Regardless of how many times you have practiced yoga, this message could benefit you.
You do not need to feel pain, grit and grind your way through your yoga practice to gain enlightenment from the pose – this would be recognized as abuse. Instead, what if you could go inside, scan the area of pain, breathe into it, maybe close your eyes and be with the nagging sensation until it either said, “yes! Thank you”, or “that’s enough, this isn’t for me any longer or at all.”
Not all asanas (poses) and pranayama (breathwork) and certain movements are for everyone. All the asanas of the yoga pradapika should fit us all but based on some of our previous injuries, our bodies condition (fitness level and the way we consistently misalign our body) is different for everyone and therefore makes each shape feel different from person to person.
The truth is, the more you practice yoga and pranayama, the more your body will find its natural state and unless you have a serious unrecoverable injury, more than likely, you could most yoga asanas — but until you honor where you truly are and what you need to do in the asana, the more the body and your mind will resist your moving forward. You can attain what you want and where you want to go in your practice if you’re willing to work with it from the inside, out.
This practice is for You to get the most out of; it is not for the person next to you or your teacher. If you leave the pose or the mat with uncertainly, you’re not doing the practice of yoga. Yoga and Black Mountain Yoga teachers are here to help discover and uncover more of who you are and help you create a more empowering dialog with your inner You.
So, what should I do with “pain”? How do I know if pain is causing more pain or creating a release?
These are great questions.
Knowing the difference between right and wrong pain is crucial for your practice. Right pain is constructive and exhilarating, whereas wrong pain is sharp and destructive and cause suffering.
Every pose should not feel comfortable. It should cause you effort and cause you to breathe deeply into the places you feel the stretch or strength. As you exert this effort, you will find a release in the body and a sense of accomplishment in the mind. The result will afford you more comfort immediately and the next time you try another challenging experience on and off the mat. Allow your asanas to be a laboratory for your physical and personal discovery and growth. Find repose in the pose that otherwise had or has tension.
Think of warrior 2. If you’re encouraged to stay for 10 breaths in this pose, but feel around breath 8 that you just can’t take it anymore, you know your leg isn’t going to break nor will anything bad happen, it’s the body not used to this amount of effort. If you stay for 2 more breaths, the full length of time requested, you will gain strength, stretch and a greater personal strength and inner vigor.
Instead of being attached to pain or perfection what if you have a spiritual attitude toward your practice and therefore recognize your body and mind deserve liberation, therefore you are committed to overcoming your experience of pain and turning it into ease. In yogic terms, we refer to this as removing dukha (suffering) and replacing it with sukha (ease). There should often be dukha in the practice, if it doesn’t exist, you aren’t growing. Every practice sukkah should be present as ease is the absence of suffering – we can’t have one without the other or it would be void of any feeling all together and would mean you are not gaining anything out of the yoga. This is even applicable to restorative asanas. You may find that the shape is easy but the breath takes work. You could be in the lenience of the pose and feel good but if you do a little uncomfortable work breathing into the tighter places in the body, dukha turns to a greater sukha.
Some do not resonate with this feeling pain or recognize pain and therefore resist pain by pushing through a challenging experience to a point of injury due to a desire for perfection. You are most drawn to perfection because you are feeling more drawn to relationship with God/Creator. If you can recognize this state of desire while in the asana it becomes spiritual and will be safe – if you ignore this greater call to perfection, it becomes the ego and therefore the ego will not tell us when the pain has become too much, we are in a relationship with duality instead of unity. This is an attachment to dukha and a resistance to sukkah.
Transforming pain or the desire for perfection by taking more control with this practice:
Next time you’re in a pose that you find difficult,
- calm the mind by reminding yourself you are in control.
- Focus on the area that is talking to you the most as if you’re breathing directly into that place in your body, thought or feeling as if you have a lung in that space.
- Slow your breath down to an inhale of 5 and an exhale of 7.
- Pause in between each inhale and exhale.
- Repeat this breathing technique for 5 full breaths.
While doing this breathing and focus work, ask yourself if you can go deeper or if you should back off. Try to not allow the mind to tell you but instead your bodies true experience. You may find the answers encourage you to stay longer, go deeper or lift higher. You may find the opposite. This is how you allow the asana to be the laboratory of your body.
Whether you were experiencing pain or perfection a practice of conscious breathing will transform the experience into an inner exploration of healing and spiritual connection.
Don’t glorify your pain but face the pain head on. If there is no intimacy from you in your practice, it is just moving thoughtlessly from shape to shape and not creating present or lasting change.
None of this advice means you should push yourself into an asana regardless of what your body is telling you. Instead, it is an invitation to listen fully and move slowly and deliberately with an inner eye staying in control of your experience by not controlling it with your mind – this type of action is being mindful.
Sharp tingling sensations are not deepening your experience, this is a pain not to ignore or breathe into, but to slowly adjust or exit out of. This is your bodies way of saying “no” before an injury occurs. Once you listen to these messages and do not push through, the more the body will not only say, “thank you” by alleviating the pain but it will trust you (and you, trust yourself) to approach another shape/asana you may have previously found impossible delighting in your own personal power.
…and here we GROW.
Love & Namaste,