Prestige has no bounds and its satisfaction always involves the infringement of someone else’s prestige or dignity.
[Simone Weil]

Welcome. My name is Stephanie. Before we start our practice tonight, I’m going to tell you some things about what I hope you’ll get out of this class, and out of yoga in general. One is an improved relationship to your body. That includes an increase in general physical well-being—I hope you go out tonight feeling physically better than you did when you came in. And if something hurts after class that didn’t before, don’t ignore that—pay attention to it, ask for help (I’m happy to talk after class, or during class). But more than just feeling better in your body, I hope that yoga will help you listen better to your body, to accept it exactly as it is and not to feel like you need to force it to be what it is not. Part of what yoga can do is help you practice that listening. It seems like something that should be obvious and natural but it isn’t obvious to most of us most of the time. So begin by accepting that listening is something you’ll need to learn, and practice, and grow into. And then start noticing. What feels good in your body? Where does it feel good? How does it feel good? What hurts? Where? How? And what are the things you can do, in long-term and short-term ways, to be kind and help your body feel good?

In this listening, pain is not an enemy but a friend. Pain is your body talking to you, telling you something that is true about it. One of the key skills in yoga is to learn to distinguish between two different kinds of pain. The first is your body saying “this is breaking me somehow.” Joint pain is in this category, most kinds of spinal pain, neck pain, lower back pain, wrist and knee and ankle pain. These need physical responses and adjustments—if you’re feeling them, reposition yourself in the pose or go out of the pose into child’s pose or downward-facing dog, or any other pose that feels good. Nothing I say should ever keep you in a pose when you are feeling this kind of pain.

The second kind of pain is part physical, but partly emotional. It’s the internal freakout, the “my thighs and shoulders are burning, I can’t possibly hold this, is she out of her mind, when will this end, this is completely unreasonable, why did I come to this stupid class, how is it not over yet.” The next gift yoga has to give to you, beyond increased physical well-being and a better listening relationship to your body, is an increased ability to deal with this kind of pain. Yoga can help you realize that things that feel impossible are not impossible. Yoga can help train the internal muscle that lets you stay in the places where what you want most is to get out, but all the attempts to get out are, in the end, only increased sources of pain. You know these places—places where you numb yourself with food or drugs or chattering or exercise or entertainment. Or places where you try to control your way out of the pain. Or fight your way out. Or run your way out. These are the places in your life that feel like quicksand, and the more you thrash the faster you sink. So the poses in yoga where it feels impossible, where your body is not giving you “I’m breaking” signals but it still feels impossible, unreasonable, unfair—those are places where there is an invitation for you. You may stay, and you may stay fully present, and learn to hold still in the quicksand, and feel how you stop sinking, and feel that your feet can ground you into the floor and your breath can keep you alive, and feel I can do this, I can be here, I can feel this and not die, because I felt like I was dying thirty seconds ago but I didn’t die, I’m still here.

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2 Comments »

  • I feel the burn! Sweet dreams. xoxoxox

    Comment by Gwen — December 14, 2014 @ 6:29 am

  • This is wonderful. “This thing is surprising like this other thing.” 🙂

    Comment by Celia — December 20, 2014 @ 11:21 pm

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