10,000 Vinyasas

Opening, and then opening more…(why does yoga hurt so much?)

by on Nov.27, 2010, under teaching, Yoga, Yoga practice

Continuing on last week’s theme of opening, I observe that much of the pain that beginners feel (and let’s not kid ourselves, as much as we try to make yoga a pain-free experience, it just isn’t, not by any stretch of the imagination) has to do, in my opinion, with the feelings of opening parts of bodies who’ve spent years behind a desk, or doing some monotonic exercise (running, weights, and don’t even mention golf!), or some other sedentary aspect of what passes for life here in industrial civilization. People spend years and years cultivating stiffness, rigidity, lack of inner strength and flexibility, and then come into a yoga class. The movements being taught there are designed to open the body and increase strength and flexibility and so of course the sudden opening of previously closed parts is painful, often excruciating. This may, in fact, be the reason that many people’s first visit to a yoga class is their last. This also suggests that there are more than one level of opening; in fact, there are multiple layers of openness, and this is echoed in the seemingly endless progression of ever-increasing levels of difficulty. I can also see from this that a lot of injuries can occur when people don’t understand this principle, and attempt to force their bodies into poses that their level of flexibility doesn’t yet allow, and realizing this brings up Pattabhi Jois’ admonition, to much clearer effect: “do your practice, and all is coming.” Of course, Guruji was Indian and his pithy aphorism must be explained to literal Americans, I suppose, but that’s my shot at an exposition.

Note: teacher training starts Monday. Should be fun and exciting. I’m looking forward to it.


4 Comments for this entry

  • Becky

    Good luck in teacher training! You’re already a wonderful teacher, but there’s always more to learn.

    I found that yoga was most painful the next day. When I whined, Ken said, “Do your practice, and all is coming.”

    My first few months of Ashtanga (I’d been doing yoga for a while, then discovered Ashtanga) I walked around like a robot saying “ow, ow, ow”. Everything was sore all the time. Then I got all this muscle definition and people would comment, “How’d you do that?” I said, “It was hard, and it hurt, but it feels so good.”

    Today someone in class asked me how to work her abs without them hurting. All I could say was building muscles burns, especially abs.

  • carl

    Thank you, Becky! I appreciate the compliment on my teaching; some days, it’s the only thing that keeps me sane. Ashtanga is the most athletic style of yoga, and the style really produces some cut bodies, and of course, that’s not what we’re doing it for, but still. I used to think that Jois was just being dismissive when he said that quote, but experience has taught me otherwise. It actually seems incredibly wise, now.

  • Becky

    It’s not what we’re doing it for, but we can still appreciate it. 🙂

  • Marie

    It’s nice to read the “gratification” that yoga brings to you personally. It is this passion that will inhance your teaching experience. Keep up the great job and continue to excel…

    Namaste!

    🙂 me

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