Leaning into Pain

I was inspired to write this post while I was at the gym, scrunching my nose up as I fought the bike machine for just five more minutes, just two more minutes, 1 MORE MINUTE, PHEW!

As I lumbered away, panting and cursing the machine that I inherently resented but also loved, I thought about something that various yoga instructors have told me in the past.

Acknowledge the pain. Embrace it. Really experience it, and don’t shy away from it – lean into it. 

They would say these things as we each fought our internal battles on our separate mats to stay in one pose for 1 minute, or was it only 30 seconds? Who knew. Sometimes I would think, “This is a load of crap. You’re just telling me this so I’ll hold this position longer, and I’m not fooled!”

But they would still say these things, over and over.

Pain is how you know you’re alive. Pain is human. Be grateful that you can feel this pain. Embrace it, experience it, lean into it. 

Time after time, I would hear their words but still dislike the feeling. However, when I was on the bike at the gym yesterday, it just seemed to make sense to me, and on somewhat of a grander scheme. We are human, and we do have the ability to feel pain, and yoga teachers always told me,

“Remember, we are talking about good pain, the kind that you can bear and that makes you feel good after you’ve pushed through it. Not the kind that means you’re pulling a muscle  – learn the difference.”

So I started thinking about that. Good pain versus bad pain. Good pain motivates us. In exercise, its what tells us that our bodies are working hard and that we will definitely be feeling the effects in the morning. It also tells us that we are using the right set of weights, or doing the right set of movements, to push our bodies to get stronger.

Bad pain tells us to STOP – DON’T DO THAT EVER AGAIN. Bad pain is when we burn ourselves on the stove because we try to clean it too soon after turning the burner off. Bad pain is when we do something we should not, and bad pain is the memory that will prevent us from making the same mistake again.

I know I’m going all philosophical here, but I really think that this lesson on pain is one of the best things my yoga teachers have taught me. It applies everywhere in life. There are times when we must push through the hard stretches in life to get to our end goals. We have to put in a lot of work, but the rewards are worth it and make the temporary discomfort fade into the backs of our minds. There are also times when we must stop because we realize we have pushed ourselves too hard, or in the wrong direction, and we need to give ourselves a break.

Good pain, bad pain. Both are important because they guide us through life. It’s pretty awesome to be a human.

 

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