Mindbodybrew is ultimately about providing a space for written reflection at every step along the yoga path. We hope that by sharing assignments from our Teacher Trainees, we can expand their deep investigation into community-wide dialogue. The following was written by Ida Saki, in response to her Buddhist philosophy and meditation studies with Ethan Nichtern.
The training weekend with Ethan was overwhelmingly full of insight and interesting concepts that have stuck with me since. His thoughts concerning comfort continually materialize in my daily life. In the West, we tend to have such a narrow sense of comfort. If the temperature is even one degree too high or too low, a person feels uncomfortable and needs to adjust to get to a ‘perfect atmosphere’. Seeking pleasure and comfort become an addiction, to the point that people can’t stand a moment of discomfort. Everything from the smallest irritation to the most strenuous pain may appear in the yoga practice and may take you away from ‘comfort’. Pain and suffering are inevitable and will always be a part of life; the only way to cope with them is to embrace.
In the yoga practice, there are times when we want to get that piece of hair out of our face, pull our shirt down, or scratch that itch on our nose. While these adjustments are made to help you focus on your practice, these moments actually only take you further away from it. Throughout the practice, I would like to bring these fidgets to my students’ attention, making sure that they are aware of making mindful adjustments rather than mindless fidgets. Moving you out of the present moment, these fidgets are distractions for your mind and body in order to reach a sense of ‘comfort’ that will never reach a perfect scenario. Moments of discomfort are often times the ones that you learn about yourself. Pain and irritation come to guide and teach us about our lives. When practicing yoga, there will be many moments of discomfort, from an intense stretch to thighs burning in a posture; there must be an inner reflection, with a sensitivity to discover where the pain is guiding and teaching you.
Discomfort is an important idea to address when teaching yoga because it comes up so often in the practice, especially for beginners. Sitting with your irritation can be a valid choice, but too much discomfort can be detrimental to the practitioner, depending on the situation. With many people believing in ‘no pain, no gain’, they often stretch past their limits in order to gain muscle or ‘get the full benefits’ of their yoga practice. It’s important to pay attention to what kind of pain is taking place. When there is a stretching and lengthening of the fibers, continue to breathe and find pleasure within the discomfort. When it is a sharp or piercing pain, you may need to adjust the posture in order to make it beneficial to you and your practice.
The more you can sit with and embrace your irritations, the more joy you will find because the narrow sense of comfort will broaden. If you are able to find satisfaction in discomfort, you will be ‘comfortable’ without having to shift the environment to fit you.
- Ida Saki