How often have you heard it? A yoga teacher telling you to respect your body, to challenge yourself, but not to go beyond your limits? There is however a big difference between respecting your body and not feeling pain. Because challenging ourselves, improving ourselves often goes hand in hand with pain. So let pain be your guide.
Maybe this sounds a little strange to you, maybe this sounds as the total opposite off what you use to hear or think, but pain is a good sign. Wise pain is. See, there is stupid pain and wise pain. You want the wise pain to be your guide. As B.K.S. Iyengar already said: “The pain is there as a teacher, because life is filled with pain. In the struggle alone, there is knowledge. Only when there is pain will you see the light. Pain is our guru.”
All has to do with our comfort zone. The challenge of (tantric) yoga is to go beyond our limits, but within reason. We want to expand the frame of our mind and to do so we can use our body. Our body has a brilliant protection mechanism: pain. This protection mechanism works however way within our limits. We are physically and mentally capable off so much more than this protection mechanism is ‘allowing’ us. Think of a mother who is stranded with a car on a railway. She can’t get her child out of the backseat, because both doors won’t open. The train is coming and filled with adrenaline she tries to push the car from the railway line. She succeeds. Without the adrenaline she will have never succeeded. Why: because her mind and her protection mechanism would have not ‘allowed’ her to do it. But in this case the adrenaline overrules it all.
There are so many examples off people who have done extraordinary things in the eye of danger, simple because their protection mechanism is shut off for a bit. Athletes who are in a flow don’t feel pain as well. Winners never feel pain.
Doing (tantric) yoga we want to expand our comfort zone. Pain is a result. But to let pain be your guide you have to know the difference between wise and stupid pain.
Wise pain is usually felt as a gradual lengthening and strengthening feeling. It’s uncomfortable, hurts, but it’s a dull, soft pain. A pain we can – if we set ourselves to it – mentally bare. Wise pain is for your growth and your physical and spiritual transformation.
Stupid pain is often a sharp, sudden feeling with which your body tells you you have gone too far; beyond your abilities of that moment; way beyond your comfort zone.
Stretching is an art. When you perform an asana (yoga pose) you don’t just go in and stay in the asana, waiting for the teacher to tell you to come out again. You want to focus your mind totally on how your body feels and on how your body is doing in the asana. You want to look for your limitation and slightly and softly go beyond it. Don’t overdo it at once. Be present with your mind and every time you feel the pain is getting a little bit less, you stretch a little bit more. Bit by bit expanding your comfort zone.
Lack of movement
Don’t worry: asanas won’t always be painful. As soon as we have mastered an asana, there will be no pain. The pain only tells us our posture is incorrect, because of the limitations our body has, after years of incorrect posture and a lack of movement. To re-adjust your body and learn the right posture you have to face up to the pain.
If we always avoid pain, we will keep living within the limits of our mind and body; being stuck with the same attachments and fears that are ruling our lives now.