By Shanna Small
This convo on pain in the Ashtanga community is getting old and tired but a popular yoga blog, that has always been an advocate of pain, has brought it back up. I will address it….again. The idea that you have to feel pain to grow is old and tired. I think some people just feel special when they have pain. Yes, I have had pain from my practice and during and I have learned from it but I still don’t think it is cool and something to be poo pooed off.
The Yoga Sutras says, “Pain, that has not yet come, is avoidable”. We have to remember that the purpose of yoga is liberation. Pain does not make you feel free. It makes you feel bound. Yes, you can learn how to be calm in the midst of pain trough experiencing pain, but once you learn your lesson, you should quit causing yourself pain.
I digress for clarity. When I say pain, I mean pain. I am not talking about soreness, discomfort, intense stretching, breaking up scar tissue. I am talking about when you know that you are injured and you keep causing pain to the injury. Many people, who were raised speaking the English language, want to argue that you can use pain and discomfort interchangeably. However, if we dig deep down and really think logically, we know they are not the same. We know that pain is worse then being uncomfortable and denotes that something is wrong whereas uncomfortable is something you can work through and deal with.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. Anyone who keeps doing the same poses the same way expecting there not to be pain, is insane. Trust me, I have been insane myself, I know how it feels. I have an injury right now that I continuously ignore. Yep, I am insane. However, the first step in getting help is knowing that you have a problem and I definitely have one.
It just irks me when people try to normalize dysfunctional thinking and situations. It is not okay to be in pain! It may be a fact. It may come with the territory. It may have been sudden and unavoidable but pain is not your natural state. Even though I stupidly inflict pain on myself, I would never tell a student that it is okay and that they should do it too. Yes I tell stories of my pain and how I have overcome it numerous times in my practice, but I would never recommend it as a practice to anyone because, as the Yoga Sutras says, pain that has not yet come is avoidable.
I would love to see the yoga community stop normalizing pain.
Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.