I’ve been working on a concept in my own personal practice/self studies.
The concept is a combination of many concepts because that seems to be how my brain works. It all comes back to this. Injuries from yoga (and I’d even put all movement activities in here) aren’t a badge of honor or a trophy to put on your shelf.
Now before we critique and think “but I listen to my body,” how many times have you used combos of “but it hurts so good,” or “no pain no gain” etc? How many times have you seen a flexible person in class and wished you could do that? And above all else, how many times have you left class/personal practice and actually had more aches and pains?
(But it most definitely can’t be from the yoga.) Think about it honestly. And not the answer you think you should have. Just think about it.
I remember leaving class, feeling great and achey, and friends would ask why I was limping. I didn’t know I was limping. I had the post yoga bliss, even though my back still hurt and my left hamstring seemed to be a bit crankier. There’s no way my physical practice could ever be harmful. Yoga’s so good for you. So I started to think about it a bit more, take some hard workshops with one of my amazing teachers, and be brutally honest with myself. Everything I ask is simply what I have asked myself.
How do you categorize pain? How painful does discomfort have to be before you’ll recognize it as physical pain? Do you have any chronic pain that nothing seems to help, and gets worse a few hours after you practice? What actually feels good, and does it have to yield an intense sensation for you to recognize it?
Why do we do micro levels of harm, repeatedly over a long period of time (life of a practice), and call it practice, yoga or enlightenment?
We preach Ahimsa- non harm, yet tell ourselves to push through pain (which could also be discomfort) and then don’t allow for rest when we do get injured.
Now, being uncomfortable isn’t necessarily harmful. I need to be able to have tough conversations with people I love, deal with grief, death and the large scope of human emotions. But do I need to experience a torn hamstring, blown rotator cuff or even chronic pain to show myself that I am resilient and can handle anything? I don’t believe so.
I could, however, practice comfort and ease.
So I may be calmer at heart to deal with the shit show that comes up with life experiences. And I may also learn how to love still moments within nature without an excuse for why I need rest.
I don’t have to torture my body to prove to my mind that I can endure pain, no matter where that pain may lie on the tolerance scale.
I can teach both my mind and body how to learn from each other and gain clarity, softness and ease.
The more I teach my body to be formless… fluid, my mind learns how to flow with what’s occurring.
The more I teach my mind to focus, I find my body to feel more balanced.
The more I allow myself to feel various emotions, I learn that “healing” and happiness are inside jobs. The source for either of those will not lie anywhere else besides within myself.
(Still see your doctor and take your meds. Western medicine isn’t all bad, and there are doctors out there that believe in whole healing… and shit happens that needs a professional. I’m not a doctor and I can’t heal you.)
Now, I am not the nicest person. Nor am I the friendliest, and sometimes I don’t show my full potential for kindness.
But I’m continuously learning that the level of softness and gentleness I show myself teaches me how to see other humans as deeply flawed and still beautiful.
(There are still assholes out there.)
The outcome of this concept within my practice has been to focus more on ease and even moving away from sensation. I want to feel my body work at it’s healthiest mobility, and still have enough energy and openness to move throughout my day.
Next time you step on your mat, consider this…
What will support ease throughout my day?
What will literally help me move easier throughout my day?
Where’s the real challenge here?
And how do I approach it?
Just some thoughts from a devoted student and always curious teacher.