I’ve been tinkering around with yoga for the last several weeks. I’ve taken a few classes over that time and while I’ve enjoyed the feeling of having stretched my body I couldn’t say that I could fully appreciate what all the fuss was about.
Recently I took a class with a teacher I had not previously worked with. His style was different from previous teachers where he encouraged students to push themselves to their limits. He observed that if you are holding a particular pose with ease and not pushing your body into a position where your muscles are straining you are, for the most part, wasting your time. He encouraged the participants to push themselves and hold the poses as long as possible, to let the muscles strain, to let them vibrate, giving the body a chance to change.
As the class progressed and I focused on following his advice, I noticed a few things. First, my previous practice of yoga had involved my pushing myself to the point that I reached that edge of discomfort, at which point I backed off with the thought “that doesn’t feel good.”
Next I noticed that this teacher differed from other classes I had attended to where he had the class holding the poses quite a bit longer than other teachers, pushing students to embrace the discomfort and reach to a point beyond what they believed to be their means. The difference, perhaps between him and other teachers was that others taught with a mentality of ‘discomfort is bad’ and this one taught with a mentality of ‘discomfort brings change’.
‘Good Pain’ vs ‘Bad Pain’
In thinking about this further, I wondered how much positive change I might be sacrificing by running in the opposite direction as soon as the edge of discomfort is reached. How often might I be saying “Oh, I don’t like this way this feels, I’d better turn away”. In all likelihood many opportunities for success and positive change must surely be sacrificed by turning away at the first sign of discomfort.
This teacher encouraged the class to focus on making a distinction between ‘good pain’ and ‘bad pain’—wrenching too deep into a pose could result in a dislocated shoulder, but the idea that there is such a thing as ‘good pain’ may be a revelation to some of us.
- About the Author
Nathan Safran is a former Analyst at Forrester Research where he covered the Digital Home. While at Forrester, Nathan authored research studies on trends, attitudes and behaviors of consumers toward technology adoption and use.
Nathan has been quoted as a subject matter expert in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Fortune magazine. Currently, Nathan heads the Research Department at Conductor, Inc an SEO Technology Platform firm.
Nathan writes at exceljockey.com about the intersection of Business, Technology and Psychology. See the About page for more info. Follow Nathan on Twitter: @Nathan_Safran