the best solution is to get rid of it through physical movement. Let yourself experience this by shaking your body. Let it grow and get it take away all your anger and frustration. Kick it out of your body and in this way also out of your mind. It is an energizing-calming exercise.

Exercise 5. BOUNCE

Imagine that you are a king or a queen of the party. Your body bounces up and down and with every movement, you feel more confident. Your body moves with confidence also when you don’t feel it – all you need to do is to allow it. Don’t be ashamed of it. Think that nobody is watching you. Practice this exercise at any time when you lose your confidence or when you feel intimidated by a certain situation. It is an energizing exercise.

Exercise 6. THICK AND SOFT

This exercise will help you when you feel emotional anxiety and stress which you can’t get rid of. Let your body feel the maximum tension and then total relief. Thanks to the exercise, you will remove tensions in your body and you will feel relaxed.

You can keep doing this exercise as long as you need it, still, approximately 4-5 minutes would be the best. If you want – watch this movie clip several times and follow its instruction.

It is a relaxing exercise.


It may happen that you don’t have any energy or strength. In this situation – imagine that your body is a living percussion. Firstly, feel quick movements coming out of your muscles and then start clapping on yourself as if your body was a percussion. Don’t be too gentle. Let your muscles and skin feel this rhythm. Your blood will start circulating better, your breath will get faster. If you work in a group – you can start clapping at each other’s bodies. Let it be fun. Don’t be afraid of it. It is an energizing exercise.

Exercise 8. STRENGTH

Gaining strength from the space around is not difficult. Firstly, you will feel calmness in your movement and then you will become stronger, you will feel the work of your muscles. You will feel strong. You are strong and ready for challenges. Practice this exercise any time when you don’t believe in your own abilities, when you feel that you will not manage and this feeling is deeply present in your mind. It is an energizing-calming exercise.

Exercise 9. FLYING FEARS

When you’re afraid of something, then what can help you is facing your fears – even metaphorically. In this exercise, we will work on it physically. Firstly, imagine your fears flying around you and then though physical escalation you will transform these fears into something pleasant. Your fears have disappeared. Remember that majority of our fears is illusional.

You can keep doing this exercise as long as you need it, still, approximately 4-5 minutes would be the best. If you want – watch this movie clip several times and follow its instruction.

It is a relaxing exercise.

Exercise 10. ACCEPTANCE

This exercise will help you find full acceptance of your body and physicality.

For a moment close your eyes and feel that you observe yourself from outside. Let this sensation develop. Thank your body for all the work that it makes for you every day. Touch your body with respect and acceptance. It is a relaxing exercise.


  1. Put on some comfortable and loose clothes and play your favorite songs for 10 minutes.
  2. Start stretching your body to the music feeling where the tension is.
  3. Start dancing (the sillier, the better!) and moving your body so that you release this tension.
  4. If you feel it in your throat, then start singing too.
  5. Remember to stay playful.
  6. Notice how you feel afterwards.


  • What did you think of the article?
  • Have you ever felt resistance during a learning experience? Do you know what was behind it? How did you go about it?
  • How do you handle difficult feelings while learning? What do you do about them?
  • Are you able to learn when you feel unpleasant feelings? 
  • Feeling what feelings helps you learn best?
  • How does the body influence your learning? 

Author of the article: Tatjana Glogovac

Tatjana Glogovac is a strong believer in the power of humanistic education and approaching every person she works with as a special and unique human being. She has a BA and MA in English Language and Literature Teaching and another MA in Humanistic Sciences in Philology (Erasmus Mundus scholarship), where she wrote her thesis about cognitive biases in education. She has international experience as a personal development writer, yoga and meditation teacher, and a youth circus teacher. Tatjana has been active in the fields of digital learning and developing emotional intelligence in youth. The last project she worked on was Erasmus+ strategic partnership project “The Colors of Feelings and Needs”, the aim of which is to support youth in acquiring and developing the ability to identify, express, interpret and reflect upon their own feelings and needs. Tatjana is passionate about bringing mindfulness, embodiment and dance practices into formal and non-formal education.

Read more from this author

Editor: Dagna Gmitrowicz

Dagna Gmitrowicz – a senior trainer in the field of nonformal education, conducting international/national training and facilitating conferences since 2001. Creator of innovative educational tools and curriculum – Academy of Nonformal Education (PAJP), TOSCA training cycle, learning cycle in BECC Bridge to Cultural Centres, Colours and Needs cards, and many more. Member of several international trainers’ pools (It’s up to Me, TOSCA, European Solidarity Corp Polish NA pool and other). The member of the International Society for Self-Directed Learning after giving a lecture during SSDL Symposium 2020 in USA/Florida. Dagna Gmitrowicz is also a professional painter, and performer actively participating in a cultural scene in Germany and Poland, actively supporting cultural events and projects.
TOY profile:
Click here to read more about Dagna Gmitrowicz

Read more from this author

Bookmark (0)
ClosePlease login
The tool: Awakening through the Body, Marek Zadłużny, Sources: „How we learn - learning and non-learning in school and beyond” by Knud Illeries “The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom, Second Edi-tion. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006. Brookfield, S. D. “Resistance to Learning: Overcoming the Desire Not to Know in Classroom Teaching”. Alcorn, Marshall Wise, Jr

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button