Listen To Your Pain: Part 1

When I first started going to Yoga classes, it was the teacher that made me go back week after week. She was the most chill person ever. She seemed to have the most patient approach with people. I coveted her attitude to life and to others but, I guess, if you spend all day breathing deeply, stretching, and using your body in more ways that just reaching for the keyboard and mouse…that’s bound to do something positive for your attitude, right?

Anyway, I’m not the stretchiest person around. We’ve talked about this before, haven’t we? I’m like the Tin Man who’s been left out in the rain overnight and desperately needs some oil in his joints. Some of the Yoga positions that she suggests aren’t always comfortable and can be bordering on near painful…

Or so I thought.

You see, my Yoga teacher said to us one day that we should always modify our stretches to accommodate our body. We want to challenge it, yes, but we should always stop if we feel pain. Then she said something that gave me one of those Stop-What-I’m-Doing-And-Pay-Attention-This-Is-Wisdom/Universe/God/Mother/Divine/Truth-Speaking-To-You moments (really need to think of a word for that.) –

“The thing is, when our body is uncomfortable or feels something new, it interprets it as pain. However, when you stick with it, you realise that it’s not pain. It’s just a new sensation that makes us feel a bit uncomfortable because we’re not used to it. The next time we come back to the pose, we will be a bit more familiar with it and find that we’re not hurting after all.”

Oh, man. Aint that the fucking truth.

When we try something new in life – whether it’s a new job, a new place to live, a new hobby, a new lifestyle, a new diet, family structure, whatever – it feels weird. Period. It’s so fucking bizarre, particularly when we’ve grown used to the patterns we previously lived by. In these moments, we’re expanding. We are opening ourselves out to something entirely new and different. We’re stretching ourselves in a new way. So often, however, we interpret this uncomfortable feeling as something we should avoid and we say things like…

“It’s not feeling right, I don’t think it’s for me.”
“I think I’ve made a mistake. I should get back together with them.”
“I’m just not cut out for this.”
“It feels wrong. I’m done. It’s just not meant to be.”
“I shouldn’t have done this. It’s too hard.”

We start to doubt ourselves, our abilities, and our capacity for change gets reduced because we’re scared. We’re scared of getting hurt. This little taste of discomfort we interpret as eventual pain and we stop. We curl back up into the foetal position and time passes on by.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m a huge advocate for gut feelings. Sometimes you just know when something isn’t right and, if you have a good gut you know you can trust, I will never advocate against listening to your inner Wisdom. However, there are times when you need to push past the discomfort and keep on keeping on.

In putting yourself through these types of things, you soon learn that this uncomfortable feeling is simply caution for the unknown which – as far as instinct goes – is good for keeping us safe. In these moments, on these new ventures (whatever they may be for you), do as a Yogi. Go slow, don’t push it. Be kind to yourself and be patient with your progress. No Yogi gets flexible overnight but, instead, they show up everyday and practice. They roll out their mat and try again the next day, and the next day, and the next…and before you know it, you’ll have a head standing, downward dogging, cat curling, uber flexible chill Yogi who has known the discomfort of new stretches but overcame.

The thing is that unless we put ourselves in these uncomfortable situations and get used to the feeling of being stretched, of expanding into a new space, we can never know what we are truly capable of or what we may achieve. Expanding allows for growth, for the taking up of more space, for increased resilience, and increased understanding of the self.

So, next time you interpret pain in life – pause, think, give yourself a little bit of kindness, and a lot of patience. Then, show up tomorrow and do the same…
One day at a time, kid.

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