This topic comes up every class. We are dealing with changing our bodies so how could it not come up? In fact, whenever we try and change something, there will always be some amount of pain. A Chinese proverb says, “you can’t heal pain without more pain”. We have to be willing to face it to heal it, whether it is your heart or your hamstrings. Pain is there for a reason. It lets us know that something is wrong but how much do we have to tolerate in order to change? What is good pain and what isn’t? It’s important to know the difference.

For me, at 53, pain is pretty much daily. After years of wear and tear, before and after yoga came into my life, my body is a very different body now. It doesn’t bounce back as well or as quickly as it used to. Certain poses are no longer available to me. Two knee and two shoulder surgeries have seen to that. However, that pain is a reminder to me of a life lived fully. I have adjusted my practice to this body but it doesn’t mean I don’t push myself; I listen to my body. I practice smarter.

Hatha in Sanskrit means “to strike”. It literally is the practice of changing your body. To heat it and to change its form takes a certain amount of discomfort. Think about massage. A really good, therapeutic massage hurts like hell! I know that if I don’t tolerate the temporary pain I won’t get relief from the chronic pain. I have also learned the amount of pain I can tolerate in a pose before it gets dangerous. That has come at a cost. I have learned from my mistakes in yoga. I wish I could tell you that there was a way to gain that insight another way, but unfortunately I haven’t found one yet.

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