Yoga doesn’t hurt.
It can be uncomfortable. Physically. Mentally. Socially. But, it doesn’t hurt.
The physical discomfort is obvious. Adho Muka Svanasana (Downward Dog) can be bliss or purgatory, depending on your alignment. If the hands are cupped, the wrists will hurt. If the toes are turned outward and the ribs collapse towards the floor, the lower back will hurt. Maybe not in the short term, but definitely in the long run. Do you want to practice for a little while or forever? I’ve had students in their 70’s practice Primary series with more focus and ease than the 30-somethings in the room. That’s pretty awesome. Krishnamacharya was only 50 in the famous video from 1938 and he practiced for another 50 years.
The mental discomfort is interesting to watch as a teacher. That scowl on students’ faces when they realise that a sub (gasp!) is covering for their favourite teacher is amusing. I get it. I drove to Santa Monica a day earlier than I needed to be in the L.A. area just to take class with one of my favourite teachers-Bryan Kest. I always get great parking across the street from the studio, just above the Radio Shack. There was never a line for the 4:30pm, level 3-4 class. I ran upstairs and got my spot next to the painting in the corner. Yes, I’m attached to a certain spot in the room. Note: I understand the need to have a certain space but don’t let it ruin the practice. Usually, there are about 80-90 students in that class. The room never filled up past 50 and some strange guy walked to the front of the room. I put my best yoga teacher face on but I was NOT happy. I drove 6hrs for sub! That sub is now one of my favourite teachers. Vytas is really cool and not just because he’s on tv right now. If I had avoided the class or walked out, the way some others did, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to add another reason to drive to Santa Monica for yoga.
The social discomfort is a little trickier. Some students don’t want to be next to other students because of the colour of their skin or hair. Some don’t want to be next to people who are too young or too old. Too large or too thin. Some only want to be next to the right kind of person–by their own definition. I’ve observed and experienced that many times. It’s a hard one to address. Ultimately, we all should be focused on our own mat. Who’s on the next mat doesn’t matter. Ultimately, we’re all in the room for a shared experience. Who’s on the next mat matters greatly. Their practice is our practice. I’m not saying that a fart in class should be celebrated. But, it happens…to all of us. If you avoid being next to the person who is more fit, attractive, flexible, whatever, etc than you or if you “don’t like” a certain teacher for reasons that you can’t honestly say out loud, then reconsider your own practice. If the sequence doesn’t work or the teacher isn’t experienced enough, that’s one thing. If the teacher doesn’t seem “yogic enough”, that’s something else entirely.
Facing a challenge is uncomfortable. But, it only hurts if let you it.