“Lock those knees! Lock ‘em! Lock them! Lock ‘em!”, called the Bikram Yoga instructor. I did everything in my power to straighten my legs as I folded forward grabbing my heels. The sweat was biblical. The pain in my butt? Scorching.
I learned a bit about pain when I slowly ripped my hamstrings over the course of a year.
So there I was, in yoga class, giving every ounce of effort to locking my knees. We learn about “doing our best”, “trying our hardest”, and “pushing ourselves” as kids. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t learn about listening to my body or being kind to it.
I learned to push it. Push it real good! Thank you Salt n’ Pepa.
This is where we can become the pain in our own asses.
Those of us who are prone to pushing things hard are especially susceptible to yoga/fitness teacher comments like "A new sensation is sometimes seen as pain, but it is not necessarily so." It's very true but if not approached thoughtfully, we can end up with injuries, pissed, and frustrated because we have to "rest" our injury for many months.
I'm prone and susceptible. I've said to myself, "That scorching ripping in my butt is not pain. Nope. That's a new sensation."
So I've spent many months, 16 to be exact, nursing three different hamstring injuries.
One from not yet understanding how to use pain, one from throwing my body around imagining it was invincible, and one was pure ego:
While dancing at 2 am and seeing a dude try to do the splits I exclaimed, "I can do the splits!" Jumping into the splits at age 38 without a warm up? Not a good idea.
Click here to see the move that caused one of my injuries. In this photo, my daughter and I perform it carefully and thoughtfully.
Have I learned my lesson? Yes, yes, and yes.
It's not just our bodies that need this lesson!
If we push, push, push it in our social, personal, or professional lives, we can crash and burn, go insane, start forgetting our children's birthdays (I did this), have a heart attack (the body's last ditch effort to force you to moderate), and generally act like an anxious mess.
So how can we push our selves past our comfort zones, playing with edge without injuring ourselves or going crazy?
In Yin Yoga, I teach giving constant reminders about staying right at that edge- that "just right" spot. It's the right dosage of medicine. Too much medicine, we get sick. Not enough medicine, we don't get results.
We need play with that right dosage when we practice finding the edge in our bodies, thenwe can more easily see it in our lives.
We can use pain to find that healthy edge!
3 Ways to use it:
- Bodily pain: Where is that “just right” edge? We can close our eyes and really feeling the sensations in our bodies. We ask ourselves if we're pushing our bodies so hard that we will injure ourselves. We also ask if we are sitting back and coasting, never learning if our body has opened up to a new level. Is it pain or a "new sensation"?
- Ego pain: Are we listening to our bodies or our egos? Is our body telling us to fold further down towards our knees or is it our ego? Did our ego see the person on the next mat with his legs over his head and we are having a reaction to that?
- Emotional pain: What feelings come up in our bodies when we feel a new “sensation” that may be pain? Do we charge ahead and give that new sensation the finger? Do we get scared and back off immediately without investigating?
Pain is helpful. It tells us if we are doing something dangerous or stupid. It helps us learn more about ourselves too. Let’s allow it to be a tool. We can know ourselves better and more mindfully meet our “edge”.
Let’s use it to oh so carefully and mindfully to push ourselves to the edge of our comfort zones without feeling like a hot poker has been thrust into our butts.
Embrace your edge.