No pain, no gain?
Clients frequently say that they know they’re doing the posture right because it hurts! Does this mean that if you can’t feel pain in the posture, then you’re doing the posture wrong? The oohs and ouches of the pain conundrum. How much is acceptable? How can you tell the difference between a good pain or a bad pain? Is pain really just a sensation?
We all have a very personal relationship with pain and our pain threshold varies throughout our life depending on other factors: age, inflammation, physiological influences. Certainly, we can say that pain is simply a sensation, but that is also the same as saying that language is just a sound (which it absolutely is a sound) but more than that it’s a form of communication. People talk all the time and some of it we choose not to remember or listen to because it is not relevant. But when a person is shouting: Run for your lives: the building is on fire! you listen. So, communication is key.
When we experience pain during yoga practice, we really need to be able to decode what our body is trying to communicate to us. It might be saying that this posture is pulling through traumatised scar tissue, wrung out and twisted myofascia or perpetually tight muscle fibres and that the pain is simply an indicator of the damage at the site. Or the pain might be a signal to us to come out of the posture because we are causing even more damage to ourselves simply by making that shape with our body. DON’T REPLACE TRAUMA WITH TRAUMA!
There is a 15 second or three breath rule which gives the mind sufficient time to detect the degree of threat from working this posture. After around three breaths, we can usually decide whether the body will start to release or whether we want to come out of the posture completely. Remember, you always have the option of simply reducing the amount of force the posture is generating. This is why we use props: so that we can work therapeutically in a posture. Try not to do the Hokey Cokey, where you’re in the posture one moment and out the next, then in again, and so on. Nor is it advisable to endure the posture if it is causing you so much discomfort or pain that it affects your breathing and the muscles of expression.
The muscles of expression in the face always give the game away in a class but you are practicing remotely I cannot guide you. Whilst doubt is also an obstacle to our practice, I would also advise that if you are in any doubt as to whether the pain you are experiencing is beneficial, then don’t do the posture. You really need to seek advice from a yoga teacher or of course you can contact me. And if you are in a posture and cannot feel pain, enjoy it! After all, life doesn’t always have to be a sufferance. Focus instead on where your mind goes in the posture and keeping your breathing rhythm even.