You Can’t Solve an Old Problem with Old Solutions: A Yoga Practice to Shift Your Thinking

Is there a challenge that you are dealing with right now, or a problem that you are trying to solve? If so, your natural inclination is probably to focus on the problem and try to work it out logically. This strategy can work to a point, but it can never generate big insights. Research shows that focusing on the problem more intensely doesn’t increase insights, it decreases them.

One reason for that is that we get locked into our specific way of thinking and keep recycling the same old solutions, tinkering with them around the edges. As a result, “the wrong answers are stopping the right answers from emerging.” (1)

Generating an insight involves forming completely new connections between pieces of previously unlinked information, and you cannot do that by “actively thinking” or drilling into details. Instead, taking a step back and taking an eagle’s view of the land can be very helpful in generating insights. This means taking your mind off the problem for while. That’s why taking a walk in the woods is a commonly used strategy for clearing the mind.

David Rock in his book Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long summarizes the strategies that can help us generate insights:

  • It is astonishingly easy to get stuck on the same small set of solutions to a problem, called the “impasse phenomenon.” Resolving an impasse requires letting the brain idle, reducing activation of the wrong answers. 

  • Having insights involves hearing subtle signals and allowing loose connections to be made. This requires a quiet mind, with minimal electrical activity.

  • Insights occur more frequently the more relaxed and happy you are.

  • Insights are more likely to occur if you focus on the connections between information rather then drilling down into the problem; look at patterns and links from a high level rather then getting detailed.

The yoga practice below utilizes all the strategies above to help you stop the mental noise and let the insights emerge. It is an integrative practice; it includes multiple yogic elements (asana, pranayama, chanting, and meditation). Using breath, movement, sound, and imagery help to quiet the mind, facilitate a more relaxed mental state, process mental chatter and help you see your old problem in a new light.

Here’s the practice: 

Would you like more yoga practice tips and inspiration from Olga Kabel? – Read 7 Ways to Troubleshoot Balance Poses.

Study core strength and yoga and so much more with Olga Kabel and YogaUOnline – Yoga for Posture Improvement with Focus on Core Strengthening and Axial Extension.

Reprinted with permission from Sequence Wiz.

Olga KabelEducated as a school teacher, Olga Kabel has been teaching yoga for over 14 years. She completed multiple Yoga Teacher Training Programs but discovered the strongest connection to the Krishnamacharya/ T.K.V. Desikachar lineage. She had studied with Gary Kraftsow and American Viniyoga Institute (2004-2006) and received her Viniyoga Teacher diploma in July 2006 becoming an AVI-certified Yoga Therapist in April 2011. Olga is a founder and managing director of Sequence Wiz- a web-based yoga sequence builder that assists yoga teachers and yoga therapists in creating and organizing yoga practices. It also features simple, informational articles on how to sequence yoga practices for maximum effectiveness. Olga strongly believes in the healing power of this ancient discipline on every level: physical, psychological, and spiritual. She strives to make yoga practices accessible to students of any age, physical ability and medical history specializing in helping her students relieve muscle aches and pains, manage stress and anxiety, and develop mental focus.


(1.) Your Brain At Work: Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long

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