It’s a natural response to want to get away from pain. We all like to feel good, But pain can hold important lessons for us. Your body and mind are a complex interactive operating system for your life. Pain is a warning signal that something isn’t working optimally. If we refuse to truly experience our pain, then we rob ourselves of the healing potential it offers. As the mystical Poet Rumi put it “the cure for the pain is in the pain.”
As a yoga teacher I often hear people telling me that they can’t do yoga because (insert current issue here) . Be it a painful back, an aching hip, a dodgy knee or a bad mood, there’s not much that a yogic approach can’t work to improve. I’m not saying that you should always attend your fast strong asana class no matter what, I’m saying the practise of yoga goes beyond the fast strong classes and that these issues maybe your invitation into a different approach.
Pain can be physical, emotional or mental, it can be chronic or acute, whatever the case the fear of the pain can be just as bad or worse than the pain itself. Once you’re caught up in the stories and resistance it can be really hard to see things rationally and clearly. In my research I’ve come up with this 3 step strategy to safely navigate my way through any painful experience, maybe it’s helpful to you also.
Step 1: Breath, Feel, Accept.
Spend some quality time becoming intimate with your current sensations of pain. You can use cues such as location, texture and intensity to explore the experience fully. Use a smooth deep breath as an anchor so you don’t become overwhelmed. Learn to internally navigate the fine lines between discomfort and pain, between the fear of the pain and the pain itself. Accept your experience with an openness and curiosity without expecting it either to change or to stay the same. Be with what is moment to moment without too much mental commentary. Welcome the experience as a messenger here to teach you something about yourself and your life.
Step 2: Recognise potential for change and healing
After acknowledging how things are right now, we can begin to consider what message or healing this situation might be offering us. The mechanics of pain are a sophisticated system for survival, don’t rush straight for the answer, rather consider possibilities. Look for the potential for change and the healing and growth hidden within this experience. Nurture yourself with your own attention and make peace with your current circumstance. Keep breathing and work to develop feelings of safety and security within the body, develop an internal intimacy with your inner world and respond accordingly.
Step 3: Be willing to take action to create change
Look for opportunities to explore how you can contribute to your healing process. Be willing to engage the body and mind gently to get to know all the different aspects of your particular circumstance. Use conscious movement to reset and retrain, unhelpful habits and holding patterns. Get more comfortable stepping outside of your comfort zone and be willing to take a few risks; Be aware that sometimes things need to get worse before we can figure out how to make them better. Be patient, there’s always going to be more room for healing in your life, you don’t need to rush the process.
Always remember you are a living breathing work of art, perfect with all of your perceived imperfections. No two circumstances are ever the same and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to healing. The body has an intrinsic wisdom and if you pay attention it will be your best guide through any and every experience! If you’re looking for some guidance in working with a specific issue, consider booking in for a private class where we can explore these steps in a specific context.
“The things that we think are the problems can be the gifts. One of the advantages I have is that my spine was paralyzed when I was a child. So I have that sense of not moving, underneath movement. It’s not a gift at the moment, but it can be. One of my philosophies is, “Don’t waste the suffering”. We do suffer. The reality is we do. All is not suffering but we all suffer and not to waste it.”
— Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen
interesting Tedx talk on Pain:
it’s not all in your head But….