Between Ease and Effort

Sep 11, 2013 by

One of the less celebrated aspects on the yoga learning curve is paying attention to pain. When aging appeared on my personal yoga scene I realized that I habitually ignore pain. This realization came to me because, unlike my early yoga days of easy flexibility and quick recovery, at my present stage I have found that pain ignored turns into discomfort that interferes with functioning. It benefits me nowadays to remove my ego from the driver’s seat and stay alert to my pain threshold. And, there is an added impetus: If I am not listening to my signals to back off from holding, stretching or extending beyond my limits, – i.e., hearing pain signaling me – how will my students learn this?

You are probably thinking, “Being ego driven is not a yoga-like quality.” And you would be right. Yoga encourages relinquishing the ego and letting deeper awareness rise to the surface. Until pain kept showing up, I didn’t realize how strongly influenced I was by ego-driven thoughts. I needed my yoga practice to show me.

Think for a moment about your own relationship to your body. Would you be able to recall a day when you more or less forgot you had one? Maybe even in this moment your body is below your radar as you sift through thoughts. We are a heady species. Look around. Is there any other biological group that forgets to react to pain? Do you want to be programming your subconscious to ignore it?

Are your shoulders relaxed? Notice your breathing. Is it soft, deep, shallow, irregular, or noisy? If you listen and feel, these facets of breath give information about your moment to moment functioning. Now inhale the deepest possible breath and let the air release slowly. Repeat this instruction and you’ve begun yoga.*

If you’re like most yogis and yoginis-in-the-making, you want to take your practice beyond intentional breathing into postures that strengthen, stretch and balance you. Would you consider treating yourself with the gentleness generally reserved for babies? To have a great yoga experience you have to be fully attentive to every nuance of your body. You must stay present while moving from posture to posture as well as while remaining still. Your primary job is to bring each asana to your own unique place between ease and effort. Feeling sensations, listening to pre-pain signals and watching thoughts without attaching to them takes opening your awareness to now and now and now.

Yoga can bring strength, new openings, increased happiness and mental clarity. If it brings pain, you might want to re-assess your approach.

*Yoga is defined as yoking body, mind and Spirit. SandPainting

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