Yoga: The Art of Bringing Comfort to Our Discomfort
No matter how well we take care of ourselves, no matter how interconnected we are with our network of friends and loved ones, no matter how wealthy or poor we are, we all suffer. We all face challenges in life.
We already know that in the Tantra, challenges never come to put us down. They only come when we’re ready to rise up, or when we’re ready to have a breakthrough!
We choose to live by the attitude that everything in life is for our awakening. This works because it empowers us to take charge of our lives and our situation and turn it towards our highest interest. This attitude makes it possible to learn from life without shaming ourselves, making ourselves wrong, making others wrong, or making life wrong!
Yoga is the art of bringing comfort to our discomfort.
We face this every time we come to our mat. We learn how to shift the experience of pain into one of mild tolerable discomfort. There are many times when the pain from a yoga stretch hovers on the edge between ecstasy and agony. In order to manage this paradox, we use the skillful tools of the Four Essentials™ of Alignment (Open, Engage, Align, and Expand). We use breath to breathe into the pain, we use our discernment to know which kind of pain is safe and which is not, and how to relax while holding the intensity of a pose until the body releases the stress and tension it was holding.
You’ll often hear me instruct that if it hurts, it should hurt GOOD!
What that means is that the hurt is tolerable and not sharp or all-consuming. There’s a little space inside the hurt that actually feels therapeutic. It’s like in some healing modalities, like acupuncture, you first feel the pain of the prick of the needle, which quickly turns to pleasure, bliss, and flowing energy. Our trigger points are what cause the pain. But like acupuncture, yoga poses, when done well, release the trigger points so that energy can flow. That’s why we feel oh so good at the end of the class after Savasana. We engaged with our pain and released our trigger points. The freedom that flows underneath the trigger points is worth the entire class! In a sense, we figured out how to bring comfort to our discomfort.
I recently got sick. At first it was just a cold, scratchy throat, a little sinus congestion. I tested negative for Covid so I went about my day taking the normal herbs I take when I get sick. I felt better by the end of one of my weekend workshops. But then someone in the workshop tested positive for Covid on Monday. We notified all of the participants to test themselves and follow the CDC guidelines.
In addition, I was also starting my twice annual Ayurvedic Colorado Cleanse, which can give me a toxic headache the first few days. When I got a headache on day two of the cleanse, I wasn’t surprised. But then the headache got worse. It kept me up at night and I felt really weak, totally exhausted. Uh oh! I did a Covid test and was positive!
This is the first time I’ve had Covid. I was so proud of myself to have avoided this virus for three years. Well, here it was. It rained down with a passion. I was out of commission for two full days, in bed. Lost about 10 pounds because I couldn’t eat.
Once I accepted that I had Covid, my inner process began. I began to bring comfort to my discomfort. How? I breathed. I rested. I slept for hours and hours. I took hot baths, and I took some anti-viral medication. I also kept a cold pack on my head for much of the time. Although I was in agony, I was able to stay calm and let go into the experience of pain. I just kept breathing and being with it. Then when my mind would get negative, saying, “This is never going to end” I quickly followed it up with, “Yes it will end. This is not forever.” On the third day, still a little headachy and weak, the sun had come out, it was a beautiful fall day. When I woke up in the morning, I felt a little twinge of energy which got me out of bed. Once I was up, I started to feel better. I was able to have my traditional morning cup of coffee, which I had skipped for two days, and did my sadhana. By then I noticed that I was getting hungry. I decided to skip my cleansing diet and just eat what my body wanted. After a few hours I was able to work at my desk and then took a walk outside.
When I went out on my walk, I felt completely refreshed and new. Because I had lost so much weight, my legs felt like they were floating off the ground. I felt totally open and free as if walking for the first time! Having been in bed for two days prior, I was so grateful to be able to move, walk, and be outside. I was ecstatic.
I continued to feel better until I was mostly back to my normal self. Now I just need to follow the Covid protocols so I don’t give it to anyone else.
My takeaway is that there is joy, even in pain, but you have look for it, tease it out, and put your whole self into it body, mind, and heart! I will continue to find joy in every little corner of life that I can and in every transition between agony and ecstasy.
As yogis on the mat, we have the daily experience of dealing with our pain. This is no small thing! It’s a valuable life skill.
May you pay attention to how you bring comfort to your discomfort on the mat and apply that to your daily life when it really matters! May you live in a perpetual state of joyous discovery! May you be strong, healthy, and happy! I look forward to seeing you on the mat!