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Benefiting from the unbearable - Pain in our yoga practice
2007-03-01

Pain is without doubt an integral part of yoga practice. But is it really something that should be avoi ded at all costs? Of course pain is our body's way of telling us that it's not comfortable with the posture we're holding. T hroughout our practice we should be conscious and listen to our body's messages. To really start gaining the benefits of yog a we need to practice to make the unbearable bearable.

There's pain, and then there's PAIN

Before going any further, it's important to understand that there are two different types of pain we ca n experience when practicing yoga and our reaction to each should be very different.

The first kind of pain is bad pain, and should be avoided to prevent serious injuries. Bad pain is a sharp shooting pain tha t we could experience as we enter into the posture or if we suddenly adjust our alignment while in the pose. Bad pain basica lly indicates that we are not in the pose correctly or we are aggravating a previous injury. If we experience bad pain then we should exit the pose and seek guidance before trying again. Common locations for ban pain to occur are the relatively wea k knee joins, and our back.

The other kind of pain is 'good' pain. This is typically felt in the muscles as we stretch, lengthen, extend and hold asanas . Good pain is the kind of pain we need to experience and overcome as we progress on our yoga journeys.

Why does there have to be so much pain?

Pain comes when the body is not familiar with the exertions being placed on it by an asana. By submitt ing, surrendering and relaxing into the pain we can pass it and our bodies will become able to perform the asana more easily and without pain.

Many yoga teachers encourage their students to practice yoga without discomfort or exertion. Such an approach to the practic e may make it more enjoyable, but we are not practicing yoga solely for the pleasure of the experience. By looking only for an enjoyable yoga experience we restrict ourselves to practice within our comfort zone. Without confronting or extending the limits of our body's ability we will not improve our yoga practice or receive all the benefits that yoga has to offer.

Through practice it becomes bearable

Rather than run from, or avoid the inevitable pain of asana, there is much to learn from it. This does not mean that we should suffer and hold the asana or move deeper into the asana before the body is ready. But you should lis ten to your body, persevere and face the challenge of overcoming the pain rather than run from it convincing yourself that yo u're just not able to practice that asana.

While we should not hide from the pain, we should not fight against it either. Rather we should find ways to make the pain b earable by submitting to it and relaxing into it.

Start with the parts of the body where resistance is most evident. Relax your face, your forehead, your eyes and mouth. Thi s helps to relax the mind to stop your brain fighting against the pain. With a clearer mind, bring awareness to your body to understand the causes of the pain. If you have poor alignment, correct it. If the muscles are tight, fighting the asana, re lax them.

You can relax further by understanding your breathing habits. Fast tense breathing leads to tension in the mind and body, wh ich leads to resistance to the asana. Try to slow and lengthen your breath to help you relax and clear you mind, and relax d eeper into the posture.

Learn about yourself

Yoga can tell us as much about our approach to life in general as it can about our physical abilities. By observing and understanding our approach to pain in yoga, we can start to understand how we approach discomfort, adversit y, set-backs and failure in our general life.

By modifying our approach to the pain of yoga, we hope to eventually erase the pain completely. Using these principles to ma ke behavioural changes to our general life, maybe we can erase some of the pain there too.

Being able to understand our reaction to pain and modify that approach required time in the postu re for the appropriate awareness and reflection. To achieve this aim you need to follow a practice of deep stretching where the positions are held for longer. This is exactly our approach at Total.Yoga.Practice. To find out how we can help you ben efit from pain in your practice, click here

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Ushtrasana - Camel Pose
2006-10-29
watch the free streaming yoga video, helping you learn how to do yoga online for free The full and extended backward curve of the body stretches the abdomen including the stomach and intestines to stimulate the digestive and reproductive systems. The extension of the neck also stimulates the thyroid gland. The backward bend of the spine opens the vertebrae to releive back pain and help to improve the posture. Camel pose should be followed by any forward bending pose. Camel pose should not be practiced by people with severe back pain.
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Sunrise streches
2007-02-19
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