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Kino MacGregor on yoga and pain and why you need both

February 2, 2012

Kino MacGregor has a new post up at elephant journal (but not, at my last check, her own page, although I saw it via her Twitter accout) that I think puts her in my camp when it comes to yoga and pain.

That camp: Sometimes yoga’s going to hurt you. And should.

Here’s the key part of her post, from my point of view:

Recent dialogue within the yoga community, most notably in the New York Times article on yoga-related injuries, presents the notion that yoga might be potentially discounted because of the risk of physical injury. Yet this fails to take into account the spiritual journey to the heart of each student’s essential nature that is at center of the yoga practice itself. A true student of yoga is a sincere spiritual seeker and is willing to go through the work of pain, suffering and potential injury if that road ultimately leads to liberation, happiness, healing and freedom. My teacher Sri K. Pattabhi Jois said that if you experienced an injury during your physical yoga practice the only real way to heal that injury was through more yoga. He also said that if you quit your practice after having experienced that injury that it would stay with you for a long time, perhaps the rest of your life. If pain can be avoided by students learning their lessons the easy way through an open heart, healthy alignment and accepting attitude that is the fastest road. However, when pain and injury arise it is crucial that you do not run from them nor allow their presence to rule your experience of your body, your practice and your life.

That sounds a lot like the Tapaysa idea I was trying to convey.

I suppose just how touchy a subject this is can be seen by the fact that elephant journal felt the need to add an editor’s note in the middle of her post. It reads:

Editor’s note: that said, fear and pain can be two different things. If a yoga posture is hurting you, this can be dangerous. Needless to say, we hope! Being macho and pushing through is not the message here. ~ ed.

I actually think that might be Kino’s message, although I get why elephant journal might not want to emphasize it too much. The key, of course, is being smart about how much and when and where you do that pushing.

But if you don’t push at all, how can you expect to go deeper into the practice, either physically or emotionally? Kino concludes with these words:

When you look back you will also see that every step—not just easy ones, but perhaps especially the hard ones—along the way were indeed crucial to the successful conclusion of the your life’s greatest epic.

Do any of us look back on the easy moments as especially important? Are we proud (to use the term loosely) of accomplishments that didn’t require any effort or include obstacles? Or some pain?

No. That’s not how any of this — yoga, life, relationships — works.

Posted by Steve

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