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When Your Practice Is a Pain, Part 2
Gain Without Pain

On the other hand, if an Asana is truly painful - not merely uncomfortable - then you've gone too far and need to back off, now. Using force to deepen a Yoga pose is something you should never, ever do. One of Yoga's Yamas, or disciplines, is Ahimsa - non-violence. Those of you who are familiar with Ahimsa know it works on many different levels - don't hurt anyone by words, deeds or physical harm. Don't eat meat (killing another creature constitutes violence). And remember, Ahimsa also applies to the way you treat yourself. Pushing your body beyond the pain threshold while practicing Yoga is Ahisma, pure and simple. "No pain, no gain" does not exist here (as a matter of fact, that pain/gain philosophy has gone out of fashion in most of the fitness world). There's a line between feeling uncomfortable and being in pain - it's what Yoga instructors call the "edge." That's where you breathe, tune into your body, and figure out if it's okay to go forward. If your body allows you to deepen the pose, then there will be another edge. If it hurts, you've gone beyond your edge and need to back off. Playing that edge in Yoga will create a focus that is almost otherworldly - it's one of Yoga's most rewarding aspects, and it's available to anyone, no matter what level they're at.

(Article continued below.)

But what if you're hurting now because you ignored your edge and tried to get into the pose as deeply as the advanced student next to you? Or maybe the pain was caused by sloppy form because you were in a hurry. Hopefully it's nothing worse than a slight muscle strain. Ice it down when you get home (a bag of frozen peas works especially well for most body parts) and give it a few days to heal. But perhaps you've done something worse - a sudden, sharp pain that gets progressively worse could indicate torn tendons. If your knee hurts badly and you can't straighten it fully you could have torn cartilage. In these instances, stop what you are doing immediately. Do not be foolish about this - end your session now and go to your health care practitioner. Injuries such as torn tendons, ligaments and cartilage, or a sprained back or wrist will, unfortunately, put you on the sidelines as far as Yoga (and most other physical activity) is concerned for some weeks. That's why it's so important to keep ego concerns like competition and impatience out of your Yoga practice, and to always practice good form, even if it means you can't go very deeply into the pose.

What if you had an especially intense Yoga session the night before and today your body aches? Does that mean you've committed violence on yourself, or that you were doing the poses all wrong? Not necessarily. Once again, there is a difference between being uncomfortable and being in pain. If the soreness is mild - more like a "happy ache" feeling that isn't really unpleasant - then you just had an intense yoga session. Take it a bit easier today so your muscles have time to recover. If you're so sore that it's affecting your mobility and you feel bad, then you did ignore your body's needs during your Yoga session. Ice those muscles, take a rest until the soreness is gone, and then return to your practice in a more mindful manner. Yoga, like all other forms of exercise, is meant to make you glow and feel energetic (the only difference in Yoga is that part of the glow comes from within). If it makes you feel bad, you need to reassess the way you are doing it.

Have a safe and exhilarating Yoga session!

Previous page >> When Your Practice Is a Pain, Part 1 >> Page 1, 2

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