The gift of pain
THE GIFT OF PAIN?
Emmy Cleaves is an amazing woman. She is the Principal of the Bikram Yoga College of India, she leads the advanced class at headquarters three times a week and her lecture on pain is one of the most memorable at teacher training. Did we mention she’s in her mid-8o’s? Listen up, she knows what she’s talking about!
Emmy talks about the gift of pain – without it we would destroy ourselves. Think about it. Pain is the message that something in the body is off (could be as extreme as your hand on a hot stove or as small as a splinter stuck in your finger). If we ignored it, it could possibly turn into a much bigger problem (think about what would happen if you never took your hand off that hot stove)!
There is another level to pain, which is the pain that we reference in class. Ever hear the instructor to tell you that your back is supposed to hurt? Or that your elbows are supposed to hurt? Our how about telling you to make sure your back hurts? When we start improving and changing the body, there is a lot of sensation that goes on with that. When the mind first experiences this, it often freaks out and reacts as if the body was on a hot stove as opposed to just getting a good stretch. This is normal! Think about the reaction your body probably had the first time you tried Camel pose. Pretty dramatic, right? The trick is to go slowly and breathe and slowly teach our body that it is not experiencing the agony of stretching, but the luxury of release!
This is especially important when dealing with injury. It’s important to bring the body into the room to facilitate healing. Heat + breath = increased circulation = faster healing time. If you want to alleviate the pain from your bulging disc, come into the room. If you want to get rid of the frozen shoulder, bring it in. If you want to get your body in a better place for your next road race, do some yoga. As you move through the series, the trick is to start to recognize what kind of pain you are dealing with. The kind of pain that is telling you to stop? Or the kind of pain that is experiencing something it hasn’t before? You will learn this over time with consistent practice. Go slowly. Be mindful. Practice yoga. As Emmy says, “yoga without mindfulness is just calisthenics.”