10,000 Vinyasas

The Meaning of This…

by on Jan.12, 2011, under Uncategorized, Yoga, Yoga practice

“Pain is not a punishment. Pleasure is not a reward.”–Chodron, Buddhist nun.

My assignment for teacher training is to expound on the meaning of these aphorisms. First, we observe that many benefits come from pain, especially in the physical activity realm. I’m thinking specifically about when I broke my ankle; it was upsetting to not be able to do cardio for six weeks, but I addressed my upper body and core in that time and emerged from injury much stronger. Also, progress in yoga practice is only gained through effort (which might be called pain); certainly poses which come easily to one do not present a challenge, or an opportunity to deepen one’s physical practice. The observation that a perfect pose or sequence is the product of years of dedication and hard work certainly applies here too. Pain can also be a valuable warning in practicing asanas, sounding an alarm that the body is unready for the chosen pose. Conversely, indulging in pleasure often comes with an additional, sometimes unintended amount of pain. Giving in to one’s appetites for sweets or other culinary temptations produces a momentary feeling of pleasure, but later, this fades and is replaced with dissatisfaction with the additional weight gain. Drinking alcohol in excess is an even more obvious example. The natural human tendency is to seek pleasure and avoid pain, but as we can see, this strategy is shortsighted and fails to take into account the true nature of these two opposites. As yogis, we are called upon to recognize the deceptive appearance of pain and pleasure and rise above our natural inclinations. Ultimately, we should look at these two equally, with indifference to their effects, and treat them both the same.

2 Comments for this entry

  • Lisa

    I like this post. ‘Accepting pain as help for purification’ is one of my favorite phrases to recall, when oftentimes I want to run the other direction in the face of such pain. So many instances about the yoga practice that present the pain, the challenge, the tapas – inviting us to delve deeper instead of escaping toward something more easy or pleasurable. Is it a marker of samadhi when one can arrive to the point of not recognizing pain as punishment, nor pleasure as a reward? It would seem to me, a very advanced state of being.

  • carl

    This was a most excellent comment. Connecting pain with the purification demanded by the Yoga Sutras makes perfect sense.

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