We often hear a phrase like this in any given fitness class or other form of exercise. Whether it comes from an instructor or the practitioner's mind, the modern world asks us to push ourselves beyond our limitations. But the body is an extremely complex machine and the muscles, neurons and bones actually prefer to adjust the body in the most comfortable position possible.
So with our excessive use of force, we're likely distorting our ideal posture and alignment, leading us to chronic pain and discomfort. But how do we do to tackle this problem? Do we correct our posture? Unfortunately the "No pain, no gain" mentality many of us seem to adapt goes against this notion entirely. These ideas are simply not accepted in yoga philosophy.
So whether you're on the mat practicing asanas, or engaging in any type of physical activity, it's far more beneficial to remain steady and comfortable within the confines of your body. We're taught in yoga to always honor the body and its suggestions to you, and to take that honor off of the mat and into your daily life.
Here are three ways in which yoga reminds us to honor our pain, instead of push through it:
1. Respect your body's limitations.
Modern philosophy demands a stronger mindset and a horse who finishes the race even in an injured state. But yoga is about acceptance. When you accept yourself and respect the body, a deeper connection is fostered between the mind, body and soul.
Stopping to relax in a Child's Pose or other resting asana during a yoga class is not about shame. Yoga is not about a challenge fulfilled, but ego overridden. Ego is the biggest obstacle in personal development and public enemy #1 for your success. If you don't listen to the language of your body, you are far more likely to bring on injury, joint aches, numbness, pinched nerves, distorted posture and much more.
To avoid such injuries and reach your goals it is imperative to develop the awareness of honoring your body.
2. Acknowledge the bond between pain and your nervous system.
Pain, the nervous system and your emotions are all related. They foster one another, surviving on each other's instincts. When pain is overlooked in a posture, this experience is immediately noted by the nervous system as a threat and discomfort. The subconscious mind registers and stores it as a bad experience.
And then the next time when you move in that posture, the mind will send threat and pain signals to the beforehand, which will lead to the feeling of fear and contempt. You might not want to perform that posture at all once this reminder is registered in your brain. In some cases, you might end up skipping the practice entirely, based on fear.
3. Let your nerves do the talking and be sure to listen.
While sensitive to stretches, nerves are not robust enough to restrain over stretching. Once maximum stretch is reached, the nerves start to send signals to the body to stop. But the problem is that when we overlook these signals, numbness, sensitivity and a tingling sensation occur in the body, which can be potentially damaging to our nerves.
Mindful awareness of these sensations and signals must be ensured if one is seeking a safe and more productive approach in any physical activity.
Cultivation of patience and caution are required elements in today's practice of yoga. While an experienced instructor of any kind is a catalyst in helping you reach your goals, personal responsibility should remain at the forefront.
Never forget that you are in charge of your body and that it's up to you to do what feels best for you on any given day. It's your decision whether or not to carry forward, or relax and rest. To ignore the signals in the body could mean the difference between feeling great or sustaining injury.