When we practice yoga, we invite a wide range of experiences and sensations into the body. While we seek openness, flexibility, and surrender in the postures, most yogis will experience a degree of physical resistance or discomfort at some point in their practice.
These feelings are normal. They are signals from the body, and they mean different things to different people. Sometimes, they are an indicator that we have reached our edge, the place where further growth and progress can begin. At other times, they hint that we have asked the body for too much, and should back off from a pose. Whatever the message, honor your body by listening to it and practicing your yoga accordingly.
However, pain is not a normal part of yoga. Your practice should not bring unnecessary suffering or agony. If you experience sudden, sharp, or otherwise painful sensations, carefully and gently release out of the pose. You can consider whether adding props to support the posture or modifying the pose will help; otherwise, simply rest for a moment in child’s pose or on your back. If the pain does not improve or worsens, notify your instructor immediately.
The word metta refers to the practice of loving kindness: accepting and loving ourselves and others exactly as we are. We can practice metta during asana by acknowledging our own, unique capabilities and limitations, and then moving in a way that honors them. We can choose to practice the poses (and variations of poses) that nourish and support the body, and to leave out movements that cause pain or suffering. This helps us to appreciate the body we have in the present moment, whatever its condition, instead of expecting it to be the same as it was yesterday or last week.
If you find it difficult to invite metta into your practice, the following phrases may help guide your attention back to this idea of loving kindness:
May I be safe and protected.
May I be free from pain and suffering.
May I be healthy and strong.
May I be happy.
May I live with ease.
This is just one way to practice loving kindness, but it is a wonderful place to start. Over time, we can expand the idea of metta to our words and our thoughts, and then beyond ourselves, to the thoughts, words, and actions of others.
May you be happy, healthy, and live with ease. Namaste.