If there’s one thing you remember the next time you get on your mat to practice yoga (or lace up your running shoes or get on a machine at the gym), let it be this:
If it hurts, change it.
You are welcome to challenge yourself to your comfort level in class, but please don’t connect suffering through painful movement with yoga. You can find suffering in plenty of other areas of life!
During our first yoga lesson together recently, a client told me, “squats always hurt my knees. But I know I need to suck it up and do them anyway.”
“No pain, no gain” is a really common belief and I’ve heard lots of versions of it over the years teaching yoga, as well as just being a general human out and about in the world! But causing ourselves physical pain in our movement and choosing to suffer through it instead of finding a gentler, more compassionate way through is a violent act.
Ahimsa, or non-violence in thoughts, intentions, and actions, is a central principle in yoga. Your mat is a great training ground for strengthening your ability to practice ahimsa with others, by allowing you to practice non-violence toward yourself.
If you’ve been to my class you’ve probably heard me say, “If it hurts, it’s not yoga.” It’s an oversimplification of what non-violent mat practice means, but I think it’s a good rule of thumb.
Beyond the spirit of ahimsa is also the fact that *pain is not necessary for building strength and healthy mobility in our joints!* If there is a pose or an exercise that makes your shoulder angry, it’s not necessary to cause pain and possibly risk injury when you aren’t even assured a stronger shoulder somewhere down the line. There is always another option for building strength and mobility.
In yoga, for every pose, there are more pose variations. There are usually lots of them! You can also use a plethora of props, many of which you can find around your house, to find a pose variation that helps you get the same intended benefit of the pose minus the pain.
Please don’t make pain a “normal” part of your yoga practice or other movement modalities. Let’s put the care back into self care, OK?